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Monday, January 12, 2009

Man in the Mirror

Good article about retired General James Jones, the Obama administration's pick for national security advisor. Jones, who went to school at Georgetown and held numerous Pentagon assignments, is no stranger to taking the middle road and navigating the phoniness of Washington, DC. This article suggests it is a rare skill; rather I would argue that it is an essential skill to any military officer hoping to make it to four-star rank. This is one reason why the majority of military officers, who are careerists by heart, cannot be trusted to speak their minds all of the time.

Here is an excerpt:

How does Jones pull it off? Much of the explanation is that no one can pin down his worldview enough to find fault with it. Jones is "pretty much a black box," says one Democratic foreign policy staffer on Capitol Hill. "He doesn't have a personal agenda," says Fred Graefe, a Washington lobbyist who has been a close friend of Jones since they served in Vietnam 40 years ago and claims not to know even whether he is a Democrat or Republican. "He's a little bit of a mystery," adds another Democrat who closely watches foreign policy for a special-interest group.

Jones, to be sure, is not a complete mystery: He is an internationalist by nature--though he is also less dovish, particularly on Iraq, than some people may understand. But it's true that his record suggests someone more interested in management than in grand vision--and someone who, unencumbered by strong ideological leanings, can evaluate ideas dispassionately whether they come from left or right. This probably helps explain why Obama picked him. With a foreign policy team dominated by strong figures like Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Robert Gates, Obama does not need a national security adviser with big ideas; he needs someone smooth as a diplomat and tough as a Marine. Which just happens to describe Jim Jones.

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