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2 Dec, 2008 04:15

Back to the future - Obama unveils national security team

President-elect Barack Omaba's team consists of military veterans and former rivals, all with more hardline stances on foreign affiars than Barack Obama.

However, Obama's choices, Hillary Clinton, James L. Jones and Robert Gates, have all shown a widespread desire to change the priorities of US foreign policy and put to better use the resources it has.

The need for change has been acknowledged even by the incumbent Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, whom Obama has asked to stay on for at least a year.

A year ago Gates started doubting the ability of pure military might in fighting wars that cannot be won and criticised “the gutting of America’s ability to engage, assist and communicate with other parts of the world – the ‘soft power’ which had been so important throughout the cold war” referring to the lack of a diplomatic approach abroad.

He blamed the Bush and Clinton administrations and said that “it is almost like we forgot everything we learned in Vietnam.”

James L. Jones, Obama's nomination for National Security Advisor and a retired general, seemed to take the criticism to another level by writing a sweeping critique of the Bush administration's strategy in Afghanistan.

“Make no mistake. NATO is not winning in Afghanistan,” Gates was widely quoted as saying.

He blamed the lack of effort by the administration to bring about reliable reconstruction to areas once occupied by the Taliban. He called each victory a temporary one and said that once the military presence left, the area would again fall.

The nomination of Hillary Clinton, who fought a tough battle with Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, for Secretary of State has even brought cautious praise from Russia. Clinton, who infamously mispronounced President Medvedev's name in a debate with Barack Obama, is seen as a welcome mark for a more moderate US foreign policy.

“Of course, I would not say that all will be fun and easy with her. Working with her will be difficult, but possible,” said Sergey Markov, a Russian State Duma member.

He called Clinton “a professional person” and said “she reflects the interests of the establishment which, though not being pro-Russian, is not so pathological as the previous [President Bush's] administration.”

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