A Look at Obama’s Second Term Foreign Policy Team

This week saw the real beginning of the Obama second term foreign policy. Secretary of State John Kerry made his first official trip overseas as secretary and Hagel was sworn in as Secretary of Defense.

However, not everything is going smoothly for the administration, especially in terms of the Kerry trip. The highlight of the trip was a meeting with the Syrian opposition in Rome. However, the opposition leaders at first indicated that they weren’t interested in attending the meeting because they saw little benefit in terms of material support. Syrian rebels are so frustrated by empty promises of help to overthrow President Bashar Assad that they had threatened to boycott a Thursday meeting in Rome of the Friends of Syria.

The US lured the Syrian rebels back to the meeting with the lure of tangible assistance. The White House indicated it was considering a shift in policy and could send the rebels non lethal materials and provides military training.

The Syrian rebels were rewarded for their returning to the conference. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that the United States plans for the first time to provide non-lethal aid, including food rations, vehicles, communications equipment, night vision gear, and medical supplies. The Obama administration will also provide an additional $60 million, adding to the $385 million of humanitarian aid already given and $54 million in equipment, medical supplies, and other non-lethal assistance. Speaking at an international conference on Syria in Rome, Kerry said that the decision was the result of “the brutality of superior armed force propped up by foreign fighters from Iran and Hezbollah.”

Kerry also sharpened his criticism of the Syrian president on Wednesday in Paris, “He (Assad) needs to know he cannot shoot his way out of this, so we need to convince him of that and I think the opposition needs more help in order to be able to do that. And we are working together to have a united position.”

Kerry’s desire for an American solution, however, is complicated by Russia’s support of Syrian President Assad and America’s need for Russian support in two other critical Middle Eastern issues – encouraging Iran to stop nuclear weapons development and the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. Russia controls one of the major routes for American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the northern supply route, that wends its way from Kabul through the Salang Tunnel into the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Moving heavy equipment from Afghanistan economically requires Russian assistance. Should the US decide to provide the Syrian rebels with more equipment, especially heavy weapons, the one secure land route for Americans in Afghanistan may disappear.

Yet, Syria remains a problem. As the conflict continues, the rebels are becoming more aggressive and the US fears an al Qaeda led Syrian opposition. In order to counter that, the US wants the moderate Syrian opposition to start providing traditional government services in areas it controls in order to cement its authority and relationship with Syrian civilians. The aim is to also show Assad that the rebels will eventually win.

Russia has said that insisting on Assad’s departure as a condition for peace negotiations between the government and the opposition would prevent such talks from ever taking place. The opposition, backed by the United States and much of Europe, has made plain Assad can play no role in a future Syrian government

Where Obama really needs Russian help is in the current negotiations with Iran – which fills the top place in priorities in Obama’s Middle East policy. The US needs Russia’s support in the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations comprising the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, that were held in the Kazakh city of Almaty this week. The P5+1 nations have already held three rounds of unsuccessful negotiations with Iran last year under the leadership of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The first round of negotiations was held in Istanbul, Turkey, in April, followed by talks in the Iraqi capital Baghdad in May and in Moscow in June. Although Iran is reeling from economic sanctions, it refuses to budge on its nuclear program.

Obama’s Second Term Foreign Policy

Secretary Kerry’s first foreign trip does give an inkling of Obama Administration priorities for the second term. He started off with traditional Western European allies like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. He then moves to the Middle East: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Israel is left to a later trip.

Clearly, given the focus on Syria in Europe, it is obvious that Syria will remain a major subject in the Middle Eastern phase of the trip. Turkey is a front line nation in the Syrian conflict and any aid will likely move through that country. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE are suspected of providing various aids to the Syrian Rebels including weapons.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE are also GCC nations that are concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Iranian capabilities to hamper the movement of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

It appears that rather than launching any initiative in the region, the Obama policy for the region is to keep the two major trouble spots, Syria and Iran, under control so Obama can pursue a domestic agenda. There is no desire to transform American foreign policy or pursue a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians – the first time that has not been a major goal for a president in modern American history.

Rather, Obama seems more concerned with holding the lids on major trouble spots so they will not interfere with domestic policies like immigration reform, spending, taxes, Obamacare, and gun control. A crisis in the Middle East would cost political capital and divert the Congress from his agenda.

It is unlikely that the new foreign policy team will either disagree with Obama or suggest new initiatives. One reason is that the new foreign policy team doesn’t have the political clout of the old team. Hillary Clinton was a political power herself and could take her disagreements with Obama to the people. Bob Gates, DoD Secretary, was a Bush holdover and could rouse Republican opposition if necessary. CIA Director David Petraeus was a popular American General who would have also been able to go to the American people.

That has changed.

CIA director Brennan will continue the” war on terror” in the same manner that it has been carried on for both the Obama and Bush Administration.

Kerry and Hagel are Senate foreign policy experts who, along with Vice President Biden have spend decades in the US Senate, without having to actually pursue any foreign policy. Senator Hagel served 14 years in the U.S. Senate, and another 10 as a congressional staffer and lobbyist on the Hill. Vice President Biden spent 36 years and John Kerry 28 years in the U.S. Senate. Combined, America’s foreign policy team has spent 78 years in the U.S. Senate, with two of the senators having spent much of their adult lives on the Hill.

Senators don’t manage programs, implement policies, or run large complex bureaucracies. Achieving a diplomatic deal on some critical matter is only half the challenge, often the greater challenge is carrying it out. It is not a senator’s job to carry out the laws they pass, but to get 50 percent plus one votes to get them approved. They do not tend to see the world in terms of decades-long grand strategies which is what foreign policy should be about. In other words, the Obama foreign policy team is more attuned to political survival, which is more likely to be tamping down a crisis rather than resolving it.

With a foreign policy team that is more attuned to political issues and untrained in developing and implementing foreign policy, there is little likelihood that Obama will seriously pursue and try to implement any major initiatives on either Syria or Iran. The result will be flawed policy implementation, no grand strategy in the region, mixed messages to allies, and a foreign policy attuned to polls rather than American or regional interests. It is more likely that any leadership in the region will come from elsewhere, not the White House.

What could a cyber attack do to America?

A New York Times article this week once again raised the issue of the growing threat of cyber attacks against the US.  The article specifically focused on the growing number of cyber attacks from the Chinese Army against all sectors of the US computer infrastructure – from national defense to Coca Cola.

