After initially relying on some outside-the-box foreign-policy
advisers, Barack Obama has surrounded himself with many well-known
and longtime world-affairs practitioners. That suggests to some
critics that his would be an orthodox foreign policy largely in the
President Clinton mold - with an interventionist streak in times of
John McCain lends an ear to some of the original neoconservative
backers of the war in Iraq, but his team also includes Republican
realists and internationalists of the George H.W. Bush tradition.
That split between American idealism and pragmatism is raising
questions about whether the bifurcated foreign policy of the
outgoing President Bush might continue in a McCain White House.
When it comes to defining the foreign policy each would practice,
the two candidates have given speeches and answered debate questions
indicating where they might go. But the foreign-policy brain trusts
assembled by each offer another set of clues as to how American
diplomacy and power might be employed under two very different men.
"The split in the advisers to McCain attests to the somewhat
bipolar nature of his world vision, this tension you sense in him
between a realistic sense of the limits of American power and then
the strains of idealism," says Michael Fullilove at the Brookings
Institution in Washington.
"In Obama most of the names associated with him reflect above all
a cautious approach to foreign policy after what are widely seen as
the excesses of the Bush presidency," he adds. "But one question
mark would be how much he would ultimately be influenced by other
voices emphasizing priorities like human rights and humanitarian
Others say the size of each candidate's circle of foreign-policy
advisers and the variety within it is a reflection of two different
levels of experience and approaches to decisionmaking.
"McCain's spectrum would be different, he would rely on his own
experiences and instincts more," says Thomas Henriksen at the Hoover
Institution in Stanford, Calif. "Obama would be more deliberative -
he'd want to listen to people, even a lot of different people,
before he did anything."
Obama draws on former official
Senator Obama has assembled a foreign-policy and national
security team incorporating dozens of specialists, former State
Department and Pentagon officials, and members of Congress. But the
length of the list and many of the prominent names on it suggest a
broad and exhaustive consultative process for foreign-policy making.
Some critics see a cautious approach to the world and ultimately an
orthodox Democratic foreign policy.
Among Obama's close advisers are Susan Rice, a former assistant
secretary of State for African affairs; Gregory Craig, a former
State official who was President Clinton's impeachment lawyer;
former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake; and former Navy
secretary Richard Danzig - all of whom served in the Clinton
Advisers with no Clinton administration connection included
Samantha Power, the Harvard human rights scholar who resigned from
Obama's team in March after suggesting Obama would readjust his Iraq
withdrawal date after taking office; and Obama's national security
coordinator, Denis McDonough, a foreign-policy adviser to former
Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and a staunch advocate of the
US taking a leadership role in global warming and energy issues.
But Obama appears to have shifted his foreign-policy outlook over
recent months as he has expanded his advisory team to include high-
profile Democrats and Republicans.
"The more interventionist advisers, like Susan Rice and that
group, those people have really dropped off as prominent pragmatists
have risen," says Douglas Foyle, an associate professor of
government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Citing a
meeting Obama held last week to showcase his foreign-policy and
national security team, Mr. …