Clinton's National Security Team

December 23, 1992

The State Department will be pleased and the Pentagon worried by President-elect Clinton's selection of Warren Christopher as secretary of State and Les Aspin as secretary of Defense.

Mr. Christopher is the embodiment of the foreign policy Establishment, a disciplined diplomat who parcels out his words and judgments with studied care. Mr. Aspin is a loquacious veteran member of the House of Representatives who has jousted with the big brass for years. That he is probably leaving the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee to hyper-critic Ron Dellums only adds to the Pentagon's discontent.

In filling out his national security team, Mr. Clinton tapped heavily into veterans of the Carter administration. Countering suggestions they are hardly agents of change, he insisted they were not "retreads" but "bold new hands" ready to advance American values in the post-Cold War era.

He pointed out (we think correctly) that since the Democrats have held the White House for only four of the last 24 years, there was a limited pool of experienced personnel. Mr. Clinton's failure to name a single Republican, however, belied both Mr. Christopher's talk of bipartisanship and the president-elect's insistence that his administration "would look like America." So far, it looks like the 43 percent of the electorate who voted for him.

In James Woolsey as director of central intelligence, Anthony Lake as national security adviser, Madeleine Albright as ambassador to the United Nations, Samuel Berger as deputy national security adviser, Clifton R. Wharton Jr. as deputy secretary of State and Adm. William Crowe as head of his foreign intelligence policy board, Mr. Clinton has experts who will be up and running from Day One, unlike some of his "outsider" domestic appointees.

Mr. Christopher was deputy secretary of State in the Carter administration and the official who negotiated the release of the American embassy staff seized in Iran. He promised not to abandon "structured initiatives" of the Bush administration, such as the Middle East peace talks and Somalia.

Mr. Aspin stressed the need for a "new broader vision of security," but his ideas on this subject -- particularly the configuration and size of the armed forces -- have been directly challenged by Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. A lifetime legislator, Mr. Aspin will probably pick seasoned managers to run the Pentagon.

It will take some time to sort out the personalities in the Clinton security team, and to see whether the end of the Cold War will end the hawk-dove rivalries that bedeviled the Johnson and Carter administrations. It now might be more of a battle between nationalists and internationalists, or between interventionists and those wary of too much U.S. involvement in world trouble spots. Mr. Clinton typically put off such questions, saying he wanted both continuity and change. His national security selections stress the former, world conditions will force the latter.

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