Although the Chinese have been aggressive in their attacks, it still appears that it is less cyber attacks than “cyber probing;” discovering weaknesses in government and industry computer networks for later use.  Much of it has been attempts to install malware to allow China later access to sensitive computer systems.

The probes aren’t limited to government computers.  In many cases, the Chinese have gone after manufacturers and vendors who supply computers to the government and other critical industries.  As was discovered with the Stuxnet malware used against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, the vendor’s software is often the soft underbelly of critical computer networks.

How good are America’s defenses against cyber attack?  The answer from the experts is discouraging.  And, there is little being done to make it better.  Obama’s new executive order—with its focus on voluntary standards and information sharing—is unlikely to provide much protection. The executive order requires that new information-sharing, standards-setting, and R&D.  The executive order—announced during Obama’s State of the Union address—won’t force companies to introduce measures that would protect infrastructure like the power grid.

So, what could happen if the US were hit with a “cyber Pearl Harbor?”  America’s infrastructure is aging and much of it is privately owned, which prevents the government from mandating effective countermeasures.

There have been several incidents that worry IT experts.  In 2011 U.S. officials investigated whether a foreign cyber attack may have caused a failure of a water pump at a public water district in Illinois.  Around that same time, a hacker appeared to successfully infiltrate a South Houston water utility in 2011, displaying screenshots of critical instruments to prove the attack.  And, although there have been no admitted attacks against the electric power grid, published reports have blamed cyber attacks for a number of high-profile power outages in Brazil between 2005 and 2007 that left tens of thousands in the dark.

Much of the concern centers on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA, an archaic type of industrial control system that is used in many critical infrastructure areas like pipelines, electric grids and factories.  Manufactured by the likes of General Electric and Siemens, these systems were thought to be very secure but have since become more connected to the dangerous world of the Internet.  In fact, it was Siemens equipment that was attacked by the Stuxnet malware in Iran.

The potential of a cyber Pearl Harbor

As devastating as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, a cyber Pearl Harbor could be more devastating to the US.  Although the Pearl Harbor attack devastated the US Navy’s surface fleet, especially the battleships, America’s economic and war equipment infrastructure was intact.  In addition, America’s population was untouched.

A cyber Pearl Harbor would seriously impact America’s economic infrastructure and civilian population.  The most vulnerable areas would be the urban centers, especially on the East and West coasts.

The modern urban environment is dependent on constant electricity supplies and instant communications. While a loss of power may not necessarily generate panic, a sustained blackout in telecommunications could before long lead to widespread fear, as the public would not know how long the loss of electricity and communications would last.

A cyber attack against the electricity grid of a major city would create immediate problems, as people would lose the use of lighting and power in the first instance, and with it, experience the loss of data.  Water supplies would be also disrupted, because electricity is used to pump water.   Traffic lights would shut down – requiring motorists to drive slowly and force police into traffic control duties rather than law enforcement.  Mass transit systems would stop, which would put more pressure on roads. Businesses would lose the ability to conduct electronic transactions, gas stations couldn’t pump gasoline, and shops and restaurants would stand to lose perishable goods through the loss of refrigeration. An attack during the winter could also lead to thousands of deaths from cold.

A coordinated cyber attack could be devastating.  Imagine several major terrorist attacks combined with a multifaceted cyber attack.

Assume several terrorist attacks in several major US cities – either using hijacked aircraft like 9-11, large car bombs, or terrorist attacks on hotels like Mumbai, India.  Soon after the attacks, power and communications systems of these and other major cities would be cyber attacked.  Inside the cities, the breakdown would hamper response and rescue attempts. Outside the cities, the rest of America would only know that attacks were taking place throughout the country, but not know the extent of the attacks.  Each city experiencing power and communications failures would be assumed to be the victim of a terrorist attack.

Secondary attacks against banks would further hamper the nation as it would prevent customers from getting cash from banks or ATMs to make purchases.  Cyber attacks against gas and oil pipelines would hamper transportation and even the heating in houses with gas furnaces.

If infrastructure and government entities were unable to quickly restore order, civil unrest could quickly spread in the urban areas, where people would be unable to acquire food or water.  Army and National Guard units would be mobilized to control the unrest, leaving the nation unprepared for other dangers.

This isn’t a worst case scenario.  Although many urban areas like the North East and Southern California would be heavily hit, rural areas, which are less dependent on complex logistics systems would remain in relatively good shape.  Food production would continue, although getting it to urban areas would be hampered.  The ability to control civil unrest in urban areas and restore power, water and food supplies would determine the long term impact of such an attack.

Unfortunately, given the emergency response to the recent hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, there is some question about the ability of the government to respond.  The hurricane was foreseen and the damage limited to areas near the coast, but many suffered infrastructure failure lasting days and weeks.  Clearly the government would be hard pressed to handle a larger geographic area.

Clearly the US is vulnerable to cyber attack.  Defense against such a cyber Pearl Harbor depends on the companies who provide infrastructure services, to harden their computers against such an attack.  The second line of defense is the emergency response ability of the federal, state, and local governments to limit any disruption once it occurs, and bring systems back to normal conditions within the shortest time possible.  Both are questionable capabilities at this point.

نظرة على حرب الاغتيالات للطائرات دون طيار (درونز)

“الحرب العالمية على الارهاب،” التي بشر بها جورج بوش الابن الكون بأكمله دخلت مرحلة جديدة مختلفة، وان لم تنحسر عدوانيتها ودمويتها وشموليتها. الحرب التقليدية كانت تدار بترسانة من الاسلحة البرية والبحرية والجوية، اما “الحرب على الارهاب” في يومنا هذا فهي تدور بصمت وتحصد ضحاياها باطمئنان لسلامة جانب مشغليها عن بعد الذين يمارسون عملهم باعتياد ورتابة تامة كل يوم، والعودة لعائلاتهم واطفالهم بعد انقضاء “يوم عمل،” كغيره من الايام. الحرب الطاحنة والمدمرة كانت تشن في السابق بهدف احراز تنازلات من الخصم، دولا وشعوبا؛ واستبدلت بنمط اكثر ديمومة يستند الى ابداعات التقنية المتطورة التي لا يعرف كنهها سوى عدد محدود من الاميركيين. وادارتها بالاساليب الراهنة قد تلحق بالاميركيين اضرارا لا تقل عن خسائر الضحايا في الشرق الاوسط، لا سيما وان رقعة عملياتها تزداد باضطراد لتشمل المنطقة العربية بأكملها، والسواحل الشرقية لافريقيا وغربا في العمق الى مالي، وشرقا الى افغانستان وباكستان وحتى ايران

