Leading article: Strength and experience

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The Independent Online

As with the economic appointments last week, so with his foreign affairs and security appointments yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama has gone for a mix of weight, experience and an ability to work across the partisan divide. Mrs Clinton, the most high profile of the choices so far, touches all these buttons. She has authority, experience of the world at large and an ability shown as junior senator for New York to co-operate with opponents in the House.

But then weight, experience and a centrist approach to issues could also be said of the Republican Robert Gates, who will be staying on in the Pentagon; General James Jones, former head of Nato, who takes on the job of National Security Adviser; Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona, who will be responsible for Homeland Security; and Susan Rice, who becomes Obama's choice for the sensitive post of US representative to the UN.

The single message of these appointments, as with Obama's previous announcements, is of reassurance: reassurance to the US public that the new President is going to be strong on security, reassurance to the world at large that Obama will mend bridges with his allies but be tough on his opponents, and reassurance to Congress and to the Washington political class that the next Commander in Chief will be coming with a team of knowing insiders, not fresh-faced radicals.

That may prove disappointing to his young supporters and those in the Middle East and elsewhere who might have hoped that the election of America's first black President would bring a gale of change to foreign policies as well as domestic ones. The appointment of Hillary Clinton is especially contentious on these grounds. She could still prove too wedded in the past of her husband's policies and too focussed on her own future to make a perfect foil for a President-elect largely inexperienced in foreign affairs.

But in the end it is the President who makes the crucial moves abroad as well as at home. The very fact that Obama is prepared to appoint a team of such strong and experienced figures suggests a self-confidence that bodes well for a future in which there will be events that test the new administration and the President himself, who will have to decide how to meet them