James L. Jones (general)

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James L. Jones, a retired general in the United States Marine Corps, who retired as head of the United States European Command, served as the first Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs in the Obama Administration.[1] While the position does not require Senate confirmation, both Democratic and Republican Party politicians have expressed admiration for him. While Marine Corps liaison officer to the Senate, his immediate military supervisor was then-CAPT John McCain, who describes him as one of his "oldest and closest friends".[2] He was Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration. Jones is in the rare position, like Dwight D. Eisenhower and Colin Powell, of being sought by both U.S. political parties. Hillary Rodham Clinton had considered him for a cabinet post should she become president, Obama regularly consulted with him, and he has a long and close relationship with McCain.

Positions and resignation

Jones had made it clear that he expected to serve more than two years. He resigned on 8 October 2010, replaced by his deputy, Thomas Donilon. Mark Lippert remains the Chief of Staff of the National Security Council (NSC). The President thanked him from coming out of retirement to take the post, calling him a steady influence, but his resignation had been expected for months. "Jones, a towering if aloof figure, often had trouble fitting into a National Security Council culture dominated by several hard-charging veterans of Obama's campaign who have known the president for years. His condition for initially taking the job - that he would be the last one to see Obama on the most pressing national security issues of the day - was often unmet."

Donilon, who is personally and professionally close to Vice President Joe Biden, tended to run the National Security Council apparatus while Jones represented the White House to foreign leaders. Jones was reported to find that Obama was more likely to consult several deputies than to consult him. These included terrorism chief John Brennan, Denis McDonough, a foreign policy pragmatist with Capitol Hill experience and a close relationship with the president, who is expected to become the new deputy, and Ben Rhodes, the NSC strategic communications director.

It was also suggested his departure may have been accelerated by Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars, "which portrayed Jones as a deeply unhappy figure often on the edge of important policy decisions." [3]

His views crossed party lines, but also various officials in the Obama Administration. With respect to Afghanistan, he supported the counterinsurgency strategy advocated by many senior military officers, while Biden and Donilon emphasized a less manpower-intensive counterterrorism approach.

In 2007, he said U.S. troops should stay in Iraq but that the U.S. should close the Guantanamo military prison "tomorrow." [2] Also in 2007, he chaired the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq,[4]

In 2006 testimony as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), he said "I am convinced that the solution in Afghanistan is not a military one. We are working with the International Community and the Karzai government to make sure that our military efforts are matched very quickly with reconstruction and development activities in order to meet the expectations of the Afghan people."[5]

Since November 2007, he has served as the special envoy for Middle East Regional Security for the Secretary of State. Proving that rank gives no immunity to Marine jokes, on announcing his appointment as envoy, Secretary Condoleeza Rice said "The General is also fluent in French, but I understand that was no thanks to the Marines."[6] He is president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Besides senior command in Europe, he grew up in France, and his undergraduate degree is from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He is the son of a Marine and his son served two tours as a Marine captain in Iraq.

Senior military roles

In 2003, he became the head of European Command on January 16, 2003 and became Supreme Allied Commander Europe (i.e., chief military officer of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)). Jones became the 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps on July 1, 1999. Prior to that asssignment, he had been Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Policies and Operations of the U.S. Marine Corps, Director of the Expeditionary Warfare Division of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division.

Work with government officials

Part of the career path of military officers who will hold high command, especially in politicomilitary roles, is as an assistant to policy-level civilian officials, senior military officers, and often public affairs or Congressional relations. He was Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense William Cohen, and Senior Aide and Military Secretary to Commandant of the Marine Corps GEN Alfred M. Gray, Jr..

As a major, he was Marine Corps Liaison Officer to the United States Senate, where he served until July 1984. In that role, he worked directly for John McCain, then Captain, United States Navy.

Balkans

During this tour of duty, he was Chief of Staff, Joint Task Force Provide Promise, for operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.

Gulf War

In 1990, he was Commanding Officer, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. During his tour with the 24th MEU, he participated in Operation PROVIDE COMFORT in Northern Iraq and Turkey.

Midcareer

As well as staff and aide assignments, he was battalion commander of the 3/5 Marines. Jones is a graduate of the National War College. He was a platoon and company commander in the Vietnam War, and had a second company command in 1974, on Okinawa.

Early years

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, he grew up in France, returning to college at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

Personal decorations

References