تنامي اعتماد صناع القرار السياسي الاميركي على الطائرات دون طيار، درونز، لشن حربهم “على الارهاب” لم تخضع لاجراءات الفحص والتدقيق المعتمدة، وذلك يعود الى اعجاب كافة الاطياف السياسية بنتائجها وقلة كلفتها مقارنة مع الحرب التقليدية. فمن ناحية، تعتبر طائرات “درونز” وسيلة حربية اميركية مثلى. اذ تستند الى آخر انتاجات التقنية بالغة التطور، والتي تحتل اميركا منصب الصدارة فيها؛ وتخفض عدد الضحايا البشرية بين الاميركيين، مما يعتبر ميزة حيوية لتبنيها من قبل مرشح ما لمنصب سياسي معين. الرئيس اوباما الذي اطلق وعودا وردية اثناء حملته الانتخابية السابقة بشأن “خفض مستوى العداء في الشرق الاوسط،” وجد ضالته للاستمرار بالحرب بكلفة زهيدة باستخدام تلك الطائرات. تتميز فترة رئاسة اوباما بتزايد تنفيذ الاغتيالات السياسية في اراضي الغير بفرط الاعتماد على “الدرونز” بنسبة تفوق عشرة اضعاف ما كانت عليه الاغتيالات في كامل فترة بوش الابن الرئاسية.

مقر اوباما للاغتيالات

تسربت حديثا تفاصيل آلية اختيار “زعماء الارهاب” للظفر بهم، احياءً او قتلى، عبر وكالة أ.ب. للانباء، بعدما كان يلفها حاجز سميك من السرية اذ كانت تتبع لتقييم القيادات العسكرية في وزارة الدفاع. وافاض مسؤولون اميركيون سابقون على دراية باجراءات تحديد الاهداف، ان عناصر خطة الاستهداف النهائية اشرف عليها مستشار الرئيس اوباما لشؤون مكافحة الارهاب، جون برينان، من شأنها حصر قرار استخدام “الدرونز” والقوات الخاصة في ساحات محددة ضمن فريق مصغر من طاقم البيت الابيض.

واستنادا الى بعض ما تم تداوله مؤخرا، حول ما طرأ من جديد على سياسة الاغتيالات المنظمة، يمكننا القول ان انتقاص الدور الذي كانت تقوم به البنتاغون ترجم الى تعزيز دور البيت الابيض زائد مزيد من اضفاء الاطر السرية. البنتاغون لا تزال قادرة على تنفيذ مهام الاغتيالات كما في الوتيرة السابقة، لكن الجديد ان “التوصيات بالاهداف” ستمر عبر قناة وزير الدفاع ليون بانيتا، لكن القرار النهائي بالمضي من عدمه يبقى محصورا في فريق البيت الابيض برئاسة برينان والذي لديه صلاحيات تخوله التصرف بقائمة مرشحي الاغتيال بعد مصادقة الرئيس، بدل الدور المركزي السابق لوزارة الدفاع.

وعليه، تسري تخوفات من تركيز سلطات اضافية حساسة بيد برينان وفريقه، الذي لا يعترض طريقه للوصول الى مركز القرار الرئاسي الحاسم اي شيء، والقيام بمهام مقر مصغر للقوات العسكرية يضطلع بتقرير مصير “الاهداف الارهابية” حول العالم

وتجدر الاشارة الى مطالبة عدد من المنظمات المعنية بالحقوق المدنية، والتي تخشى من احتكار السلطة التنفيذية لقرارات مصيرية، قد طالبت البيت الابيض بالافصاح عن الآلية التي يجري وضع اسماء معينة على اللائحة المستهدفة. كما ان عددا آخر من المنظمات الحقوقية اعربت عن قلقها ومعارضتها لتوسيع نطاق عمل طائرات “الدرونز،” الذي يتعدى الساحات الخارجية الى الاستخدام داخل اراضي الولايات المتحدة، مما يعرض الحقوق الدستورية للشعب الاميركي للانتهاك.

من المفارقة، ان منطقة الشرق الاوسط شهدت ولادة تطبيق طائرات “الدرونز” من قبل الكيان الصهيوني قبل الآخرين. وشرع الكيان الاستفادة من الدروس القاسية في حرب عام 1973، خاصة على الجبهة السورية التي كبدته بطاريات الصواريخ السورية خسائر فادحة في سلاح الجو. وشهدت الصناعات الجوية “الاسرائيلية” انتاج اول نموذج للطائرات دون طيار واستخدامها لجمع معلومات استخبارية فورية ولاغراض الحرب الالكترونية والتمويه العسكري. وكانت اولى تطبيقاتها عام 1982 في العدوان على لبنان والدور المحوري للطائرات في تحييد الدفاعات الجوية السورية آنذاك.

وبعد ذلك، شرع الكيان الصهيوني بتسليح ذلك الجيل من الطائرات دون طيار وكثف من استخدامها في عمليات الاغتيال ضد القيادات الفلسطينية. وفي شهر آذار/مارس 2009، شن الكيان الصهيوني غارة مكثفة على قطاع غزة، مستخدما الطائرات المذكورة كسلاح اسناد وانقضاض، ذهب ضحيتها 48 مدنيا من الفلسطينيين، من ضمنهم طفلين ومجموعة من النساء في احد الاحياء السكنية الهادئة.

الطراز الرئيسي المعتمد في “الجيش الاسرائيلي” هو “هيرون،” الذي طورته “الصناعات الجوية الاسرائيلية.”

وكما في كل المواقع والانتاجات العلمية والعسكرية “الاسرائيلية،” فان جهود الابحاث والانتاج تتم بمساعدة تقنية اميركية وتمويل اميركي ايضا. ونجح الكيان في تصدير نموذج “هيرون” الى تركيا والهند وسنغافورة وفرنسا وكندا. وشهدت الايام القليلة الماضية ارتفاع منسوب الدفء في العلاقات العسكرية بين الكيان الصهيوني وتركيا، اذ اعيدت بعض طائرات “هيرون” الى تركيا بعد اجراء الصيانة واصلاح الاعطال.

