Once again, we can thank President Dwight Eisenhower. Just as he established what today is known as the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, it was “Ike” who gave us America’s first National Security Advisor, Robert Cutler. Four men would serve as National Security Advisor during Eisenhower’s two terms, but their background and qualities give a good glimpse into the kind of attributes needed today in our National Security Advisor.
Having a keen understanding of America’s military capability is one of the most important traits America and our president need in a National Security Advisor. However, much, much more is required.
Our National Security Advisor must have a thorough knowledge of foreign policy and know who our allies and enemies are. He, or she, must appreciate the real threats facing our nation, both internationally and on the home front. Our National Security Advisor must understand all facets of intelligence and its proper use to protect the American people. We should also want a National Security Advisor who has a real sense of history and the ability to think “outside the box” and who is always one step ahead of those who would do America harm.
History teaches us that our very best National Security Advisors have been those who were politically savvy and had the ability to coordinate the various agencies and departments of a complex federal government to work together for a common purpose — keeping America safe and protecting our national security interests.
Eisenhower’s National Security Advisors each had a vast variety of life experiences. These included service as an Army officer, a banker, a lawyer, a Deputy Director of the CIA, an Assistant Secretary of the Army, a writer and author, a Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, and a Chairman of a Presidential Committee on International Information Activities. Eisenhower understood it was important to have a National Security Advisor with a variety of experiences in the military, foreign policy, intelligence, and as an administrator. The combination of these kinds of experiences would best prepare our National Security Advisor to see the big picture, rather than being narrowly focused in one lane. The end result would be an effective national security apparatus that could pull together the various components of the U.S. government in a coordinated team effort to protect America.
Other presidents would follow the “Eisenhower Test” for a National Security Advisor. The best example being Dr. Henry Kissinger, who served in this capacity for President Nixon and President Ford. Kissinger was a scholar and an author, but he also understood foreign policy big time and had been an advisor to Nelson Rockefeller when he was Governor of New York. And he knew the capability of the American military. In fact, Kissinger served as an enlisted man in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps, received a Bronze Star in WWII and distinguished himself at the Battle of the Bulge.
With the recent resignation of General Mike Flynn, President Trump has begun to look for a new National Security Advisor. Media reports have surfaced that two contenders wanted complete hiring control over staff, including those who are already in place and performing admirably. Fortunately, according to the Wall Street Journal, that was a deal breaker for President Trump. For example, Deputy National Security Advisor KT McFarland has done an excellent job of doing the nitty-gritty work and organizing the day-to-day running of the NSC staff.
The president has a big decision to make. There are a number of individuals, including some of those mentioned and those not mentioned, who would make a strong and effective National Security Advisor. These are challenging times for America as far as national security is concerned. We can learn a lot by looking back at the qualities President Eisenhower sought in a National Security Advisor. Those same traits and attributes also served other U.S. presidents well when looking for a National Security Advisor.
Today, there is one name that clearly passes muster under the “Eisenhower Test.” His name is John Bolton and he has served our nation as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, and as President Reagan’s Assistant Attorney General. He’s a scholar, an author and one of our nation’s top foreign policy experts. He’s got political smarts and serves on the Board of Directors of the American Conservative Union. Right now, our nation and our president face the most complex national security and foreign policy situation we’ve ever faced. John Bolton has that vast mix of life experiences under the “Eisenhower Test” that best prepares him to advise our president and see the big picture at home and abroad to keep America safe and secure.
Van Hipp is chairman of American Defense International, Inc. (ADI), a Washington, D.C. consulting firm. He is former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and served on the Presidential Electoral College in 1988. He is the author of "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." To read more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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