WASHINGTON -- Former Obama National Security Adviser James Jones may have given the president some mild headaches on Sunday when, in his first set of television interviews since leaving the administration, he expressed doubts about the ongoing U.S. military intervention in Libya.
Speaking to CNN’s Candy Crowley, Jones complimented the White House for its execution of the intervention to date, which has included a no-fly zone over Libya and, more recently, the deployment of Central Intelligence Agency operatives. But in arguing that the operation's ultimate mission should be the removal of head of state Muammar Gaddafi, Jones questioned whether the president had clearly defined the path to that goal.
"We know the end state is to have regime change in Libya," said Jones. "How you get there from where we are now… without the partitioning of Libya, without Gaddafi staying in power for a long period of time, that is the problem."
"It's a moment in time where there is no real clarity," he added, "but the things that have to be worked on are being worked on."
During an interview with ABC's "This Week," Jones also turned a skeptical eye on the Libya rebel forces with whom the United States and its allies have aligned themselves.
“[Y]ou can be sure that in any of these goings-on in the Middle East there's going to be an element of radical thinking and people who are pursuing goals that are not in agreement with what we hope the outcome will be,” he said.
Added Jones: "I think the first thing that has to be done is to find who they are. If you start from the proposition that the reason for committing our forces, as Americans or as part of NATO, was basically to avoid a massacre of innocent civilians, which probably would have happened, now we're there. Now we have to follow the rest of the trail to identify these people, then decide whether that's meritorious or not in terms of training, organizing, equipping."
Jones’ tenure as National Security Adviser can best be described as a shaky one. As detailed by Bob Woodward in "Obama's Wars," he clashed repeatedly with the president's senior political aides, referring to advisers like David Axelrod and former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as "the politburo" and "the mafia."
His departure from the administration, announced shortly after Woodward's book was published, also served partly to eliminate the headaches he was causing among other elements of the president’s foreign-policy shop. Extricating him from the Obama orbit, however, was not without a cost, as Jones’ liberation means a bit more candor than the White House would likely prefer.