The List

The Dream Team

Barack Obama's election triumph is only days old, but already the buzz has shifted from the horserace to the coming shakeups among his top aides and cabinet secretaries. To help the president out, we asked seven top thinkers to select the brain trust that Obama should have at his side as he retools his foreign policy for a second term.

LESLIE H. GELB
Board senior fellow and president emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations

The Democrats are not brimming with strategic talent at the senior-most levels. They've got a lot of very solid and sound and knowledgeable people with good instincts to keep the United States out of trouble, but I think the talent capable of taking the Democrats to that higher strategic level is in the next generation down -- people who will have to wait a little longer to take their turn at cabinet-level positions. For now, the following will get the top jobs:

John Kerry
SECRETARY OF STATE
Almost inevitably. Obama will worry about the Massachusetts senator being too independent, but everyone knows Kerry knows his stuff and knows the players around the world. He'll be able to hit Foggy Bottom running.

Ashton Carter
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
The present deputy secretary is a solid manager who is better-versed in Pentagon affairs than anyone else, Democrat or Republican. He is also capable of taking defense decisions to the next level.

Jack Lew
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
He is simply the best choice in terms of experience, management skills, and command of the issues. And he has the president's confidence.

David Petraeus
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Give this man a promotion. Petraeus is one of the few Americans capable of truly uniting a highly disparate intelligence community.

Joseph Nye
CIA DIRECTOR
Nye has served as chairman of the National Intelligence Council and is among the very few with all of the analytical skills and background needed to run that very complicated place.

Tom Donilon
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
He'll keep the job for another two years to tidy up the withdrawal from Afghanistan and to work out next steps on China policy. He still has -- and deserves -- the president's confidence.

Michael Froman *BONUS PICK
U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
Froman is one of the hopes for the Democrats' future. He's been handling high-rise international economic issues in the White House and is ready to help the United States develop a much-needed foreign economic policy.

GROVER G. NORQUIST
President of Americans for Tax Reform

These recommendations will build on the administration's progress to date and refocus those efforts that have flagged.

John Kerry
SECRETARY OF STATE
He would like the job. He would take it seriously. My second choice is a Democratic senator from a state with a Republican governor.

Dov Zakheim
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
Zakheim, a former budget master for Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department, could bring down Pentagon costs by making all the pension and procurement reforms that were sidetracked by Afghanistan and Iraq.

Steve Forbes
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
He's not a Wall Street banker and Forbes would focus on economic growth and tax simplification -- one area of possible bipartisan consensus. Both John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan did this. Why can't we do it again?

David Norquist
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
He started his career doing budgets for Army intelligence and became the chief financial officer for the Department of Homeland Security. He's very bright and hardworking -- and he is my brother.

David Petraeus
CIA DIRECTOR
Petraeus should remain in place. He is doing well and former generals make better fall guys than former congressmen for the inevitable SNAFUs.

A Wounded Warrior
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVSIOR
Obama should appoint someone with a purple heart to remind him and the president that this is not about moving pieces around on a chess board.

Hernando De Soto *BONUS PICK
USAID ADMINISTRATOR
De Soto would make the case here and around the globe that real economic development begins with property rights and rule of law.

DENNIS ROSS
Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former Obama administration advisor on Iran and the Middle East

As Obama turns to his second term, he knows many of the national security issues he will be facing. Many of these will be in the broader Middle East: the Iranian nuclear challenge, which will likely come to a head before the end of 2013; the role and behavior of Islamists in the Arab Awakening, first and foremost in Egypt, and the need to preserve political pluralism and secular forces capable of competing in the future; the grim reality of Syria looking more and more like a failed state, and the need to affect the balance of forces in the Syrian opposition lest the internal conflict radiate outward; the future of the Palestinian Authority and the question of whether belief in peacemaking can be sustained; the transition in Afghanistan; and the challenge of al Qaeda in North Africa -- to name just a few of the near- and longer-term challenges. Potential succession in Saudi Arabia will also have an impact on our interests and choices in the region. And, to be sure, broader questions about the European Union's economic sustainability and the international implications of the political transition in China will affect us and our economic recovery. The interplay between economics and national security policy influences my suggestions.

