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Rent-a-General Jim Jones

11:55 AM, Oct 5, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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A friend emails to point out that Jones is "finally doing what he was hired to do -- going after McChrystal and Petraeus and providing the president cover to go against his commander's advice. This is why he will keep his job. He's irreplaceable."

This is the fundamental rationale for the Jones appointment: the anti-war, never-served, no-foreign-policy-experience president was going to need some cover for his foreign policy of retreat and his wish to ignore sound military advice when it was politically convenient to do so. If the commanders wanted more troops and resources in some theater of war -- as with Iraq in 2007 -- Obama would need a former four-star on his side. It's also why he kept around Gates, a man who's proven to be infinitely flexible to the demands of Obama's defense agenda -- budget cuts and strategic retreats.

So Jones is serving his purpose. On the one hand we have General McChrystal, whose request for more resources has been supported by CENTCOM commander General Petraeus and chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen. On the other side of this "debate," we have Obama and Biden -- neither of whom has any credibility on military strategy or tactics.

During the Bush administration, there were legitimate debates about Iraq within the military about troop numbers and strategy. For example, the left will surely remember General Eric Shinseki's call for a far larger invasion force in the run-up to the war in Iraq. But there was a whole school of military thinking at the time that believed in transformation -- in a lighter foot-print backed by precision-guided weapons and networked information, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations. This was an intra-military debate.

This time there is no debate going on within the military. The debate is entirely political and taking place entirely inside the White House. Which is why Jim Jones is the indispensable man. Obama needs to have at least one general, retired or otherwise, on his side. But upon what information is Jones making his assessment of Afghanistan and the requirements of the war there?

In January 2008, a report by a commission chaired by Jones sounded the alarm about NATO's failing efforts in Afghanistan:

"Urgent changes are required now to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a failing or failed state. Not just the future of the Afghan people is at stake. If Afghanistan fails, the possible strategic consequences will worsen regional instability, do great harm to the fight against Jihadist and religious extremism, and put in grave jeopardy NATO's future as a credible, cohesive and relevant military alliance."

Now, Jones wants to rethink everying, says a request for troops will lead the president to have a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment, and calls General McChrystal's considered judgement on the best way to move forward an "opinion."

When he was able to affect policy as SACEUR from 2003-2006, Jones did nothing notable and the situation in Afghanistan worsened. As a private citizen and board member of Boeing, Chevron and the Atlantic Council, he saw an urgent need to act. And then he returns to government, the urgency is gone, and he's advancing Obama's political agenda.