President-elect Barack Obama has appointed an extraordinary team for national security policy. On its face, it violates certain maxims of conventional wisdom: that appointing to the Cabinet individuals with an autonomous constituency, and who therefore are difficult to fire, circumscribes presidential control; that appointing as national security adviser, secretary of state and secretary of defense individuals with established policy views may absorb the president's energies in settling disputes among strong-willed advisers.
It took courage for the president-elect to choose this constellation and no little inner assurance -- both qualities essential for dealing with the challenge of distilling order out of a fragmenting international system. In these circumstances, ignoring conventional wisdom may prove to have been the precondition for creativity. Both Obama and the secretary of state-designate, Sen. Hillary Clinton, must have concluded that the country and their commitment to public service require their cooperation.