With many, including us, focused on the likelihood of Barack Obama naming James Steinberg as his national security adviser, word comes today that the job may go to Marine General James L. Jones, who retired last year after serving as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and Commander of U.S. European Command. If true, like a Steinberg appointment, it would reinforce the impression that Obama is surrounding himself with powerful advisers known for their pragmatism.
Jones has been less bipartisan than nonpartisan, hewing to the traditional idea of an apolitical military. He has no declared party affiliation and, as the Wall Street Journal reported last year, was courted by both parties during the 2008 campaign, with Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, going so far as to compare him to "Eisenhower, who belonged to no camp and everyone wanted him." During the primaries, Hillary Clinton mentioned that she could see a place for Jones in her cabinet, and Obama is taken with the general, whose tough-guy background is complimented by intellectual curiosity and even cosmopolitanism. (Jones grew up in Paris and speaks fluent French.) At the same time, Jones has close ties to prominent Republicans. In fact, when he was named Marine liaison to the Senate in 1979, his boss was then-Captain John McCain. The two remain friends, and Jones appeared alongside McCain at least once during the campaign.
Which is not to say he's remained neutral in the foreign policy fights of the last eight years. Although holding high military posts during the Bush years, Jones kept his distance from the administration. In State of Denial, Bob Woodward writes that in 2001, when Donald Rumsfeld was interviewing candidates for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Jones refused to even discuss the possibility. And, when his friend, Marine General Peter Pace, was up for the top military post four years later, Jones tried to dissuade him from taking the job, complaining that the Chiefs had been neutered by Rumsfeld. Jones also turned down an offer to head Central Command-the position David Petraeus recently assumed. Nor was his evasion of Bush appointments limited to Pentagon jobs. In 2006, Condoleezza Rice reportedly asked Jones to serve as her deputy at the State Department. Jones declined-twice.
Of course, what's most important is what Jones would advise Obama vis-