سلاح الجو الاميركي الجديد

دخلت طائرات “الدرونز” الخدمة في الاسلحة الاميركية المختلفة بتسارع قوي، كما اشارت الى ذلك دراسة صادرة عن الكونغرس الاميركي والتي اقر فيها ان نسبة طائرات “الدرونز” بلغت نحو 31 بالمائة من مجموع الطائرات العاملة في كافة قطاعات الاسلحة الاميركية. وحاليا، يبلغ عدد الطائرات بحوزة القوات العسكرية الاميركية نحو 7,494 طائرة، مقابل 10,767 طائرة باطقم طيارين.

عند ادخال “الدرونز” الى ساحتي المعارك في العراق وافغانستان، تحطمت في العام الاول نحو 38 طائرة من طراز “بريداتور وريبر”، وخضعت لتعديلات عديدة بعدئذ. وعلى الرغم من ذلك، استطاعت ايران اسقاط طائرة “درون” من طراز RQ-17. افادت دراسة الكونغرس المشار اليها ان التعديلات التقنية التي ادخلت على طائرات “بريداتور” اسهمت في خفض معدلات الحوادث من 20 الى 7,5 في ظرف 100,000 ساعة من الطيران المتواصل، وهي النسبة المقاربة لحوادث الطائرات المقاتلة من طراز F-16.

ويبقى هذا الجيل من طائرات “الدرونز” عرضة لنقاط الضعف التقنية، اذ اشار احد التقارير مؤخرا الى وقوعها فريسة للبرامج الالكترونية الضارة ” الفيروسات، اضافة الى افراط جهود برمجتها عن بعد وقدرتها المحدودة على الاستجابة للتعليمات الفورية. احدى مزايا ذلك الجيل من الطائرات هو قدرتها على التحليق لفترات زمنية اطول، وجمع معلومات استخبارية والتي ستحتاج الى العامل البشري لتحليلها والتعامل معها.

كما ان اسقاط ايران لواحدة من احدث الطائرات مؤخرا اشار الى امكانية “اختطاف” طائرات “الدرونز” والتحكم بقيادتها من الهدف التي جاءت للتجسس عليه بدل الاستجابة الى تعليمات طواقم الطرف المرسل. جدير بالذكر انه لو لم يتم اسقاط طائرة RQ-17 “سنتينل،” لم يكن بوسع ايران عرض مجسمها كاملا، بل ان عرضها على شبكات التلفزة ليراها العالم باجمعه اوضح انها سليمة وحديثة الصنع. مما عزز الرواية الايرانية بانه تم السيطرة عليها الكترونيا وانزالها سليمة. وعلق قائد سلاح الجو في الحرس الثوري الايراني، اللواء امير علي حاجي زاده، المسؤول عن السيطرة على الطائرة، بالقول “عبر جهد ترصد الكتروني دقيق استطعنا التوصل الى نتيجة ان هذه الطائرة حلقت بهدف اختراق اجواء بلادنا لاغراض تجسسية. وبعد دخولها مجالنا الجوي في المنطقة الشرقية وقعت في مصيدة الكترونية تابعة لقواتنا العسكرية وتم السيطرة عليها وانزالها بحد ادنى من الضرر.”

تعتمد طائرات “الدرونز،” تقنيا، على كمية محددة من موجات النطاق الترددي لتنفيذ التعليمات الالكترونية، اذ تحتاج طائرة من طراز “غلوبال هوك،” مثلا، الى 500 “ميغا بايت” في الثانية من موجات النطاق الترددي؛ والتي وصفها تقرير الكونغرس الوارد سابقا بانها تساوي “500 بالمئة من مجموع الموجات الترددية التي توفرت لكافة القوات العسكرية الاميركية خلال حرب عام 1991” على العراق.

طائرة “بريداتور”

تعتبر طائرة “الدرون” من طراز “بريداتور” من اهم الطائرات دون طيار في الترسانة الاميركية. الجيل الاول منها “بريداتور MQ-1” صمم في اوائل عقد التسعينيات من القرن المنصرم لاغراض الاستطلاع والمراقبة في الخطوط الامامية، وعلى متنها كاميرات تصوير متطورة واجهزة استشعار حساسة اخرى. وتم تطوير حمولتها القتالية بنصب صاروخين من طراز AGM-114 هيل فاير على متنها وبعض الذخيرة الاخرى. ودخلت الخدمة الفعلية عام 1995، واستخدمت على نطاق واسع في كل من: افغانستان، باكستان، البوسنة، صربيا، العراق، اليمن، ليبيا والصومال.

عادة ما ينشر سلاح الجو الاميركي وحدة من اربع طائرات “بريداتور” محملة باجهزة استشعار في مهمة محددة، تتحكم بها محطة ارضية معززة باجهزة اتصال عبر الاقمار الاصطناعية. باستطاعة الطائرة المذكورة التحليق لنحو 300 ميل بحري (740 كم) والمكوث في الاجواء نحو 14 ساعة متواصلة ومن ثم العودة الى قاعدتها.

منذ عام 2001، اضحت طائرة “بريداتور” الطائرة المفضلة لسلاح الجو الاميركي ووكالة الاستخبارات المركزية في شن الغارات على المناطق القبلية في افغانستان وباكستان، بالاضافة الى ساحات اخرى. وبما ان اسخدامات “بريداتور” تلفها السرية، فالمعلومات المتوفرة حول استخداماتها القتالية ضئيلة. لكن الثابت انه منذ عام 2004، تستخدم وكالة الاستخبارات المركزية قاعدة شمسي الجوية في باكستان لشن غاراتها الهجومية على المناطق القبلية الباكستانية.

ومنذ شهر ايار/مايو 2005، استخدمت “بريداتور” بكامل حمولتها من صواريخ هيل فاير للاغارة واغتيال عدد من نشطاء القاعدة، الى جانب مقتل عدد اكبر من المدنيين، لا سيما الغارة التي وقعت في 13 كانون2/يناير 2006 والتي ذهب ضحيتها 18 مدنيا. وعزت السلطات الباكستانية هذا العدد الكبير من الضحايا الى “معلومات استخبارية خاطئة” لدى الاميركيين.

