DENIS STAUNTON in Washington
PRESIDENT-ELECT Barack Obama has promised a new dawn of American leadership that would rely less on military power and more on diplomatic action and moral example. Announcing his national security team in Chicago yesterday, Mr Obama said that the foreign policy challenges his administration faces offer an opportunity to restore America’s standing in the world.
“We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends. We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships,” he said.
“We will show the world once more that America is relentless in defence of our people, steady in advancing our interests, and committed to the ideals that shine as a beacon to the world: democracy and justice; opportunity and unyielding hope – because American values are America’s greatest export to the world.”
Mr Obama’s appointments, led by Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, represent the most diverse national security team in history, with three women and two African-Americans, as well as at least one Republican.
Eric Holder will be the first African-American attorney general and Arizona governor Janet Napolitano will be the first woman to take charge at the Department of Homeland Security. Ms Napolitano is a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, and Mr Holder is charged with cleaning up a justice department tarnished by its support for questionable initiatives under the Bush administration.
“Let me be clear: the attorney general serves the American people, and I have every expectation that Eric will protect our people, uphold the public trust and adhere to our Constitution,” Mr Obama said.
The president-elect played down differences of opinion between members of his team on everything from the Iraq war to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I assembled this team because I am a strong believer in strong personalities and strong opinions,” he said.
“I think that’s how the best decisions are made. One of the dangers in a White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in group-think and everybody agrees with everything and there’s no discussion and there are no dissenting views. So I am going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House.”
He insisted that he would be determining policy from the White House and that all the members of his team agreed on the need to refocus US foreign policy.
“To succeed, we must pursue a new strategy that skilfully uses, balances, and integrates all elements of American power: our military and diplomacy; our intelligence and law enforcement; our economy and the power of our moral example. The team that we have assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that,” he said.
Outgoing secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said she would not be offering any advice to Mrs Clinton but praised Mr Obama’s selection of her successor.
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