Memorandum to the Next National Security Advisor

Ivo H. Daalder and
Ivo H. Daalder, President, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Ivo H. Daalder Former Brookings Expert, President - Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO
Mac Destler

December 12, 2008


Congratulations! You have just been appointed to the second most demanding job in Washington. (Your new boss takes the honors.)

As the president’s closest national security aide, you will face incessant demands. On any given morning, as you dig into the latest intelligence threat assessment from Islamabad, your boss may buzz you asking just what it was he promised the Japanese prime minister the previous evening. Then, as your deputy for global issues delivers the draft agenda for the upcoming Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change, the secretary of defense phones with news of a resurgence of sectarian violence in Baghdad that has left ten Americans dead. The Russian ambassador has already been waiting twenty minutes for his long-scheduled meeting to help plan his president’s first visit to Washington. Meanwhile, China is resisting the latest draft UN Security Council resolution tightening sanctions on Iran in response to its nuclear activity, and the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea is 15 or so votes short of passage, with the House vote set for tomorrow afternoon. And it’s only mid-morning.

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