Now he's had his first real intelligence briefing, and it was probably an eye-opener, because it's quite a scene out there. I hope he's got someone close to him with the wit and the nerve to tell the president-elect that the intelligence community is also a mess, and that he can be morally certain the real world is even worse than the one he's just been briefed about.
The real world is so frightening that I can't imagine Hillary Clinton will be foolish enough to accept the job of secretary of state; anyone who takes that job is almost certain to fail. How can anyone believe that he or she has a good chance of dealing with:
--the expanding anti-American alliance, now including Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, China, North Korea and Syria (remember that the "Axis of Evil" had only three charter members);
--the global financial/economic crisis, which is almost surely in a relatively early stage;
--allies wimping out all over. No one seems to have the stomach (and none has the wherewithal) to mount a more aggressive campaign in Afghanistan, which Obama has promised to do.
And that's only the top of the list. The Iranian nuclear project is still there, simmering away, as the mullahs almost daily threaten the destruction of Israel and the United States. Iran claims to have tested yet another (long-range) missile, and shown us photographs. The State Department, as always, clicked its tongue, but since so many of these proclamations have proven false in the past, there's no reason I know of to take this one any more seriously than the earlier hoaxes.
What IS clear about Iran could and should be good news for Obama and his team (whoever they are): the regime shows every sign of being in a paranoid panic over the hatred the Iranian people feel for the mullahs. Hence we have recently seen a huge drill in the major cities, wherein tens of thousands of security forces rehearse their actions in the event of an insurrection; new repression against major non-Persian ethnic groups, including a ban against the use of the Azeri language; and a mounting tempo of executions.
Yet so far as I can tell, neither Bush nor Obama has the slightest intention of supporting democratic revolution in Iran, which is the key ingredient to any successful American policy in the region. Both Bush and Obama insist on seeing Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan as separate policy matters, a failure of strategic vision that lies at the heart of our failed war plan for Iraq in the first place, and which deflected our attention from Afghanistan long enough to permit the Taliban and its Iranian supporters to rebuild their forces.
Until our policy makers finally come to terms with the hard truth that we are in a regional war, and that it has to be waged on a regional scale, we will fail to win the overall struggle. Yes, Iraq looks good today, and although there is still a curious unwillingness to say it in Washington, we defeated al Qaeda in Iraq. But it can all come apart quite quickly if we "declare victory and go home," because the Iranians and the Syrians will step up the terror war in Iraq.
It will be interesting to see who Obama picks to "manage" the Iranian time bomb. My guess is that he will take people who have been wrong from the beginning. I'm betting that he will find people from the Carter years, the ones who favored the fall of the shah and rather liked the Ayatollah Khomeini.