22nd United States Secretary of Defense
Like myself, I’m sure many of you have been puzzled and wondered, “how could President Barack Obama have brought himself, our nation, and the world to the terrible and dangerous condition that it is in today”.
As the president, he and his staff have unfettered access to information from the CIA, DEA, NSA, FBI, ONDCP, HHS, NIDA; every federal agency of our nation.
You would also want to believe that the administrators for each of these agencies are the most qualified and the Best of the Best that America has to offer; to do their jobs and provide quality advice to the Commander in Chief or our nation.
Well, here is what Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has to say in his book, “DUTY”……….and it pretty much explains everything [excerpt: page 290 – 291]:
“Still, I was relieved by Jones’s appointment as national security adviser because no one else in the White House at a senior level had been in the military or know much about the military. Nor, apart from Jones’s deputy at the NSC, Tom Donilon, did the senior people at the White House have any executive branch experience in national security affairs, except perhaps as midlevel staff in the Clinton administration. It took only a matter of weeks to see that Jim [Jim Jones, National Security Advisor to President Obama] was isolated in the White House. Unlike so many others there, he had not been part of the campaign and was not an old friend of the president’s. The NSC chief of staff, Mark Lippert, on the other hand, had worked for Senator Obama and was his sole foreign policy aid at the start of the presidential campaign. Denis McDonough, the new NSC head of strategic communications, had also worked for Obama on the Hill and then became his chief foreign policy adviser during the presidential campaign. Both McDonough and Lippert had an independent relationship and rapport with the new president that Jones could not hope to have. Obama also gave them ready access, making Jone’s position all the more difficult.
Early on, after one of my briefings with Obama, Jones complained to me that the briefing memo the president was using for my meeting had been prepared by Lippert without Jones’s knowledge. On the NSC staff under Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and Zbigniew Brzenzinski, such a breach of protocol would have been a firing offense. I can only imagine how Jones, after a lifetime in the Marine Corps – the most hierarchical organization there is – felt about repeated violations of the chain of command.
Meanwhile Donilon had a close relationship with the vice president, and he and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had been friends for a long time. Jones also had to deal with a number of others on the White House senior staff –Emanual, presidential counselors Valerie Jarrett, and David Axelrod, press secretary Robert Gibbs, and others – who weighed in independently with Obama on foreign policy issues. Perhaps a dozen people, including Jones’s own subordinates, had more access to the president than he did and were invited to offer opinions on national security matters, often in his absences. Indeed, one white House official was quoted in the Financial Times as saying, “If you ask me who the real national security adviser is, I would say there were three or four, of whom Rahm is one, and of which General Jones is the least important.
Things boiled over during the presidents first foreign trip, for the meeting of the G-20 in London on April 2 and the NATO summit in Strasbourg and Kehl (border cities in France and Germany) on April 3 -4. Jim told Hillary and me several days later that at both summit meetings, others in the White House – he did not name names – were advising the president on foreign policy issues that they new nothing about. With disdain, he described how one naïve White House staffer at a NATO summit reception persuaded the president to collar the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers together to get them to work out their problems – in plain view of everyone. Since the two countries have one of the world’s most bitter, intractable, and long-standing adversarial relationships, the effort was predictably unsuccessful and embarrassing.
Jones vented that he had told Tom Donilon to return to Washington after the G-20 meeting, but other senior White House staff told Donilon to travel with the president for the entire trip, which Jones discovered only when he saw Donilon in the hallway of their hotel at the NATO summit. Jim said it was hard to get decisions on scheduling presidential travel and that Donilon and Lippert and others in the White House were constantly doing “End Runs” around him.
After reading this information in Gates book, it is much easier to understand why our country’s foreign policy is in the sorry state we see it in today as it conjures up a mental picture of the "Keystone Cops" running the show. And regrettably, it took me back to when former General H. Norman Schwarzkopf made his famous comment about Iraqi President Saddam Hussein,
"As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist, he is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational art, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier. Other than that he's a great military man-I want you to know that."-General H. Norman Schwarzkopf 1991.
I sincerely wish that General Schwarzkopf was alive today so we could hear what he might have said about the leadership abilities of President Barack Obama.
Ronald L. Kirkish