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In picking controversial candidates to run the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, US President Barack Obama has signalled the political will to risk a bruising battle with the Senate. And then some. Obama seeks to reorient the US national security policy at a moment when America is exhausted from two costly wars, struggling to cope with an extended financial crisis and finds its long- standing global primacy challenged by China's rise. Unencumbered by the imperative of re-election and buoyed by the disarray in the ranks of the Republican Party, Obama now has a rare opportunity to reframe the fundamentals of America's global engagement.
Earlier when his first choice for secretary of state, Susan Rice, ran into opposition from the Republicans, Obama quickly pulled back. This time around, he stood his ground despite the intense opposition — among both Republicans and Democrats — to his nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as the next secretary of defence. Criticism, albeit less intense, has also been directed at Obama's choice of John O. Brennan as the next director of the CIA. Together with his decision to pick Senator John Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as America's top diplomat, Obama has now presented the leadership of his national security policy for the second term.