طائرة “درون” والحقوق

الاعتماد المتزايد على الطائرات المسيرة عن بعد اثار عددا من الاستفسارت حول القواعد الاخلاقية لاستخدامها. اذ اعرب عدد من المنظمات الحقوقية، الاميركية والدولية، عن قلقها من استخدام سلاح الطائرات المذكورة في الغارات على افغانستان وباكستان والصومال واليمن. اذ استندت المعلومات الاستخبارية لقتل المدنيين على قاعدة من “المعلومات الالكترونية” التي حددت هوية المشتبه بهم وفق بيانات صممت سابقا وليس استنادا الى معلومات مؤكدة حول ضلوع المشتبه بهم في اعمال عدائية.

يتزايد الجدل حول هذه المسألة في الداخل الاميركي لخشية المنظمات الحقوقية وقطاع متنامي من الافراد العاديين من استخدام التقنية عينها عند “ملاحقتها للارهابيين” وادخاله الخدمة لدى اجهزة الشرطة الداخلية لمراقبة نشاطات الاميركيين دون ضوابط وانتهاك للحقوق الدستورية.

تجلت التطبيقات الداخلية لطائرات “الدرونز” في المساعي لمراقبة وضبط الحدود الاميركية، لا سيما المنطقة المشتركة مع المكسيك. واعلنت وزارة الامن الداخلي عن استراتيجيتها الجديدة للحفاظ على الامن بتزايد اعتمادها على الطائرات دون طيار لجمع معلومات استخبارية من شأنها مساعدة الاطقم الأمنية في ملاحقتها لشبكات تهريب المخدرات، بدل الاستناد الى القبض على عناصرها عند النقاط الحدودية. هناك نحو 9 طائرات “بريداتور” تجوب الاجواء الجوية الاميركية، اربعة منها تتخذ من مدينة سييرا فيستا بولاية اريزونا قاعدة لها، وثلاثة طائرات تراقب الحدود المشتركة مع كندا، واثنتين ترابطتان في قاعدة كوربس كريستي البحرية على شواطيء خليج المكسيك واراضي ولاية تكساس.

استنادا الى معلومات افرجت عنها هيئة الجمارك وحماية الحدود، عام 2011، زعمت ان طائرات “الدرونز” اسهمت في مصادرة نحو 7,600 رطل من المخدرات والقاء القبض على اكثر من 75 فردا لنشاطاتهم غير المشروعة. الاداء الوردي للطائرات يمثل “الجزء الظاهر من جبل الجليد،” اذ صادق الكونغرس الاميركي مطلع السنة الجارية على قرار رئاسي يخول بموجبه اجهزة الشرطة المحلية صلاحيات اوسع لاستخدام طائرات “الدرونز” في نشاطات المراقبة للمواطنين الاميركيين. كما ان القرار يخول هيئة الطيران المدني تسريع اجراءاتها للموافقة على استخدام تلك الطائرات في الاجواء المدنية من قبل اجهزة الشرطة والامن على كافة تنوعاتها.

الاطياف السياسية المتعددة اعربت عن قلقها وخشيتها من تقويض الحريات المدنية. على سبيل المثال، المعلق اليميني المحافظ، تشارلز كراوثهامر، شجع “كل من يطلق الطقة الاولى على طائرات “بريداتور” داخل اميركا باعتباره بطلا.” كما ان اهم جمعية حقوقية، الاتحاد الاميركي للحريات المدنية، اعربت عن شكوكها من صلاحية الاسس القانونية المعتمدة في استخدام “بريداتور.”

التطبيقات الاولية لادخال “بريداتور” للخدمة الفعلية اسفرت عن اعتقال خمسة افراد اميركيين “لسرقة 6 رؤوس من الابقار،” وبعد تيقن الشرطة المحلية من عدم توفر اسلحة بيد المتهمين، اقدمت على اعتقالهم. هذا الامر بالضبط هم ما يثير المخاوف الحقيقية من توسيع سلطات اجهزة الشرطة والامن الداخلية، لا سيما انتهاكها للقانون المركزي الصادر عام 1878، قانون بوسي كوميتاتس، للفصل بين مهام القوات العسكرية واجهزة الشرطة “الا بعد اصدار الكونغرس قرارا يخول ذلك” في حالات معينة. كافة اسراب طائرات “البريداتور” تتبع القوات العسكرية في الظرف الراهن.

مهام المراقبة تشكل احدى الاهتمامات الحقوقية، لا سيما وان بعض الاجهزة الامنية تطالب بتسليح طائرات “بريداتور” للاستخدامات الداخلية ضد المواطنين الاميركيين. للدلالة، افادت شبكة (سي بي اس) للتلفزة المحلية في واشنطن ان “نائب رئيس جهاز الشرطة في احدى مقاطعات ولاية تكساس، راندي ماكدانيال … صرح بأن مسؤولي الجهاز ينظرون في امكانية استخدام الرصاص المطاطي والقنابل المسيلة للدموع من على متن طائرات بريداتور” التابعة لهم.

اصوات المعارضين لتسليح “بريداتور” تتزايد حدتها، لا سيما للقلق من عدم توفر معلومات دقيقة لمشغلي الطائرات عن بعد مقارنة بالاطقم الارضية. وهي الخشية عينها التي يبديها الاخرون في استخدامها بمناطق مختلفة من الشرق الاوسط، والتي تؤدي الى الانقضاض على مواقع واهداف تنقصها المعلومات المؤكدة.

كما ان الجدل يتطور الى التشكيك بفعاليتها بالنظر الى الكلفة الاقتصادية العالية. فطائرات “الدرونز” تتطلب ساعة صيانة لكل ساعة طيران تقوم بها، وتكلفتها الاجمالية تفوق الكلفة النظرية، واحيانا كثيرة يتم ابقائها جاثمة في مرابضها بحكم سوء الاحوال الجوية والامطار، كما جاء في تقرير لتقييم الاداء اجري في آذار/مارس الماضي لحساب وزارة الامن الداخلي.

