Sunday, October 10, 2010

What is President Obama Thinking?

President Obama's national security advisor, James Jones, is resigning as part of the reshuffling going on among the President's advisors. There are conflicting reports as to whether Jones is leaving of his own accord or is being forced out.

So who has President Obama chosen to replace him? Past National Security Advisors have brought with them a wealth of experience in foreign policy and military policy experience. Some of them include Robert Cutler, McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger,Zbigniew Brzezinski, Colin Powell, Brent Scrowcroft, Anthony Lake, and Condoleeza Rice. Many came to the position either through a ix of military and government service, usually in the department of Defense or the Department of State. Some were academics who had long been active in participating in studies and think tanks which helped influence US security policy.

Presiden Obama's nomination for the position is a man named Thomas "Tom" Donilon. His resume is unlike any of the examples of previous NSA's that I've listed above. For most of his career,he has been a lobbyist and partner at O'Melveney and Meyers. Now while this should not necessarily exclude him from consideration, especially when you consider that one of the best advisors that FDR had on national security was a lawyer named William Donovan (this was before there was an NSA position), he seems well... massively unqualified to be the NSA.

How unqualified? Remember Michael Brown, President Bush's FEMA chief when Hurrican Katrina hit? Yeah. That sort of qualifications.

Other than being a lobbyist, Mr. Donilon has held a few other jobs. For foreign policy experience, he Served from 1993 to 1996 as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. Sounds impressive? Maybe. But the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs is the title they give to the Secretary of State' press secretary. Basically,he was the PR face for the US media. After retiring from that position, Mr. Donilon was, as I mentioned before, a registered lobbyist. Who did he represent? Fannie Mae.

The he joined the Obama campaign as a foreign policy advisor. As a reward for being a loyal member of the winning team, he was given the position of Deputy National Security Advisor. As Woodward noted in his book Obama's Wars,

The Pentagon also had concerns about Donilon. When criticism of Jones had reached a high-water mark the previous year, Gates had decided to publicly embrace him. “I think of Jim as the glue that holds this team together,” Gates told The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, whose “Jim Jones’s Team” ran prominently on the op-ed page.

Gates did this in part, he told an aide, because he did not think Donilon would work out as Jones’s successor. Gates felt that Donilon did not understand the military or treat its senior leadership with sufficient respect. The secretary later told Jones that Donilon would be a “disaster” as Obama’s national security adviser.

So, for a position that requires a person to interact with the military regularly, you would think that the President would choose someone tah had an understanding of the people who carry out our security and foreign policy, and at least a respect for the military establishment. Instead, the President has chosen a man who deeply distrusts the military and has reportedly gone put of his way to violate his own chain of command by cutting his predecessor out of the loop with the President and his Chief of Staff.

So let's recap. No military experience. No academic experience. His only real experience in the foreign policy experience, as other than a kibitzer, was as part of Warren Christopher's team while Secretary of State. Making that an apprenticeship under one of the worst Secretaries of State we've had since World War II. His relationship with military is politely described as piss poor. So what in this backgrounds leads anyone to think that this is the man who should be the NSA for the United States of America.

So, what is President Obama thinking?

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