It should be obvious to the president‐elect that experience is not synonymous with good judgment. After all, his own lack of experience did not block his path to the Oval Office, and might ultimately have cleared the way. Wisdom and insight might actually be impeded by years of working in the same field, exposed only to the canon of the profession. New faces and a fresh perspective are particularly welcome in old, tired industries that have run out of ideas. That certainly applies to Detroit automakers, but they are hardly alone: all companies are forced to change course if their products don’t fulfill customer’s expectations.
Or at least they should be. But the Washington foreign policy community ran out of ideas years ago. The clearest indication of that was is its embrace of the Iraq War, which won the backing of left‐leaning think tanks and academics, and 29 of 50 Senate Democrats. Many of those same people, incredibly, will be running foreign affairs in the next administration.
Experienced Washington hands on both the left and the right have resisted calls to bring our troops home from Iraq. They clamor for new and better ways to build foreign countries and fight other people’s wars. Beyond‐the‐beltway Americans, meanwhile, want to build our own country, and bring an end to our own wars. Despite the fact that policy wonks are still marketing products that Americans no longer want to buy, they, like the carmakers, continue to wield great influence.
There was a chance that Obama might cut them off. He was not part of the Washington policy community in the fall of 2002 when he spoke out against the Iraq War. His outsider status may have helped him see that the war was likely to be more costly and time‐consuming than the advocates for war predicted. His inexperience did not prevent him from recognizing that the war would aid al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts and undermine U.S. security.