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Strobe Talbott: Obama 'Gets' it 'Big Time'

SPIEGEL Online has a long, somewhat scrappy interview with Strobe Talbott, the former US deputy Secretary of State under the Clinton administration. Talbott isn't straightforward in answering all of the questions, but it's still a worthwhile read for the glimpses into what a foreign policy under Obama and Secretary of State Clinton would look like. Here's a telling response:
I think Obama gets this big time. There are strong indications that he has an acute understanding of these problems. Just think of his remarkable election night speech at Grant Park in Chicago. He basically said, "We have some tough problems, do not expect them to be handled quickly, not in a year and maybe not in four years." He summed it up in three phrases: two wars, a planet in peril and an international financial crisis. I checked with people familiar with the way his mind works, and the order in which he put those was no accident.
On a question how the Obama administration would approach Europe for support in Afghanistan, Talbott said that Obama would 'practice politics as the art of the possible'. Which seems more conducive to getting greater participation than making unrealistic demands and hammering on the table. But unfortunately we have to try to read between the lines what Talbott thinks is possible. It appears that he thinks a fundamental change in the rules of engagement for German troops is not in the cards.

On Russia policy, Talbott thinks that a thaw in relations is likely, and excludes the possibility of Georgian entry into NATO on the short term. The reason he gives is that Georgia would not further the security of the alliance as it is 'divided against itself'. This rationale would also hold for the Ukraine. On the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Talbott equivocates, so on that topic there is no enlightenment of Obama's possible policies.


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Joe Noory on :

That's what fishing for a job sounds like...

nanne on :

James Steinberg is going to be deputy Secretary of State, though, and there's not much left other than lateral career moves in terms of positions in the Obama administration. But Talbott is 62, which would be prime ambassador age. Maybe he's looking for a spot in the new American embassy in Berlin. The location is good, though the building is a bit uninspired.

Pat Patterson on :

"Scrappy?" Does that mean bare knuckles, Golden Gloves or pillows?

Pamela on :

"Talbott equivocates, so on that topic there is no enlightenment of Obama's possible policies." What? Talbott apparently doesn't even know Obama, as he had to check "with people familiar with the way his mind works". Why should you expect any 'enlightment' from him?

nanne on :

You're taking this to literally. My guess is that Talbott is quite close to what's going on in terms of policy formulation, since he personally knows a lot of the players, both through his role in the Clinton admin and in his current capacity as the head of Brookings. He's being asked by SPIEGEL what he thinks Obama will / should do. So this is not authoritative, but I think it is an insider's view.

Pamela on :

Hi, nanne. Yeah, I see your point. However, Talbott is one of those 'global governance' utopians (I think he recently wrote a book about it), so my opinion of his opinions is usually very low.

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