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Politically, therefore, Obama is playing with fire. If he accelerates troop withdrawals and violence in Iraq flares up again, the GOP will pounce. If he cuts a nuclear deal with Iran, it will probably do the same, accusing him of putting his faith in an inspection agreement that Tehran will never obey. And if he pushes hard for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, right-leaning Jewish groups may cry foul. That's the beauty of his emerging national-security team. Even Republicans will find it hard to call Gates and Jones latter-day Neville Chamberlains, and even many Likudniks will think twice before claiming that Hillary Clinton is in league with Hamas. (For cover on Israel, Obama will also be able to trot out Rahm Emanuel, whose father was born in Jerusalem, and, quite possibly, long-serving Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, who is tight with the pro-Israel lobby.)
Obama understands that foreign policy is, in international-relations-speak, a two-sided game. To get your way, you not only have to convince other governments; you also have to convince the folks back home. Bill Clinton negotiated the Kyoto Protocol on global warming with well over 100 other countries but couldn't get it through the 100-member U.S. Senate. He crafted a nuclear agreement with North Korea but saw it sabotaged by a Republican Congress that wouldn't provide sufficient money to carry it out. Obama knows that while it's a tough world out there, it's tough here as well. In Gates, Jones and Clinton, he's found people who can do more than sell his foreign policy to Iranians, Iraqis and Israelis; they can sell it to Americans too.
Beinart is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations