Saturday, October 9, 2010

Is Thomas L. Donilon a strategist?

As reported in a few news sources yesterday, Tom Donilon, presently Deputy National Security Advisor to Jim Jones, will replace the retired Marine Corps General. As there is no requirement for confirmation by the Senate, Obama’s pick is a done deal. Is he the strategist our President needs?

Donilon, born in 1955, is a lawyer whose practice has supported Verizon, Goldman Sach’s, Joe Biden, and he served as the Executive VP for Law and Policy at Fannie Mae.

In the coming days we’ll read retrospectives of Jim Jones.

Despite the fact that Donilon's appointment needs no legislative scrutiny, I hope the press, armed with tough questions, presses hard to bring Donilon into the studios for a few meets with the press. I doubt that will happen as we must understand that Donilon is President Obama’s advisor, not ours. He enjoys tax support but his loyalty resides with the Commander-in-Chief. His influence has potential great weight but that influence and his policy formulations will remain secret as they must.

Nevertheless, Tom Donilon’s security strategies would probably be a better fit for securities strategy, economic policy; rather than national security strategy. Fear not, however. Tom Donilon must have an able staff directly supporting him. Indirectly he has counsel of numerous strategists in the Pentagon, some of whom received their training at that jewel of a brain trust; Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff College and School of Advanced Military Studies.

I hope Tom Donilon listens intently to the counsel at his disposal, distills it well, and advises our President with wisdom. I hope he seeks out and listens to former advisors who have had his seat on the couch in the Oval Office. I trust that he realizes that strategy is a collective process that leverages multiple minds to a common end. I hope he’s a passionate and careful reader.

Press members enjoy writing about tactics, operations, and about the people who conduct them. We, the public need that insight and first-hand narrative to remind us that these distant campaigns are real with real people and real consequences. But we also deserve some insight about why we as a nation do what we do to achieve the ends we desire. We need to know how those ends could be achieved. We long to appreciate the national treasure necessary to ensure our national security. And the President must appreciate that the “national will”, our appetite for risk, our support for policies, is a foundation stone for the national power he wields.

Donilon may provide excellent advice in the realm of international economic strategy which is very important. Our economic strength, that which remains, deserves protection and hopefully sustained growth over time. Our national interests that drive our strategy link directly to economics, areas of interest in the world defined by their potential and current value as resource sources and business alliances. From his career thus far, Donilon surely has an interesting view of the world.

In addition, he’s been involved in politics, not as a candidate, but rather as an advisor and legal counsel.

Is he the best person for the job? That’s not our call. He stands upon the shoulders of interesting advisors who have served in his capacity. He has at his disposal a vast and talented group of people who at this moment are reading, thinking, listening and writing strategic assessments and one page point-papers for his eyes only. I sincerely hope his eyes remain wide open.

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