Keeping up with the Jones(es)

So, Jim Jones is leaving as National Security Advisor–apparently to be replaced by his Deputy Tom Donilon.  I'm mostly interested in what the extended effects of this transition will be.  It sounds like Donilon is significantly more engaged in day-to-day affairs than Jones is/was.  What caught me eye in particular is the notion that Donilon has been pushing for wrapping up affairs in Iraq in favor of emphasizing other objectives.

More after the jump…

The Times article linked above has the following passage:

As deputy national security adviser, Mr. Donilon has urged what he calls a “rebalancing” of American foreign policy to rapidly disengage American forces in Iraq and to focus more on China, Iran and other emerging challenges. In the Afghanistan-Pakistan review, he argued that the United States could not engage in what he termed “endless war,” and has strongly defended Mr. Obama’s decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan next summer.

I'm wondering if Donilon will develop a closer relationship with Gates as NSA as result of his push for "rebalancing" American forces.  I've discussed Gates' push for cutting spending and reevaluating defense priorities in earlier posts, but maybe Donilon's installation as NSA will give Gates an ally in this push.  I'm not sure of the degree of familiarity between the two at this point, but now that Donilon is in the top seat he might have a little more sway, or may be a little more outspoken, than he would otherwise be in the number two position.  The two top national security posts working in concert on this issue might be able to mount a substantial push in terms of the restructuring of American forces.      

However, the notion of these two developing a closer relationship presumes that they view or interpret the "rebalancing" issue in the same way.  It's possible to simply view the assets in Iraq as being put to better use somewhere else without seeing the need for major changes in US force posture/structure, or spending.  That said, Donilon's "endless war" remark suggests he may have a more realistic view of America's ability to project power abroad and the costs of sustaining that ability to project.  If Gates leaves in the next year or two though, this means that Donilon might have pretty substantial influence in setting the agenda upon Gates' departure.   


About Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Kansas State University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Binghamton University in 2013. His research focuses on the political and economic determinants of foreign economic and security policy, security issues, and state repression.

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