All Obama’s Generals

Listening carefully to the short nuggets of foreign policy discussion in last night’s debate, I was intrigued, and not for the first time, when General Jim Jones’s name was brought up. But not by the candidate you’d expect. It was Barack Obama:

If I’m interested in figuring out my foreign policy, I associate myself with my running mate Joe Biden or with Dick Lugar, the Republican ranking member on the Senator Foreign Relations Committee or General Jim Jones, the former supreme allied commander of NATO,” he said during the debate. “Those are the people, Democrat and Republican, who have shaped my ideas and who will be surrounding me in the White House.

This is part of an effort Obama is making at winning the hearts and minds of future subordinates in the military. While doing this, Obama digs deep into McCain territory, in a way that I’m sure irritates the Republican candidate. Whether one likes what Obama does with these former military men, it must be said that he plays it much smarter than Bill Clinton did in the early 90’s. Instead of treating the military as an enemy entity, Obama is chasing the most popular generals, touting their names as if they were his old buddies. In fact, Jones–a retired marine general, former NATO commander, Middle East envoy for the Bush administration (an appointment some Israelis didn’t much like)–is a friend of McCain’s.

Mr. McCain also described Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander and Marine general, as one of his closest friends, adding he expected he would “play a key role.”

The repeated mentioning of Jones–his name was also mentioned as a VP candidate for Obama–is hardly an accident. Jones, like General Colin Powell, is someone Obama believes he can use in his administration (note this: general Wesley Clark, a Clinton supporter, is usually excluded from Obama’s list, even though Clark makes an effort to be seen as an asset to the campaign). Strengthening the “realist” faction of his team, bolstering the bipartisan image of his foreign policy, making the military more at ease with him–and as a side effect (don’t ever underestimate the personal agendas of politicians) making general David Petraeus seem smaller.

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All Obama’s Generals

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