- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) - The national security adviser doesn’t require Senate confirmation, nor does the job come with the muscle of a large federal agency.

But in that role, James L. Jones may well be the last voice the new president hears before making crucial decisions on security. Observers say Obama has chosen wisely.

Jones is expected to be announced by Obama next week as part of the president-elect’s national security team, along with Robert Gates as secretary of defense and Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.

The retired four-star general would have a deep well of experience from which to draw as the new commander in chief confronts not just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but also the nearly inevitable pop-up threats to American security interests.

After 40 years in the Marines, Jones, 64, has impeccable military credentials, with an ambassador’s polish and an imposing physical presence, standing 6 foot, 4 inches. As a former top commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Europe _ his last assignment before retiring from the military in early 2007 _ he’s a respected figure in many foreign capitals.

He also is seen as bipartisan. When former Republican Sen. William Cohen was defense secretary during President Bill Clinton’s second term, Jones was Cohen’s senior military assistant. During the presidential campaign, Jones informally advised both Obama and McCain on national security issues.

Obama, with limited foreign policy experience, would benefit from Jones’s “natural calm and leadership instincts,” says retired Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has known Jones for 38 years.

“He gets to the heart of an issue very quickly and does it in a way that is very inclusive of everybody around him,” Pace says.

In the view of those who know Jones well, he would bring to the White House an unusual combination of qualities that make him a respected voice on some of the most complex security issues of his time. Last year, for example, he led a commission that advised Congress on progress in training Iraqi security forces.

Jim Jones has always been a notch or two above everybody,” says Les Palm, a retired two-star Marine general who has known Jones since 1974. “He’s a good tactician, obviously, in a fight. But he also has a rare combination of being a strategic thinker and a statesman. He has a tremendous ability to get people of differing views to agree. He has had a lot of different jobs that allowed him to look at things differently and to understand that a lot of times you don’t solve things with brute force.”

The national security adviser has an office in the West Wing of the White House and briefs the president regularly _ often several times a day _ on the most pressing military, diplomatic and economic issues. Jones will be responsible for ensuring that the Defense, State, and Justice departments and the CIA work together to do what the president wants.

“He’s a very smooth, diplomatic guy, but he’s hard as nails too,” says retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who first met Jones in 1991 during a U.S.-led humanitarian relief operation in northern Iraq and Turkey.

“Jones works friendly until friendly doesn’t get it done anymore,” Garner says. “And then you’re dealing with a great big guy you really don’t want to be on the opposite side of.”

Robert Tyrer, a Cohen associate who got to know Jones when the Marine came to Capitol Hill in 1979 and later worked with him in Cohen’s office at the Pentagon, recalls that whereas most military officers find the political arena foreign, frustrating and uncomfortable, Jones found it intriguing and attractive.

“He’s got an extra dimension to him,” Tyrer says.

And he’s known for a sense of humor. By reputation, Jones is a tough guy with a light touch, less rigid than many who rise to the top in the U.S. military.

“It’s OK to have fun in the Marine Corps,” he told stern-faced Marines in Germany, just days after he became Marine commandant in July 1999. “I like to say we are an imperfect people working in an institution that tries to be perfect. That is a noble thing, but you have to realize there is no perfect. We’re human.”

A native of Kansas City, Mo., Jones grew up in France, where his father James L. Jones Sr., worked for International Harvester, the farm equipment company, after serving in the Marines during World War II.

For his senior year of high school, Jones moved to Alexandria, Va., and lived with his aunt and uncle and their family. He earned an undergraduate degree from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He was a forward on Georgetown’s basketball team. After graduating, he joined the Marines. Shortly after completing his officer training at Quantico, Va., in October 1967 he was sent to Vietnam to serve in combat as a platoon and then a company commander.

He rose through the ranks to become Marine liaison officer to the Senate in 1979; he later attended the National War College and held a variety of command and staff assignments before being promoted to brigadier general in 1992. He became a two-star in 1994 and added a third star two years later.

Jones served as commandant of the Marines from 1999 to 2003 and then spent a little over two years as top NATO commander _ the first Marine ever to hold that job. After retiring in 2007 he became president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

___

On the Net:

History of the National Security Council at http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/history.html

Jones bio at http://www.uschamber.com/about/management/jones.htm

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