In the Arena

Obama’s Second Tier Appointments

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Fred Kaplan has, as usual, a smart piece on Obama’s second-tier appointments at the Pentagon and State. I’d add a couple of observations:

1. I agree that it’s good news that people like Holbrooke and Ross are being successfully recruited to do the difficult negotiations to come–but I wonder about the special envoy set-up. This adds another level of bureaucracy–the last thing State needs!–bypassing regional Assistant Secretaries. There are very good arguments for this targeted problem-solving approach (Holbrooke shouldn’t have to worry about Sri Lanka, which would be in his portfolio as Asst. Secretary for South Asia–Af/Pak is going to be a bear all by itself), but never underestimate the ability of bureaucrats to gum up the work with turf battles. (I have similar concerns about the new layer of super-bureaucrats in the West Wing–policy czars like Carol Browner and Lawrence Summers.)

2. I’m especially pleased by the law firm of (Dawn) Johnsen and (Jeh) Johnson, who will take the Office of Legal Counsel positions desecrated by the Bush Administration torture-enablers at the Justice Department and Pentagon, respectively.