وافاد التقرير المذكور، ان سرب طائرات “بريداتور” المخصص لعمل هيئة الجمارك وحماية الحدود بالكاد حلق نحو نصف عدد الساعات المفترضة لرغبة الهيئة، سواء على الحدود الشمالية او الجنوبية او فوق مياه بحر الكاريبي. واضاف انه غالبا ما يواجه حرس الحدود نقصا في الطائرات لتوفير المساعدة لهم نظرا لان مسؤولي وزارة الامن الداخلي قاموا باعارتها لاجهزة امنية اخرى لمكتب التحقيقات الفيدرالي وحرس الخيالة في تكساس واجهزة اخرى ولاعمال الاغاثة. يذكر ان كلفة تحليق طائرة “الدرون” تبلغ نحو 3,000 دولار في الساعة، وهي كلفة اعلى بكثير من استخدام الوسائل التقليدية الاخرى لمهام المراقبة. ونظرا لأولوية “بريداتور” على الوسائط الاخرى، فقد تم تخفيض ميزانية المراقبة الجوية بالطائرات العادية لصالح الاولى والتي بلغت تكلفتها نحو 250 مليون دولار في السنوات الست الماضية.

رواج سمعة “بريداتور” اضاف عاملا اضافيا لاولوية اقتنائها، على الرغم من ادراك حدودها القصوى في مسرح العمليات. اذ تفوق كلفتها الاجمالية ما عداها من وسائط ومردودها اقل بكثير من الوسائط التقليدية؛ كما انها عرضة اكثر من غيرها لاحتمالات الخطأ، علاوة على امكانية اختطافها الكترونيا وتهديدها للحريات المدنية الاساسية.


Mounzer Sleiman PhD,
Director of the Center for American and Arab Studies. April 11, 2009


A constant of American foreign policy is that campaign promises will never match the actual foreign policy of an American president. Pledges made to attract voters, energize supporters and build campaign treasuries are focused on narrow special interests and what pollsters say is the best tactic to win an election.
The 2008 election of Barak Obama must be seen in this same context. What Obama promised his supporters and voters in last year’s campaign will rarely reflect actual foreign policy. President Obama must now act in American best interests in order to win reelection, while dealing with a State Department bureaucracy that is in control his biggest presidential campaign opponent and has a reputation of foiling presidential foreign policy initiatives for two centuries.
A review of the first two months of the Obama Administration indicates several trends that may play out in the next four years. Diplomatic blunders with traditional allies, reneging on promise made to Gen. zini to be the ambassador in Iraq, vague diplomatic initiatives with countries like Russia, mixed messages and gesture to deal with Iran in addition of selecting Dennis Ross as top advisor for Gulf region and Iran (his expertise is very questionable in this area) show that the Obama Administration is still trying to define its foreign policy. At the same time, the inclusion of several non-experts in his foreign policy team indicate that much of the foreign policy expertise and gravitas will not be found in the cabinet, but at Civil Service levels of the State Department, Pentagon, and Intelligence community.


In many ways, a profile of Obama’s national security team is a profile of the potential problems that the US government could experience in the next four years. The team consists of politicians with little solid national security experience, potential political opponents Obama, and several national security experts.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

By bringing Hillary Clinton into his administration, Obama has managed to seal some of the political fractures that occurred when he beat Clinton for the presidential nomination and refused to pick her as his Vice Presidential candidate. On the other hand, he has put his most powerful political opponent in charge of the one department that has a reputation for bucking the White House. As long as Obama remains popular and America’s national security isn’t threatened, he has little to fear from the State Department. However, if his popularity falls and he is seen as a liability to the Democratic Party, this department could have a dramatic effect on how his foreign policy is seen by the public.

Hillary Clinton has little experience in national security affairs. Although she was First Lady from 1993 to 2001 and a senator from 2001 to 2009, she has never had any professional experience in the Foreign Service or national security. Her strength is as a political infighter and a national political figure with a powerful voter base.
The Obama administration will not use Clinton and her office to lead foreign policy initiatives – which are expected to be developed at the White House instead. She is expected to provide a very public face to the department and normal diplomatic activities. She is also expected to cover Obama’s political flank.

Since Clinton is a national political figure, who needs a national platform to remain visible, she is not expected to resign the position unless there is a very serious policy difference or the Obama Administration is in serious trouble. If Clinton does resign before 2012, it would probably be to challenge him for the Democratic nomination as President.

James Jones

The fact that Obama picked James Jones to be his National Security Advisor indicates that he intends to run foreign policy from the White House rather than the State Department. Jones was the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe during his career. He was also a company commander in Vietnam in the 1960s. His choice, along with the retention of Gates at Defense, relieved many who were concerned that Obama might find himself overwhelmed with the responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief.

Jones also served in the Bush Administration. He was asked by Secretary of State Rice to be Deputy Secretary of State, but declined the honor. He was the Chairman of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq and a special envoy for Middle East security.

The choice of a military man for NSC, rather than an academic, means President Obama will have sound military advice on, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the “war on terror”. He will also have a national security advisor who better understands force projection, the capabilities of American power, and its limits. And, as a player in Pentagon politics, he understands the intricacies of the Department of Defense.

Jones’ success as a National Security Advisor depends to a great extent on the developing relationship with President Obama. If they work closely and Obama comes to trust his judgment and advice, Jones will become the major player in developing national security policy.

However, history shows that there is usually considerable conflict between State Department policies and the National Security Council. Jones will face a politically powerful Secretary of State and a foreign service that traditionally distrusts the NSC. Since Jones doesn’t have any political base, his success and future will depend on quickly gaining Obama’s trust. If he is unable to do that, Jones will be quickly marginalized.

Robert Gates

Robert Gates was the Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush and is continuing in that role under President Obama. He has the most national security experience in the Obama national security team and provides important continuity.

Gates has spent much of his career in the intelligence community. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 and rose to the position of Director of the CIA. He was also in Air Force Intelligence during his military career. He accepted the position of Secretary of Defense under President Bush in 2006 after it was generally accepted that the current SecDef, Donald Rumsfeld had mismanaged the War in Iraq.

Like President Bush, Gates accepts the position that the US is involved in a “war on terror”. However, he has advocated the position that this war can’t be fought solely by the military, but through economic support and strengthening local government. This strategy had a great affect on the course of the war in Iraq and has been credited with the improved security situation with the recognition of still fragile security environment.

Gates has several problems facing him in the next four years. Obviously the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be at the top of his agenda, even though there is a planned drawdown of troops in Iraq.

