Sunday, February 08, 2009

Queasy Feeling

I guess one way to show that as the new president you are not soft on security issues is to put military people in key positions. That would probably explain why President Obama appointed a retired Marine general, James L. Jones, to the position of National Security Adviser. I'm sure General Jones will do his job, but something about the attitude he displayed in this article has me feeling, well, a little nervous.

Jones, a retired Marine general, made it clear that he will run the process and be the primary conduit of national security advice to Obama, eliminating the "back channels" that at times in the Bush administration allowed Cabinet secretaries and the vice president's office to unilaterally influence and make policy out of view of the others.

"We're not always going to agree on everything," Jones said, and "so it's my job to make sure that minority opinion is represented" to the president. "But if at the end of the day he turns to me and says, 'Well, what do you think, Jones?,' I'm going to tell him what I think." ...

Although Jones said he strongly supports increased resources for the State Department, which is increasingly dwarfed by the size and expanding missions of the Defense Department, he has long been an outspoken proponent of a "pro-active military" in noncombat regions. He has advocated military collaboration with the oil and gas industry and with nongovernmental organizations abroad.

And it's not like the general is "a token" in the administration, a mere nod to the defense department. He has company, according to the article:

The Obama administration -- with powerful figures such as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates -- appears crowded at the top of the national security pyramid and heavy with military officials, including Jones himself and retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair as director of national intelligence. ...

What concerns me is that the stunning growth of power and influence of the Pentagon which we saw under the Bush administration appears to be continuing, rather than being checked. Why do we need a "pro-active military" in noncombat regions? Why did we need Africom? Is the State Department going to be relegated to official visits and polite diplomacy while the Defense Department does the heavy lifting?

It is possible that General Jones is the right person for the job: organized, disciplined, and knowledgeable, a man who will present the President with all of the options when a difficult problem arises. It's too soon to tell.

But I'll tell you what: I've still got a queasy feeling.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure that you should be worried as yet. Many top military people are well versed in the intricacies of diplomacy as well as being top notch students of foreign affairs. I would be more worried if General Jones came out and said something like, "real men go to Tehran," but I think he realizes the futility of speaking loudly while carrying a somewhat shrunken stick. I may be wrong about this of course, but I think we should still Obama until we have specific reason to do otherwise...

5:08 PM  
Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...



7:03 AM  

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