Saturday, October 9, 2010

Predictions Fail to Materialize

With the retirement of Gen. Jones and a new National Security Advisor, it is time to make new predictions about the dynamics of the foreign policy-making of the Obama Administration.  Or not, given how badly folks performed the last time.  Fred Kaplan does a nice job of covering the changeover although he cites Woodward's book a bit too much, I think. 

Two years ago, people predicted that Clinton and Gates would be in conflict, that Jones would play a major role, and so forth.  But Gates and Obama have gotten along so well that Jones was not needed to be the intermediary with the Pentagon.  Clinton and Gates have gotten along famously.  And Obama has been his own man in foreign policy, despite having little prior experience. 

Of course, the fact that there has been little infighting might be evidence that Jones did at least a bit of his job--to do no harm.  Other NSA's have failed that minimal criteria (Poindexter, McFarlane, Clark, Allen [Jeez, Reagan had a poor bunch of NSAs]).  Jones may have been somewhat marginal but he did not facilitate any catastrophes a la Condi Rice. 

Kaplan's piece might suggest that four star generals may make poor NSA's, but I am not sure that an additional star makes that much of a difference given that Scowcroft and Powell got good marks as Lt.Generals.  On the other hand, perhaps the experience of running a combatant command (Jones was the biggest of them all as SACEUR) might have made a difference.  Or perhaps Marines do not play well with others.

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