Yesterday, the Grand Rapids Press published a front page story attributed to “Press Wire Services” with the headline, “Obama security team: Hawks or diplomats?” The article begins by framing the new appointments as all “more hawkish than the president who will face them down in the White House situation room.” Unfortunately for readers the article never provides any information to substantiate that these appointees are indeed “hawkish” or what “hawkish” even means in terms of policy.
The article does include a sidebar with pictures of this new national security team, but the only information provided is a chronological run down of their educational, diplomatic, and military backgrounds. There are only two sources cited in the story. The first is an Obama advisor who “spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.” This anonymous source stated that all of these new appointments “have embraced a rebalancing of America’s national security portfolio after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.”
This comment seems to contradict the Obama campaign promises, according to Frida Berrigan, Senior Program Associate at the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiate. In a recent article Berrigan wrote, Obama “has repeatedly argued for a spike in defense spending to ‘reset’ a military force worn out by war.” He has also called for the expansion of the size of the Army and the Marines. On that point, he is in complete agreement with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. They even use the same numbers, suggesting that the Army should be augmented by 65,000 new recruits and the Marines by 27,000. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these manpower increases alone would add about $10 billion a year to the Pentagon budget over a five-year period.”
As we have seen in recent news coverage, while there are sweeping claims made about new appointees, very little information is provided about what kinds of policies they have supported. It is now official that Robert Gates will stay on as Secretary of Defense, James Jones as National Security Advisor and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of Defense, yet there nowhere in the article to readers find out what kind of foreign policy positions any of these three have supported over the years.
Would it serve readers well to know that as a Senator that Hillary Clinton has aggressively supported the US occupation of Iraq, voting to give President Bush the initial support he asked for in 2002? Clinton is also a big supporter of the decades long US financing of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians and has voted to further isolate Iran and threaten to use military force against that country.
As current Secretary of Defense, Gates has maintained a commitment to the two major US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates has not suggested that he would commit to reducing the US military budget and he supports the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons. The article does say that Gates has served in four US administrations, but offers no information about what he has accomplished in those administrations. Investigative reporter Robert Parry has written about Gates’ role in the illegal Iran/Contra scandal in the 1980s and his role in arming Saddam Hussein in the Reagan administration. Why are these kinds of policy positions not included in the story?
Instead, the reporter in this article states, “Obama’s advisors said they were bracing themselves for the charge from the right that he is investing in social work rather than counterterrorism.” Based on the pro-war and pro-military history of Gates, Clinton, and Jones, such a claim made by “the right” would be patently false, yet the reporter follows these remarks by citint the only other source in the story Eli Pariser, with MoveOn.org. When questioned about whether or not president-elect Obama will make the change he promise, Pariser said, “We’ll see, if they turn out to be all disappointments, we’ll have a good three years to storm the gates at the White House.”
The article ends with a mention of the pressure from “liberal bloggers” to prevent the appointment of John Brennan to the CIA, which does suggest that the public can have some influence in who gets appointed to the new cabinet, but the story does not pursue that angle.
For ongoing analysis of appointments in the Obama administration, we encourage readers to go to Public Citizen’s new site called Becoming 44 for general information on appointments or to Foreign Policy in Focus for ongoing analysis of Obama’s national security team.