Gen. James L. Jones, President Barack Obama’s outgoing national security adviser, has spent nearly his entire professional career in service to the United States, as an infantry officer in Vietnam, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, head of U.S. European Command, a special envoy to the Middle East and a member of the bipartisan Project on National Security Reform.
The first Marine to serve as national security adviser since Bud McFarlane, he leaves office with his reputation intact and was described by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen as a man with “a very calm demeanor” with a “methodical” approach to problem-solving.
Jones’ departure from the White House in favor of Tom Donilon together with Dennis Blair’s resignation in May and Robert Gates’ planned retirement in 2011, marks the breaking up of Obama’s team that advised him on national security and defense since his inauguration.
His long career has been decidedly apolitical, and he has made friends in Washington on both the left and the right. In fact, he was courted as a vice-presidential candidate by both parties in 2008 and has been known to dine with both Hilary Rodham Clinton and John McCain. Jones’ incredible longevity as a trusted policy adviser (one that spans five presidential administrations) owes as much to his light touch as to his candor, and he is about the only politically relevant person in America to be praised equally by The New Republic and The Washington Times.
As such, his departure is a major loss for the White House, and while Tom Donilon has been a key adviser to the president on strategy in Afghanistan, he is a committed and connected Democrat and part of the “campaign set” (as named by Jones) who once offended Gates so severely he was tempted to walk out of an Oval Office meeting.