Peter Feaver on the Obama Foreign Policy

by Reihan Salam

Feaver, one of my favorite foreign and defense policy analysts, offers a prediction at his Shadow Government blog:

It could be that the decision to continue the bulk of President Bush’s war council (and thus its policies) reflected a decision to delay taking ownership responsibilities for the war. To my reading, that is the connective thread that stitches together various problematic aspects of Obama’s foreign policy thus far: peddling stale campaign rhetoric long after its sell-by date; repudiating his own comprehensive Afghan Strategy Review and launching a new one; developing a tin ear for civil-military relations and wartime alliance relations; spending so little time explaining his national security policies to the American people; giving his political team such a prominent role in national security; etc.

I think it is highly unlikely that the national security team that is in place today will be in place one year from now. I would not want to bet which principal will leave, but the betting money is someone will leave. Personnel transitions tend to be associated with friction and other mischief, and the causal arrow can go in both ways: intra-team friction leads to early departures and new arrivals disrupt established modus vivendi. So my prediction is that the “no drama Obama” mantra will have proven unsustainable by November 2010. This is not something to celebrate nor is it something to dread. Every administration has to deal with shake-ups and I wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama proves he can deal with it better than most.

My guess is that the national security team that emerges from this transition will be more attuned to the exigencies of the political calendar.

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.