Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Donilon's legacy

I'm a process guy. That's what I study and what I teach -- and what I think explains best why American does what it does in foreign policy. Accordingly, I have a high regard for Tom Donilon's conduct as President Obama's national security adviser.

As David Rothkopf says, Donilon was unusually self-effacing and played the "honest broker" role as head of the NSC staff.
He also instituted regular weekly meetings with the secretaries of State and Defense and with the leadership of the intelligence community, including the heads and deputies from the CIA, the Directorate of National Intelligence, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.  And he consulted not only with them: His policy process included, I'm told, more than 1,000 deputies committee meetings, at which key policy choices were debated by senior officials in preparation for meetings of the NSC principals. Those policy processes were rigorous as were the processes within meetings chaired by Donilon, which often began with him enumerating the handful of key administration objectives that needed to be served.
In short, he made the trains run on time. He got deputy-level officials to engage frequently on the whole spectrum of foreign policy issues, nit just the headline-grabbing ones.

He also did some personal diplomacy for the president, but not in a way to rival his colleagues.

That's good public service -- and a high standard for his successor, Susan Rice.

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