Strobe Talbott
SECRETARY OF STATE
Hillary Clinton is a tough act to follow, but Talbott brings a wealth of experience, an awareness of how different issues interconnect regionally and internationally, and an understanding of the State Department and how it operates and should operate -- especially how it should manage its missions abroad in a time of uncertainty. He understands big powers, emerging powers, and regional threats. And he understands the role of ideology in developing nations as well as the increasing importance of economics in the making of national security. He can bring a fresh perspective to challenges, having been on the outside running the Brookings Institution.

Ashton Carter
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
Leon Panetta will likely stay for a transition period, and he should. But Carter, the current deputy secretary, should then become secretary. He knows doctrine, force structure, weapons acquisition, and budgets. He understands how to shape them so they respond to our policy needs and objectives. He is capable of managing the Defense Department during a time of change and he works well with the Armed Services. He is innovative and has a grasp of the full range of what will confront the secretary of defense, something that few people can claim.

Robert Zoellick
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Zoellick would be an inspired choice. He is a thorough professional who knows the financial and business worlds, and he understands the workings of the global economy as few people do. As president of the World Bank, he has dealt with world leaders on growth and development, and how they relate to climate change. He is that rare combination of conceptualizer and practitioner. Given how our own economic future cannot be divorced from what happens elsewhere, particularly in China and the European Union, Zoellick would bring perspective and relationships to the job that would be invaluable. He is a Republican, and nominating him would show the president's commitment to reaching across the aisle and working with the best based on capability, not party.

Michèle Flournoy
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
If the president decides that he wants a change, I would go for Flournoy. She would be an unconventional choice, but she knows national security issues very well. She asks hard questions, won't accept conventional wisdom, wants assumptions validated, and understands what policy consumers need to make informed decisions. She won't cook intelligence to serve the political leadership and she appreciates what intelligence can and cannot offer.

David Petraeus
CIA DIRECTOR
I would keep Petraeus. He has brought rigor to the agency, and is already doing a good job even though he has not been there that long. His job is not just to lead analysis but also to develop the full range of options and tools that the intelligence community needs to be able to employ to implement effective policies. He understands what that means on the ground, and the agency needs to continue to develop its assets and capabilities in this regard so that our policy choices are not reduced to sanctions or the use of military force.

Tom Donilon
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
Donilon should remain in this role. He has done a superb job, recognizing new challenges, making sure that the president gets a full range of options, staying open to new ideas, and being mindful of the risks of both action and inaction. He was the inspiration behind the pivot to Asia and he understands the meaning and stakes of what is happening with the Arab Awakening. He knows how to manage key relationships with other leaders for the president and he has the president's full confidence. With Iran requiring early decisions, most notably an endgame proposal to see if diplomacy can work, Donilon will be more needed than ever to manage the decision-making process.

Howard Berman *BONUS PICK
SECRETARY OF ENERGY
If there is going to be a new secretary of energy, I would recommend Berman, who has apparently lost his House race in California due to redistricting. As the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, he proved to be one of the most thoughtful members of Congress. He knows national security issues, the economy, and energy and the environment, and he works effectively with members of both parties.

DANIELLE PLETKA
Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute

As Obama begins his second term, it will be tempting --- because it always is -- to reward loyalists with promotions. But that's a temptation this president should resist. The world is a more dangerous place than it was four years ago, and if re-election animated Obama's first term, his legacy will surely animate the second. But an Iran with nuclear weapons, an al Qaeda that is stronger and more diversified, and a dominant and increasingly militant China are surely not the legacy Obama would prefer to leave his successor. He will therefore need a new team at the helm, one respected by this White House and with sufficient stature to stand against the machinery of fear now run from the West Wing -- one that will be honest about and engaged in the safety and security of the American people. Who does that mean?

