Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quiet down

You may have seen the reports last week that Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, had offered Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban, safe-conduct to discuss peace in Kabul. That seemed like a good idea to me--without, I admit, a lot of analysis--but what really interested me was that a spokesman for the National Security Council threw cold water on the idea.

If I had Barack Obama's ear, one of the ideas I would whisper into it is that the National Security Council should not have a spokesman. For one thing, what the NSC does should remain secret. For another, it's functions cross those of the Departments of State, Defense, DHS and Commerce, all of which have more than enough flacks. Not to mention the CIA and NSC, two agencies that have spokesmen but shouldn't.

WAPO reports that the President-elect is soon to appoint retired Marine General James Jones as his National Security Advisor. A former Commandant of the Corps and NATO commander, Jones would bring much credibility and clout to a job that has already acquired a great deal of the latter in the past few decades. Nonetheless, if he takes up the job, Gen. Jones should button his lip. To have someone in the White House speaking at cross-purposes with expected Secretary of State Clinton would be a seed for disunity in the government at a time when we can ill-afford it.

Barack Obama has promised us an open administration. Very good. But a first step toward that would be to shut up the proliferation of self-serving spokesmen for government agencies that are too secret, too small or too awkwardly placed (viz, NSC) to deserve one.

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