Source: Ex-Air Force pilot picked as Sudan envoy
WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior administration official says President Barack Obama has chosen retired Air Force Gen. J. Scott Gration to be a special envoy to war-wracked Sudan.
Gration is a close personal friend of Obama and has considerable experience on African issues.
The administration official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Gration is the pick of both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The announcement was being made Wednesday.
Gration was an adviser to Obama during his presidential campaign on a range of military and national security issues. He is also an expert on Africa who was partly raised on the continent and is fluent in Swahili.
In 2006 he accompanied then-Sen. Obama on a trip to Africa.
Gration spoke at the DNC this summer:
In 2006, I went with Senator Obama to Africa, and experienced firsthand the leadership that America needs. In the shadow of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, I saw a leader with the understanding to build new bridges over old divides. That leader is Barack Obama. In Nairobi, I saw a leader with the courage to confront corruption directly with the president of Kenya. In Chad, I saw a leader who listened to the stories of refugees from Darfur – a leader committed to end that genocide. In Djibouti, I saw a leader who relaxed with our troops on the basketball court, who won their respect and admiration in discussions around the dinner table, and who appreciates their service.
That leader is Barack Obama. Leadership does matter. And we can’t afford four more years of more of the same.
The most mystical believer in Obamaism whom I met was Scott Gration, the retired Air Force major-general—a burly, friendly, artifice-less guy who assured me that he had only recently begun to wear a tie regularly. I went to see him over the summer at his house in Nutley, New Jersey. An American flag flies from a flagpole on the lawn. Gration, who grew up in Africa as the son of American missionaries, and who flew two hundred and seventy-four combat missions over Iraq, used to be a registered Republican, but he became a Democrat after spending time with Obama, especially during a trip to Africa in 2006. Perhaps because his background isn’t conventionally liberal, he is more open than the other top Obama advisers in expressing a soaring optimism about the possibility of a less arrogant, more coöperative, more empathetic America leading the world in confronting its most intractable problems. “We’ve screwed up,” he told me. “We don’t really fix these things.” He mentioned the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the Israel-Palestine dispute, and the tension between Russia and Georgia. “What I’d hope we learn from that is: ‘Yep, we’ve got to fix the basic issues here.’ ” He went on, “What doesn’t work, in Gration’s mind, is forcing a solution. Create an environment, give people the opportunity to air their differences, and see if they can come together. We don’t tell them what the solution is, but we do have an obligation—let’s get people in here, find out the needs, see if you can come up with a plan. Don’t try to freeze conflicts!”
Gration was impatient with the idea that conflict is the natural state of the world, to be managed rather than resolved. “People are more alike than their cultures and religions,” he said. “When Obama talks about global citizens, it’s the same framework. You see, religion and culture—they’re the way people communicate their values. They want stability, order, education. This is just humanness. Then you add on your religion, your culture—that’s how you execute it.” His implication was that if we can get past the religious and cultural identities that serve as host organisms for conflict, and deal with people at the level of their humanity and their basic needs, then we can make real progress—especially if Obama personally holds an office that permits him to set the tone and lead the effort.
While campaigning for Obama in Iowa Gration said:
Simply put, Barack Obama has the judgment, wisdom, courage, experience, and leadership capability that we desperately need in the next commander of our nation’s precious resources – our men and women in uniform.
Interesting to note: According to MSNBC Gration criticized Hillary Clinton’s national security and foreign policy judgment during the campaign, saying:
“It’s ironic that Hillary Clinton compared Barack Obama to George Bush when she voted to authorize the war in Iraq, supports the Bush policy of not talking to leaders we don’t like, and gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran and Pakistan,” Gration said during the campaign.
“On these key questions, Barack Obama not only made a different judgment — he made the right judgment. That is why more and more Americans believe that he is the best choice to defend our security as commander-in-chief, and to restore our standing in the world.”
Thanks to my twitter friends @esthersprague @iact and @anncurry & others for the hat tip that this was coming!