The news is coming so thick and fast these days one can hardly keep up with it, let alone comment intelligently. But we should at least note that Marine General Jim Jones resigned as President Obama’s National Security Adviser today, and will be replaced by political operative Tom Donilon.
It is hard to remember now, but shortly after his election, Obama’s selection of Gen. Jones as national security adviser, along with a handful of similar appointments, caused us and other observers who are even more knowledgeable to hail what seemed to be a reassuringly moderate trend in Obama’s nascent foreign policy. Those days are long gone now, and it seems that Jones never had much influence. Reuters reports that Jones was “often portrayed as an outsider who struggled to make his voice heard over Obama’s close-knit group of advisers who were with him on his 2008 election campaign.”
Donilon is cut from a different cloth:
In veteran U.S. journalist Bob Woodward’s new book “Obama’s Wars,” which gives an inside look at how Obama crafted his Afghan war strategy, Donilon is shown as deeply skeptical of a big troop increase in Afghanistan.
In other words, he agrees with the President. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Woodward that it would be a “disaster” if Donilon were to become National Security Adviser, but Gates now says he has a “good working relationship” with Donilon, “contrary to what you may have read.” That seems like less than a recantation.
Andy McCarthy, meanwhile, skewers the New York Times’ characterization of Donilon as a “non-ideological pragmatist.” Of course, to the Times, Paul Krugman is a non-ideological pragmatist. Andy notes that Donilon’s boss, General Jones, like Gates, has reservations about him:
Jones echoed criticisms that Donilon lacked critical national security experience and existed in a lawyer’s bunker, his power stemming from his status as a Democratic fixer who has the president’s ear — an ear Donilon routinely fills with “snap judgments” and “absolute declarations” about places he’s never been to, foreign officials he’s never met, and a military with which he has no credibility.
Donilon’s appointment is one more sign that President Obama is abandoning any pretense of moderation, and is instead lurching to the left, surrounding himself with people with whom he is comfortable–Democratic Party political operatives–rather than those with whom he is not comfortable, like military men.
PAUL adds: Donilon actually is a pragmatist, though not a particularly non-ideological one. That’s another way of saying that he’s a thorough-going political animal.
There’s a place for that species in every administration, but the place isn’t National Security Adviser. By putting Donilon in that post, instead of, say, chief of staff where it was rumored he might end up, the president confirms that, for him, national security is subservient to politics. Of course, the formulation of the administration’s Afghanistan policy, and the polilcy itself, had already demonstrated this.
UPDATE: More on Donilon’s background. If you wondered whether my description of him as a political operative was fair, read on:
For a long time, Donilon lived his life from presidential campaign to campaign.
The Democratic operative worked on his first Democratic National Convention at 24, and he’s been helping elect candidates ever since. He has worked for Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Joseph R. Biden. …
He was a registered lobbyist from 1999 through 2005, and his sole client was Fannie Mae. … His brother is Michael C. Donilon, a counselor to Vice President Joseph R. Biden. His wife, Cathy Russell, is Jill Biden’s chief of staff.
Yes, and now he is President Obama’s National Security Adviser. This would be a bad joke, except…it isn’t a joke.