By Shaun Waterman in Washington, DC for ISN Security Watch
Jun 2, 2009
One of the most serious allegations leveled against Bush’s war on terror was that it broke Washington’s national security policymaking structures. Obama is trying to fix them, Shaun Waterman writes for ISN Security Watch.
Last week, on the day he nominated Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and spoke out against the house arrest of Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, US President Barack Obama also unveiled a little noticed restructuring of his national security apparatus – the White House committees and staff that coordinate foreign and defense policymaking between government departments.
Since a hasty reorganization after the 9/11 terror attacks, the National Security Council (NSC) – both the cabinet-level committee and its support staff, headed by the national security advisor – has been paralleled by a Homeland Security Council, which like its national security counterpart had a dedicated staff headed by a senior advisor to the president.
As reported in an earlier Costs of War column, critics like scholar David Rothkopf, in his magisterial 2005 history of the National Security Council, Running the World, have painted a damning portrait of a broken policy process at the White House, presided over by a national security adviser – Condoleezza Rice – who “was so pre-occupied with being the president’s ‘body man,’ at his side every minute, whispering in his ear […] that she let the NSC become weak and, worse, the NSC process become weak.”
Monday, former senior Bush-era State Department official Richard Haas, echoed that critique anew. “It didn’t work too well,” he told C-Span television with dry understatement of the policy process that led to the war in Iraq.
“The challenges of the 21st century are increasingly unconventional and transnational, and therefore demand a response that effectively integrates all aspects of American power,” Obama said in announcing the merger of the two staffs – about 240 people altogether.
“There’s more to our security than the traditional military and diplomacy piece,” said Randy Beardsworth, a Bush-era Homeland Security official who co-chaired the study group that drafted the reorganization.
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