Gates will also be heavily engaged in an evolution of the Department of Defense. The Obama Administration is planning serious cuts in defense spending and Gates will have to make decisions on which major defense programs to cut. At the same time, he will continue to shift the emphasis from conventional warfare to counterinsurgency capabilities that will better counter the asymmetric warfare seen in the 21st century.

Gates tenure as SecDef is tenuous. As a Bush appointee, he has little political clout in the White House and many of Obama’s supporters would prefer a defense secretary more in line with Obama’s political philosophy. He could be asked to leave if some problems occur in the Pentagon or he might resign if he has major policy problems with the Obama Administration.

Gates may find political support from Hillary Clinton. He has been an advocate for many State Department programs like foreign aid that he sees as critical to counter insurgency warfare. If there is to be major opposition to Obama’s foreign policy or national security initiatives, it could very well come from a Clinton – State/Gates – Defense axis.

Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder has sound career experience, joining the US Justice Department in 1976, serving as a DC judge, and becoming the Deputy Attorney General under President Clinton in 1997. In 2007, he became a campaign advisor for Senator Obama when he decided to run for President. He has been appointed by both Presidents Clinton and Reagan, and his policies on the treatment of “terrorists” and the “war on terrorism” has varied sometimes from the campaign statements of his boss, President Obama. In fact, it was his firm stand on many of these issues that won votes from Republican senators who supported his nomination.

Despite this, Holder has taken several controversial stands that could impact his position. His stands on civil liberties, surveillance and data mining have often advocated more powers for the government, which could conflict with many Obama appointees. On the other side of the spectrum, his strong opposition to the right of Americans to own firearms has created opposition from conservatives.

Holder will have to walk a narrow path between those who want strong government powers to prevent another “terrorist attack” and those who are afraid of the erosion of personal liberties. To a large extent, his success or failure may depend on whether or not the US suffers another major attack. If it does he may become the administrations sacrificial lamb.

Janet Napolitano

Napolitano has little national security experience. President Clinton appointed her as United States Attorney for Arizona and she has been elected as Arizona Attorney General and Governor. Her experience in Homeland Security is limited to her position as head of the Arizona National Guard and the fact that Arizona has a border with Mexico.

Napolitano is a savvy politician who left the Arizona governorship to take the position as Director of Homeland Security. Many had expected her to challenge Senator John McCain for his senate seat in 2010. Her move to Washington DC indicates that she sees her future in the Washington Administration, not in politics.

Napolitano is expected to provide sound leadership to Homeland Security. Her focus will probably be in technological advances and immigration reform. The technological innovations will cause problems with civil libertarians while her stands on immigration reform will create serious opposition with conservative groups.

Napolitano’s future in Homeland Security depends a great deal on whether terrorists attack the United States. Her decision to leave Arizona politics for Obama’s cabinet has cut her off from her political base and if an attack should succeed, she will probably be forced to resign and return to private practice.

Leon Panetta

Panetta, the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has served in government in many positions, as a congressman, Director on the Office of Management and Budget and Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton. He also served in the Army in the mid 1960s. However, his lack of intelligence experience has troubled many in Washington.

The CIA has a tarnished reputation thanks to bad and politically manipulated intelligence work before 9-11 and its many missteps in the “war on terror”. Panetta’s challenge is to restore the agency’s reputation and make it a valued part of the Obama national security team.

Panetta earned a reputation during the Bush administration as a critic of CIA practices in the “war on terror”. During his confirmation hearings he indicated that would focus on improving intelligence gathering on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Al Qaeda, North Korea, and Afghanistan.

Given the fact that the American intelligence community is a closed one, Panetta may find it hard to function within the CIA bureaucracy. Like the State Department, the CIA has a reputation for leaking damaging information that will hinder political appointees, while furthering the agenda of the bureaucracy.

Susan Rice

Susan Rice has been tapped to be the Ambassador to the United Nations. She was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Clinton. She was also a Special Assistant to the President and on the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997.

Rice has been a policy expert for the Democratic Party. She was a Senior Fellow for the Brookings Institution during the last eight years. She was also a senior foreign policy advisor for presidential candidates Obama and Kerry.

Since leaving the Clinton Administration, Rice has written extensively, particularly on the genocide in Darfur. She has pushed a much more aggressive American position on Sudan, including the possible use of military force in 2005 and 2006. According to the Washington Post, while in the Clinton Administration, she was instrumental in the decision not to extradite Osama Ben Laden from the Sudan.

Rice’s professional and academic background is solely based on African issues. Many observers from all sides of the American political spectrum think Rice was not picked for her experience alone but to project the image of diversity of gender and race in Obama administration. There are some observers who anticipate some frictions between her and Secretary Clinton in executing the administration foreign policy on the world stage.

Dennis Blair

As the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair brings a lifetime of intelligence experience to this relatively new position. He is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and finished his military career as Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command. He has served on the National Security Council Staff and was Associate Director of Intelligence for Military Support.

Blair is a pragmatist who knows how to merge the priorities of the often conflicting interests of the military and intelligence communities. His area of expertise was Asia and he has drawn criticism for his view that China isn’t a threat to American interests.

Blair faced lately few setbacks that could have weakened his position; it has been a couple of his choices for positions in the intelligence community. The first was his naming of Charles Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council, a board of the nation’s top intelligence analysts. His criticism of Israeli intransigence immediately caused the Israeli lobby to protest his nomination. Pressure from Congress, including Senator Joe Lieberman, eventually caused the White House to drop support for Freeman’s nomination and he eventually pulled his name.

Another controversy is Blair’s naming of John Deutch, a former CIA Director, to a temporary panel that will investigate spy satellite programs. Deutch resigned when it was discovered that he had classified documents at his home. Although Deutch was pardoned by Clinton and had his security clearance reinstated during the Bush administration, so the intelligence community could consult with him, there is concern that Blair may not be good at picking subordinates.

Overall, Blair’s’ reputation is good and these controversies will not cripple him. Since the position of Director of National Intelligence is a relatively new one, Blair will have the opportunity to shape the office and its role in the national security apparatus. As a military intelligence expert on a team that has many players with little national security experience, Blair could become a major force in the development and execution of policy in the Obama Administration.



Iran will figure largely in the Obama Administration’s national security policy. Its nuclear ambitions and growing regional projection of power and influence, and its commanding position along the Strait of Hormuz make Iran a regional issue that must be dealt with.

