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Hats Off to Tom Donilon

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
June 5, 2013
Daily Beast


Stop for a moment and thank Tom Donilon for his terrific public service and for being a good American. He doesn't go around saying horrible things about Republicans or people who disagree with him. He wants to work matters out, a quality in desperately short supply in ugly Washington. Most important, as national-security adviser, he has prevented terribly costly stupidities and has lived up to the finest tradition of someone in his office: first, do no harm.

Anyone who has read my rantings these past four years knows I've had my differences with Tom Donilon and more so with President Obama. But for all my slings and arrows, I know for a fact that Donilon—more than any other Obama official—did good for our country. He was the key figure in taking U.S. troops out of Iraq quickly, and before we found ourselves in the middle of the bloody civil war now under way there. Sure, some will say that had U.S. troops remained, the internal mess could have been avoided. These critics, however, don't know any more about Iraq than the leaders who wrongly marched us into that country a decade ago. And Donilon pushed hard for U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, for the Afghans taking responsibility for themselves as soon as possible. He's been there with his finger in the dike against sliding into another hopeless civil war in Syria. And don't forget that he was in the lead on refocusing American power and interests on Asia as the top foreign-policy priority. Each one of these acts has helped save America from mistakes, even grave mistakes.

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