Joe Lieberman
SECRETARY OF STATE
Lieberman is retiring, and the Senate has seen few of his stature, intellectual heft, gentility, or morality. He is a worthy successor to Clinton and a man who will stand for his department but first and foremost for his country.

Jack Keane
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
Keane is a retired general who is respected by all and has no history of partisanship. He has a love of the military, respect for the fighting force, and an understanding not only of management and budgets, but also of our challenges in Afghanistan and throughout the Near East, South Asia, and the Pacific.

Erskine Bowles
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Bowles is a fiscal conservative with a clear track record, convictions and a willingness to stick by them, an understanding of compromise, and an ability to work with all parties.

Nobody
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Abolish the position. Along with secretary of homeland security, this is one of the worst jobs in Washington. The officeholder is the head of a massive bureaucracy that makes the management of the intelligence world worse, not better.

David Petraeus
CIA DIRECTOR
The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was a scandal, and our intelligence apparatus is broken, but nothing can be fixed in one short term. Give him the job of fixing it, and he will do it.

Michèle Flournoy
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
Her name is regularly bruited for secretary of defense, but Flournoy is a professional through and through. She would manage agencies, and manage them fairly and without fear-mongering. And she would return the post of national security advisor to its appropriate place as a coordinating position for all of the national security agencies in government.

Anne-Marie Slaughter *BONUS PICK
U.N. AMBASSADOR
The lady reveres international law, which will put her among friends at Turtle Bay. She is also a principled humanitarian and will fight harder than anyone for the United Nations to play a role the United States has eschewed under Obama: a champion of freedom.

ANDREW BACEVICH
Visiting fellow at the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

When it comes to foreign policy, even Obama's most fervent supporters would do well to curb their expectations. The bloated and unwieldy national security apparatus is stuck on autopilot. If Obama avoids a major crack-up, he'll be able to claim success. Toward that end, bringing a bit of heterodoxy into the White House's inner circle just might help.

John Kerry
SECRETARY OF STATE
It's been years since this qualified as a policymaking job. To succeed Clinton, Obama should appoint someone who looks good, enjoys travel, and follows orders. No original thinking required. Word is that Kerry covets the job. Let him have it.

Robert Gates
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
Bring back Robert Gates, easily the best Pentagon chief the nation has had in decades. He's had a break,  and it's time to put him back in harness. Who better to ensure that the administration adheres to the Gates Doctrine -- to wit, that anyone proposing to send a large American army anywhere in the Middle East or East Asia should have their head examined? Gates recently remarked that he stepped down in 2011 in part because he found it too emotionally draining to send troops into harm's way. That's precisely the guy we want.

Chris Christie
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Obama needs to find some way to repay a truly incalculable debt.

GOP Benghazi Critic
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
This post should go to any Republican senator who has spent the last eight weeks berating the Obama administration for getting caught with its pants down in Benghazi. Apparently the GOP has the secret for anticipating surprises and thereby preventing their occurrence. Too bad John McCain, Lindsey Graham, et al. didn't share this wisdom with George W. Bush back in 2001.

David Petraeus
CIA DIRECTOR
No change required. Keeping Petraeus on ice pays multiple dividends.

Chas Freeman
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
A former career diplomat, he knows the Middle East and he knows China, both of which are key to the nation's future well-being. He appreciates the limits of U. S. power, plus he is candid, shrewd, and realistic. And his appointment will drive the Israel lobby nuts.

Zbigniew Brzezinski *BONUS PICK
COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT
Sure, he's long in the tooth, but he's a bona fide big thinker. Since Obama's Cairo speech came and went, this administration has been devoid of anything remotely approximating an idea. Carve out a spot in the White House for Zbig to serve as "counselor to the president."

ROSA BROOKS
Professor of law at Georgetown University and former counselor to the under secretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration

It's time for Obama to fix broken processes, take a few risks, and think about his legacy. To do this, he needs a staff of capable, experienced, principled grownups.

