- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tall, square-shouldered and square-jawed, James L. Jones looks like central casting’s version of exactly what he is: a straight-talking, straight-shooting Marine.

But the retired four-star general named Monday to be President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to head the National Security Council has a few lines on his resume not normally associated with former Marine Corps commandants or former NATO supreme allied commanders.

For one thing, the 65-year-old Kansas City, Mo. native speaks fluent French, thanks to a childhood spent mainly in Paris where his father worked for International Harvester. For another, he’s one of the few Marines who holds a degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

For a third, he’s been given a prize office in the Obama White House despite serving as a frequent adviser to both New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the president-elect’s Democratic primary rival, and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the president-elect’s Republican opponent in the general election.

While it has been widely praised and respected by much of the foreign policy establishment, the prospect of Gen. Jones as Mr. Obama’s top security adviser has caused consternation and anger on the president-elect’s liberal flank.

Leftist critics say the selection — coupled with the retention of Robert M. Gates, President Bush’s defense secretary, and Mrs. Clinton’s selection as secretary of state — represents a continuation of Mr. Bush’s hawkish foreign policy and of policies such as the decision to invade Iraq that Mr. Obama fiercely opposed.

“I feel incredibly frustrated,” wrote liberal “Open Left” blogger Chris Bowers.

“Even after two landslide elections in a row, are our only governing options as a nation either all right-wing Republicans, or a centrist mixture of Democrats and Republicans? Isn’t there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration?” he wrote.

But Gen. Jones’ supporters predict he will be an honest but forceful broker on national security and foreign policy debates inside the Obama White House.

Mr. Obama, trying to deflect attacks on his relatively brief policy record, invoked the general by name in his final debate with Mr. McCain as someone he could turn to for counsel.

“If I’m interested in figuring out my foreign policy, I associate myself with my running mate, [Delaware Sen.] Joe Biden or with [Indiana Sen.] Dick Lugar, the Republican ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or with General Jim Jones, the former supreme allied commander of NATO,” Mr. Obama said.

The general’s reputation for nonpartisan competence attracted both Democratic and Republican admirers.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, compared Gen. Jones in a 2007 Wall Street Journal profile to a previous general who moved to the White House after hanging up his uniform.

“He’s like [Dwight D.] Eisenhower, who belonged to no camp and everyone wanted him,” Mr Hoyer said.

In one early display of his bipartisan credentials, he served in the mid-1990s as a top military aide to Defense Secretary William Cohen, a Republican appointed by President Clinton, a Democrat.

Gen. Jones will almost certainly be the highest ranking Obama appointee to have appeared at a McCain campaign rally. The two men have known each other since serving together as military liaisons to Congress in the late 1970s when Mr. McCain was still in the Navy.

While not endorsing either candidate or even declaring a party affiliation, Gen. Jones appeared with Mr. McCain at a rally in Springfield, Mo., devoted to energy policy. Mr. McCain said the ex-Marine “would certainly” have a role in a future McCain administration.

In addition to his military record, Gen. Jones has expertise on a range of subjects close to Mr. Obama’s heart.

While never publicly opposing the war in Iraq, the general talked repeatedly on the critical importance of NATO’s campaign in Afghanistan — a point repeatedly raised by Mr. Obama as a candidate.

“NATO has bet its future” on the ground war in Afghanistan, he said in a letter last year to The Washington Times challenging the idea that Iraq was the “central front” in the global war on terror. “If NATO fails, alliance cohesion will be at grave risk. A moribund or unraveled NATO will have profoundly negative geostrategic impact.”

The general criticized the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq campaign after the quick capture of Baghdad in 2003. He reportedly refused even to interview to be head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former Pentagon chief Donald H. Rumsfeld and also declined offers to be deputy secretary of state under Condoleezza Rice or to take over the Pentagon’s Central Command, which includes both the Iraq and Afghan theaters.

Gen. Jones also has been a leading proponent of the link between energy policy and national security, another prominent theme of Mr. Obama’s platform.

Since retiring from the Marine Corps in February 2007, he has headed a government task force looking into the state of Iraq’s security forces and was Miss Rice’s special envoy for Middle East security.

But his most prominent role was as founder and leader of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, which has focused heavily on the links between the country’s energy sources and its national security policy. The institute proposed earlier this month a national energy policy exploiting a broad range of sources, from fossil fuels and nuclear power to alternative fuels.

The business-funded institute also recommended that Mr. Obama create a new post to coordinate U.S. foreign and domestic energy policy, with the official in that post also given a seat on the National Security Council.

After graduating from Georgetown, Gen. Jones joined the Marine Corps in January 1967 and served as a platoon and company commander in Vietnam. Later assignments took him to Japan, northern Iraq, Turkey, Germany, Bosnia, and NATO headquarters in Brussels. He was named the 32nd commandant of the Marine Corps in April 1999, serving in the post until January 2003.

He immediately took over the NATO top post, the first Marine ever to be the alliance’s supreme commander.

Since retiring, he has been invited to join the boards of directors of Boeing Co. and Chevron Corp.

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