Friday, October 19, 2012

Wow! Is it that bad?

Rosa Brooks is a law professor who served in the Pentagon earlier in the Obama administration and is obviously well-connected to inside circles on national security policy. But she has a piece on the Foreign Policy website that argues that Obama's foreign policy team is dysfunctional.

Some of her criticisms are misplaced. She says the President has no grand strategy or a strategy-producing office -- but that's been largely true for most of the last 65 years, with a few minor exceptions such as the Nixon-Kissinger years. She suggests that current officials are bad managers and don't know enough about their jobs. That may be true of a few people, but I've seen and heard many of these folks -- outside of the policy discussions, of course -- and doubt that they merit such criticism. She goes further, and urges Obama to "get rid of the jerks."  She must have had some nasty arguments with somebody, for I think she exaggerates the number of truly objectionable personalities there are in high positions. [I remember a lot of people considered Dick Clarke, the counter-terrorism official at the NSC in three administrations, for having sharp elbows and a loud voice, but he got good results.]

I do agree with Ms Brooks in criticizing Obama's reluctance to use some of his political capital on the Hill to fight harder for some of his foreign policy goals. And I'm worried if some of her asides are true, such as her claim that "McDonough and Donilon can barely stand each other" and "Cronyism" determines who attends White House meetings.  But the bulk of her arguments sound like sour grapes.

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