WASHINGTON – Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger heaped praise in an editorial Friday on president-elect Barack Obama's national security team saying his appointments of independent thinkers "took courage."
"It took courage for the president-elect to choose this constellation and no little inner assurance - both qualities essential for dealing with the challenge of distilling order out of a fragmenting international system," Kissinger wrote in The Washington Post.
He was referring to Obama's choices of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, General James Jones as national security adviser and Robert Gates to carry on as defense secretary.
"In these circumstances, ignoring conventional wisdom may prove to have been the precondition for creativity. Both Obama and the secretary of state-designate, Senator Hillary Clinton, must have concluded that the country and their commitment to public service require their cooperation," he said.
Kissinger downplayed the idea of a "team of rivals" that has been used widely in describing Obama's line-up
"Secretaries of state are influential if and only if they are perceived as extensions of the president. Any other course weakens the president and marginalizes the secretary," he said.
"Effective foreign policy and a significant role for the State Department in it require that the president and the secretary of state have a common vision of international order, overall strategy and tactical measures," Kissinger added.
He noted that "inevitable disagreements should be settled privately; indeed, the ability of the secretary to warn and question is in direct proportion to the discretion with which such queries are expressed."
He also had high praise for Jones, saying "no one has ever been appointed national security adviser who had the command experience of retired General James L. Jones, the former head of the Marine Corps and NATO commander.
"Inevitably, the facilitating function of the security adviser will be accompanied by a role in policy-making based on a vast, almost unique, experience."
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