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Obama's national security balancing act

With Clinton, Gates, and Jones, he can weigh opposing views better than Bush did.

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Like his economic team, Barack Obama's choices for three top national security jobs exude competence. But by including his one-time rival, Hillary Clinton, as well as two experienced hands in Republican administrations – Robert Gates and Gen. James Jones – he's reaching beyond competence to a balanced approach to foreign affairs.

Mr. Obama's selections, announced Dec. 1, show the president-elect is serious about his campaign promise to "return to a tradition of nonpartisan national security."

Defense Secretary Gates, whom Obama plans to keep on, and retired Marine General Jones, who will be the national security adviser, both enjoy strong bipartisan support in Congress. With Senator Clinton as secretary of State, Obama bridges a divide within his own party.

The team is not without risk. Mrs. Clinton is viewed as more hawkish than Obama and has sharply disagreed with him on Israel and Iran. Her manner and perhaps lingering ambition could clash with "no drama Obama," and the transition team has had to work out an arrangement with her former-president husband to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

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