- By Peter FeaverPeter D. Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy and Bass Fellow at Duke University, and director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. He is co-editor of Elephants in the Room.
By Peter Feaver
I wonder if my Shadow Government colleagues feel somewhat like I do today. My dominant feeling is pride in this country — pride that we can transfer the most powerful office on earth peacefully, and pride that the new president is an American success story whose success is a capstone to the struggle that marked the founding of the Republican party. (I am also proud of the work that was done in the Bush administration to manage the transition and help prepare the new team for the awesome challenges; perhaps that will be a post for another day, but today is Obama’s day and we should focus on him.)
Peeping out from under the pride is another feeling: hope. I am not talking about the moonpie hope that propelled Obama to office. Nor am I talking about hope that Obama can fix all of the problems we face, let alone pay my gas and mortgage.
Rather, the hope I feel concerns Obama’s opportunity to reshuffle the deck of partisan politics, at least insofar as it relates to national security. As of noon today, responsibility for protecting America rests squarely with the Democratic party. To be sure, Republicans are obliged to be constructive from their seats in the loyal opposition. But the buck now stops with President Obama and the Congressional leadership.
Pundits have compared today to many other presidential inaugurations — Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy — but in national security terms the most significant parallel is Eisenhower’s in 1953, when Republicans wrested back control of the White House and the Congress. In doing so, they made the Cold War truly a bipartisan responsibility. I believe we won the Cold War largely because we were able to sustain our efforts across administrations and across parties.
Today marks the day when we do the same thing with the struggle against the violent extremists that attacked us on 9/11 and with the military battles still being waged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Whether or not we win our current "cold war" depends on whether we can similarly share the responsibility for that struggle across administrations and across parties.
The one man with the most responsibility for success or failure in this larger enterprise now is President Obama. I am proud to call him my president. I hope he succeeds.