Is General Jim Jones about to lose his job?
By Peter Feaver In catching up on some back reading, a few posts about the Obama NSC caught my eye. First there was this odd column from David Ignatius, apparently triggered by an unsolicited offer from Secretary Gates to sit for an on-the-record interview. There was no real news peg, but Gates did offer encomia ...
By Peter Feaver
By Peter Feaver
In catching up on some back reading, a few posts about the Obama NSC caught my eye. First there was this odd column from David Ignatius, apparently triggered by an unsolicited offer from Secretary Gates to sit for an on-the-record interview. There was no real news peg, but Gates did offer encomia to General Jim Jones, including the remarkable statement that Jones is "among the best" of any national security advisor Gates has seen. Considering that he has worked with or watched closely every advisor since Henry Kissinger, that is strong praise.
So strong, in fact, that Ignatius could not resist contrasting it with and linking it to the fairly steady drumbeat of criticism of Jones that pervades the Beltway. Ignatius raises the possibility that Gates is mounting a rearguard action to bolster Jones’ flagging fortunes, but then comes down on the side of dismissing talk of Jones’ troubles as a "parlor game."
Enter Tom Ricks, who makes a curious contribution to the game: the speculation that Gates himself is under consideration to replace Jones as national security advisor. That is how Ricks interprets the otherwise mystifying Gates "interview" with Ignatius. Ricks has very good sources, though he coyly avoids characterizing them beyond the claim that they are "strong vibes" concerning "powerful people."
This seems to be another round in the whispering campaign that the White House tried to stop barely a month ago. It is odd, because it is not fueled by major failures. There have been many snafus and hiccups, but so far the national security team has avoided the kind of total meltdown that produces high-profile sacrificial firings. Likewise, while there has been evidence of internal conflict, it has yet to reach the level that would force someone of Jones’ stature to walk the plank.
So why does the whispering campaign continue? If Ricks is right, then there is more than caddish junior staffers with loose lips at play here. And if Ricks is right, the whispering should start to get louder and louder fairly soon.
Peter D. Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, where he directs the Program in American Grand Strategy.
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