Steve Clemons at the New America Foundation is convinced the appointment of Tom Donilon as Obama’s replacement for General Jones as National Security Advisor makes great sense.
If so, Clemons is virtually alone in the national security environment. Even Obamabot Juan Williams called Donilon an amateur over the weekend. In fact, if you look at the short list that Clemons himself compiled for the post, Donilon, by a very wide margin, has the least experience among those who might have been thought serious contenders for the post.
What those other candidates all share is in depth experience articulating the US global strategic presence in a variety of roles over the decades. Donilon has more experience running failed mortgage lender Fannie Mae than he does in international relations.
To put it politely, Donilon is a political operative. To put it not so politely, he has been a bag man for the Democratic Party for several decades. His claim to fame is his role in defeating Robert Bork for the Supreme Court. Kudos to him, but useless in his present role.
What then explains the pick?
The real problem Obama is trying to solve is how to get out of Afghanistan despite the consensus that US global power is at stake in the Afghan/Pakistan environment, where we are facing off against not just the Taliban and their ISI masters but the Chinese who are concerned about Indian influence in Kandahar.
The military is already fighting a tough battle in the domestic US environment to box Obama into the war and so Donilon’s job is try to open up some daylight for Obama politically. That daylight may be all that Obama has going into the 2012 re-election campaign. Obama has lost the political center and fears losing the anti-war Party base as well which could, in theory, even block his renomination in 2012.
The only problem is that when national security becomes captive of domestic electoral politics it leads to problems with the assertion of US global power.
Of course, the real solution to the Afghan/Pakistan conflict is far different than what either the military or Obama have come up with. We should be talking about unilateral nuclear disarmament to put pressure on the Pakistanis to disarm, as well as the Indians. That would greatly reduce the strategic risks in the region.