Susan Rice
SECRETARY OF STATE
She's been a tough-minded and effective ambassador to the United Nations, and she knows the State Department well. She's also smart, gutsy, and principled. She cares about human rights, and she'd increase U.S. attention to some of the world's most neglected regions, including sub-Saharan Africa.

Michèle Flournoy
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
She has a clear and creative vision for military and defense reform, and she's not an ideologue. She's a calm, thoughtful manager who knows how to get the best from her staff, and she's an effective coalition-builder who earned the respect of Democrats and Republicans alike during her three years as under secretary of defense for policy.

Michael Bloomberg
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
New York's mayor knows how to handle money and manage organizations, and he's shown the ability and will to put his personal fortune to work for the public good. He's a principled pragmatist who can work with both parties.

Harold Koh
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Yes, this one's out of left field -- but Koh, the State Department's legal advisor, both understands and respects the work of the intelligence community and recognizes that even covert action must be governed by law. He's stubborn, smart, and charismatic. Not everyone will agree with him, but everyone will respect him.

John Brennan
CIA DIRECTOR
He's been a thoughtful, moderate voice within the White House. As Obama's chief counterterrorism advisor, he's led the push for greater transparency on targeted killings, and shown himself to be both savvy and ethical on a wide range of counterterrorism issues.

Tony Blinken
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
As Joe Biden's national security advisor, Blinken has been in on every major decision over the last four years, and many of the positions he and his boss took early on have since been vindicated. He knows Congress and is well-liked and respected across the foreign policy establishment. He would also bring some much-needed calm, civility, and structure to the national security staff. An alternative: Kathleen Hicks, currently the deputy head of the Pentagon's policy shop. She's smart, creative, and sensible, with an amazing talent for forging consensus and wading through bureaucratic molasses. 

Me *BONUS PICK
AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE
I'm available! True, I don't speak French, but for enough foie gras, I'd be happy to learn. Just sayin'.

MARK LEONARD
Co-founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations

The early years of Obama 1.0 were after-care for the era of George W. Bush: preventing a depression and restoring American leadership in the wake of Iraq. But after Osama bin Laden's apprehension, Obama could draw down from Afghanistan and shift more obviously to his two big innovations -- a low-cost, drone-based war on terror and the promise of a "pivot to Asia." Obama 2.0 should have a team focused on ending the legal gray area around the drone wars and above all making the pivot to Asia into a real Obama Doctrine -- backed up by economics and politics as well as military redeployments.

Robert Zoellick
SECRETARY OF STATE
There are few better qualified candidates to deliver the pivot. He has a deep relationship with China and an understanding of the economic battlefield that will be the vital playing field for this competition.

Kurt Campbell
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
Campbell was in many ways the intellectual driving force of the pivot in the State Department. He could now give substance to it in the part of the world where America still has the strongest edge, and could be part of a powerful double act with Zoellick.

George Soros
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
Soros is an intellectual heavyweight who has consistently gotten the financial crisis right; he is unafraid of the orthodoxies of Wall Street and has a social democratic concern for the poorest (full disclosure: he is a friend, and a backer of ECFR).

Anne-Marie Slaughter
DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
She is talented, super-articulate, and an international lawyer by training. Who better to find a proper legal basis for Obama's war on terror?

Susan Rice
CIA DIRECTOR
Tough-minded and close to Obama, she would be the perfect person to prosecute the struggle against terrorism -- and she's acquired the diplomatic experience at the United Nations to try to make it globally legitimate.

Denis McDonough
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
McDonough, the current number two, is a trusted and talented bureaucratic operator who has been by Obama's side from the beginning. He should be given a deputy who tries to link up the Obama Doctrine with the strategies of other liberal powers (particularly in Europe) -- rather than just seeing these countries as part of a toolkit to be tapped when there is a specific problem.

Paul Ryan
U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE *BONUS PICK
The future of American power, not least in Asia, will depend on America's ability to open new markets. Ryan has a wonk's eye for detail, a reasonable record on free trade, and some ideas for how to get congressional approval for controversial ideas.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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