The Obama Administration started off on the wrong foot when it was disclosed that Obama had asked Russia to help stop the Iranian nuclear program in return for canceling the building of an ABM system in Eastern Europe. This signaled weakness in dealing with Iran and shook up U.S. allies in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Future Iranian nuclear policy will depend largely on the US intelligence community and its ability to monitor developments. This is where Panetta’s lack of intelligence experience may hurt the administration. One of the criticisms of the CIA recently has been its weak human intelligence capabilities, and given Panetta’s inexperience, he will be unlikely to shake up the CIA enough to make the necessary improvements. This will force the administration to rely upon other nations like Israel for intelligence and could make American policy towards Iran a hostage to Israeli interests.

Countering Iran and its growing influence in the region will be pushed to the center stage by the new Israeli government and nervous Arab rulers. Jones and Gates both have experience in the “counter insurgency war” in both Iraq and Afghanistan and will be able to help the administration to make sound decisions in that regard.

Ironically, the amount of attention given to Iran may depend on the Israeli influence in the Obama Administration. Israel has made it clear that they are concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and have held out the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear targets. As a result, it’s possible that while other issues like Afghanistan may require more American attention, Israeli pressure could force Obama to redirect national priorities.


Policy towards Israel and the Palestinian state remains hostage to American electoral strategy. In the 2008 election, Obama’s success in winning swing states like Florida was due to strong support among American Jews. Consequently, the administration will be very careful in instituting any policy that is perceived as anti-Israel.

An example of the trouble that can come from taking a new path was seen in the nomination of Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council. Freeman was perceived as being too pro-Arab. In his letter withdrawing his name from consideration, he said, “There is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.”

There is no evidence that the Obama national security team will change in regard to favoritism towards Israel. Clinton has developed a strong political base with American Jews and can be expected to be pro Israel. However, Jones as a Special Envoy for Middle East Security has worked with the Palestinian authority and may provide more balance than previous administrations.


Although the War in Iraq was a major campaign issue, once Obama became president, it became obvious that he was less interested in disengaging than merely modifying the previous Bush policies.

Although most troops will have left Iraq by 2010, a significant number of US forces will remain for security. Thus, the question is if an organized insurgency will begin to operate and what the administration’s response to it would be. It is quite possible that forces of Iraqi resistance may try to test the US and Iraqi governments in the next year to better judge the Obama Administration’s commitment to Iraq over the long run.

History has shown that American presidents do not want to be perceived as losing a war. The costs of doing so are large both politically and in terms of the legacy the president leaves. Consequently, it is unlikely that Obama will do anything that would lead voters to think he was responsible for losing Iraq.


Afghanistan is the biggest regional threat to the Obama Administration and its national security policy. During the campaign, in order to deflect criticism that he was weak on defense, Obama advocated a greater military presence in Afghanistan. He fulfilled that promise recently by deploying 21,000 more troops to that country.

However, the question remains what the role of the US is in Afghanistan. The original purpose was to oust the Taliban regime and destroy the Al Qaeda infrastructure. That was quickly done, but the mission of US forces today is much more ambiguous. Trying to provide political stabilization in a country that has a history of successfully ousting foreign armies isn’t one that should be lightly undertaken.

Afghanistan is the key to several issues that the Obama Administration must deal with. Keeping a presence in Afghanistan requires dealing with the logistical support provided by neighboring nations. At the same time, Russia is flexing its diplomatic muscle and trying to limit American influence in former Soviet republics. Then there is the instability in a nuclear armed Pakistan that could cause a crisis in the Indian Subcontinent. All of these will have an impact on Obama’s Afghanistan policy.

In order to be successful in Afghanistan, the Obama national security team has to formulate a long term policy of de-escalation instead of escalation, which stands a chance of success. Without a policy aiming to gradual withdrawal of American and Nato forces from Afghanistan, coupled with a serious drive to reach internal political reconciliation, the shadow of Vietnam and Soviet defeat in Afghanistan will loom prominently. Unfortunately, this is where the national security novices (Clinton, Panetta, Holder, and Napolitano) may do the president a disservice. As politicians, they will be more likely to recommend a “get tough” policy that will play well with the American voters, instead of formulating a reasonable and more realistic policy in the region. And, Obama, as a politician, may be tempted to listen to them instead of his military experts who realize the problem of fighting a war that cannot be won militarily.


The Obama national security team is a strange blend of skilled professionals and inexperienced politicians. And, the future of Obama’s foreign policy will depend to a large extent on who wins the confidence of the president.

Based on traditional power conflicts in previous administrations and the personalities involved, it is reasonable to expect the major conflict to be between the National Security Council and the State Department. Hillary Clinton is a strong personality and has a powerful national political base. Given her record, she will play to the American voter. James Jones is an accomplished military man who will do the President’s bidding.

This conflict may show itself in determining policy in Afghanistan. Jones, a former combat officer in Vietnam will insist on focused objectives in Afghanistan. Clinton, who will see a “victory” in Afghanistan as critical to her future political career, will advocate policies that provide political gain.

Overshadowing all of these are the 2010 elections, which, although still far away, are foreshadowing Democratic loses. If the economy remains weak, Obama may find his options in the Middle East limited. He may have to hew a more pro-Israel policy to placate Jewish voters. And, he may have to be more aggressive in Afghanistan in order not to be seen as weak on defense.

Despite all the talk about Obama’s national security team, there remains the question of Obama’s management skills. As a person without any management experience, he has shown himself to be in a learning mode when it comes to managing the national security organization.

Without strong leadership from the Oval Office, we can expect lower levels to take a greater part in foreign policy formulation. The State Department, under the political protection of Hillary Clinton will become more responsible for day-to-day foreign policy management, while the NSC will focus more on major national security policy. Major gaffes by the inexperienced members of the team, like Holder, Clinton, Napolitano, and Panetta will occur.
Although Obama promised change, it would be a mistake to conclude that US national security policy will dramatically change during the next four years. The State Department and Defense Department bureaucracies are still in place and will provide considerable inertia. And, there remains the Jewish vote that still forces American presidents to be careful about Israeli relations.

While the Obama team has some glaring weaknesses in the inexperience of several of its members, it is somewhat made up for by the strong skills and experience at NSC, DoD and DNI. If world conditions allow, they will gain in experience over the next few years. However, if a crisis occurs in the near future, that inexperience may be a real reason for concern.