Graybeards fill US security team .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} WASHINGTON - US President-elect Barack Obama is organizing his national security brain trust composed of experienced figures, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and retired Marine Gen. James Jones. His security picks indicate a shift from his campaign credo of change toward a credo of wisdom.

Barack Obama's campaign credo: Change is good. President-elect Barack Obama's credo: When it comes to war and peace, maybe wisdom is better.

Obama has assembled a national security brain trust populated by graybeard establishment figures with decades of combined experience and even a few medals. He is entrusting critical wartime management to people with unassailable credentials and low buzz factor. The best example of the Obama Battleplan Version 2.0 is Robert Gates.

Obama's insurgent candidacy was founded on his opposition to the Iraq war and a promise to end it, fast. But with a crushing global financial crisis supplanting Iraq as the No. 1 priority, the Democrat has turned to the very man running the Iraq and Afghan wars for the current Republican president.

Gates, who has served as President George W. Bush's defense secretary for two years, will remain in the Cabinet for some time, probably a year, according to an official familiar with discussions between him and the president-elect. His appointment would fulfill an Obama pledge to include a Republican in his Cabinet.

No exit date
A source close to the current Pentagon leadership cautioned that Gates had not agreed to a specific exit date. Like those describing Obama's job offers, the source spoke on condition of anonymity because Obama has not announced the personnel choices.

For the critical inside job of national security adviser, Obama wants a 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) retired Marine general who hung his hat most recently at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A Democratic official said retired Marine Gen. James Jones was Obama's pick to head the National Security Council, the part of the White House structure that deals with foreign policy.

Jones, 64, has been a respectful critic of some Bush administration war strategy, especially in Afghanistan, and his priorities and world view seem in line with Obama's. But he's no liberal. The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was named last year to head an energy initiative for the Chamber of Commerce, and he also served as a special Mideast peace adviser for the Bush administration.

Democratic officials earlier confirmed that Obama had offered the prestigious post of secretary of state to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Clinton pick brings a vanquished opponent into Obama's fold. It also means the 47-year-old Obama is hiring a respected foreign policy wonk who argued during the tense Democratic primary that she was the person you really wanted answering that 3 a.m. phone call of doom.

Ideological baggage
Clinton may carry ideological baggage, but she also brings a record of bipartisan cooperation in the Senate and tested Midwestern grit and determination. The Gates pick affords Obama some time to cope with the crumbling economy even as it risks disappointing the anti-war Democrats who launched his candidacy. Gates was a member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and is widely respected by Democrats in Congress, but he retains strong Republican lineage.

Gates spokesman Geoff Morrell would not confirm that Gates has been offered the job by Obama. "He has never closed the door on the possibility of serving if needed, but his preference has always been to go back home," when the Bush administration ends, Morrell said.

Gates has won praise from Democrats for his willingness to work with all sides on Capitol Hill and his moves to swiftly remove Pentagon leaders who he believed were not performing. During his brief tenure he has fired the Army and Air Force secretaries as well as the Air Force chief of staff.

Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of, a veterans advocacy group, said his group has been hard on the Bush administration but holds respect for Gates. "He comes across as very honest, and has a lot of humility," Soltz said.
Photo: Hurriyet Archive