Change we can believe in

CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN…. Hilzoy mentioned this overnight, but it’s worth re-emphasizing, since it’s likely to be today’s big story. At 10:40 a.m., the president-elect will introduce the leaders of his national security team, and while they come from disparate political backgrounds, they agree on where the country needs to go.

[A]ll three of his choices — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the rival turned secretary of state; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser, and Robert M. Gates, the current and future defense secretary — have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena.

The shift would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states.

One Obama advisor told the New York Times that all three have all embraced “a rebalancing of America’s national security portfolio” after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.

Denis McDonough, a senior Obama foreign policy adviser, added, “This is not an experiment, but a pragmatic solution to a long-acknowledged problem. During the campaign the then-senator invested a lot of time reaching out to retired military and also younger officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to draw on lessons learned. There wasn’t a meeting that didn’t include a discussion of the need to strengthen and integrate the other tools of national power to succeed against unconventional threats. It is critical to a long-term successful and sustainable national security strategy in the 21st century.”

It seems two of the more common criticisms of late about the team Obama is putting together is that there aren’t enough “fresh faces” in key roles, and that the officials are less likely to help push U.S. policy in a fundamentally different, more progressive, direction. A Clinton/Gates/Jones team may not fare well on the first complaint, but it seems poised to debunk the second.

In fact, this NYT report points to a fairly dramatic shift, not only in foreign policy tactics, but also in priorities. Gates and Obama routinely tell the same story: the United States has more members of military marching bands than foreign service officers. It’s a shortsighted error both are anxious to correct.

We’re talking about a sea change when it comes to the influence of U.S. power abroad — emphasizing prevention, bringing some new fiscal discipline to the Pentagon budget, making a new commitment to diplomacy, bringing stability to failed states to prevent a vacuum filled by terrorists.

And in a political context, the president-elect is poised to do all of this with a decidedly non-liberal team of officials — indeed, with Bush’s Defense Secretary — offering the kind of cover that may make success even more likely.