Though some have questioned President Obama's choice of John Brennan for director of the CIA, the truth is that he is more than qualified for the position. Here are three reasons why Brennan is the best person for the job.
1. He is the architect of the U.S. drone warfare policy.
While the future of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan remains unclear, the future of U.S. counter-terrorism is not. Though it is not the only tool in the administration’s counter-terrorist arsenal, drone warfare has emerged as a staple feature of U.S. counter-terrorism policy and has been highly effective in significantly degrading both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. John Brennan has been at the forefront of this policy evolution, and this experience will suit him, and the country, particularly well at Langley.
2. Brennan's counter-terrorism approach replaces Patraeus' counter-insurgency efforts.
Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of the Brennan nomination is the extent to which it serves as a repudiation of the professional contributions of one of the most highly capable and uniquely qualified public servants in recent memory: David Petraeus.
In addition to his distinguished military career, Petraeus was widely credited with formulating and implementing what later became known as the “COIN” doctrine of counterinsurgency that prevented Iraq from descending into the abyss of sectarian civil war. His later nominations by President Obama, as head of ISAF (June 2010-July 2011) and as director of Central Intelligence (September 2011-November 2012), were implicitly premised on the notion that Petraeus’ COIN doctrine could (and should) serve as a basis for U.S. operations in Afghanistan and for the foreseeable future. His fall from grace, coupled with the failure of COIN in Afghanistan, only served to reinforce the notion that the nation was shifting gears in its war against Al-Qaeda.
In an age of growing austerity and strategic re-evaluation, John Brennan’s low-key/low-cost approach to counterterrorism is particularly well suited for the Directorship of Central Intelligence (DCI).
3. He shares President Obama’s concern for safeguarding civil liberties.
While this may come as a surprise to some, John Brennan has been at the forefront at ensuring that U.S. drone warfare does not present an undue threat to civil liberties. Although far from complete, drone warfare has undergone a systematic overhaul during the first Obama administration, an overhaul that has resulted in an elaborate and sophisticated decision making process that has sought to regularize (i.e. to make regular or uniform), in the absence of formal codification in law by Congress, the policy of drone strikes against individuals.
To be sure, these safeguards are far from ideal and certainly less than adequate. They nevertheless represent a step in the right direction; away from arbitrary action and towards the rule of law.