John F. "Jack" Keane, a 37-year U.S. army veteran, former four-star general, and former vice chief of staff of the Army, is a vocal advocate of hawkish U.S. foreign policies. Well connected among both defense contractors and the neoconservative advocacy community, Keane has served as a board member at the Institute for the Study of War—a hawkish military policy institute that has been directed by Kimberly Kagan and chaired by Liz Cheney—and is a frequent guest on Fox News.
Keane's appearances on Fox occasionally attract attention, such as his March 2012 claim on Mike Huckabee's program that President Barack Obama knew Osama bin Laden's whereabouts nearly a year before ordering the raid that led to the al-Qaeda leader's assassination. "We had the target in the summer [of] 2010 and it took until the following May to execute the mission. … I know for a fact we had it that summer," Keane claimed. He suggested, oddly, that the Obama administration had exercised "delay and procrastination" while the White House "was trying to verify that the target was actually there." Huckabee did not press Keane to substantiate any of his claims.
Since leaving the military, Keane has enjoyed a successful private-sector career that has often appeared to dovetail with his political advocacy. In addition to serving on the corporate boards of MetLife, General Dynamics, and Allied Barton Security, Keane is also a co-founder of Keane Advisors LLC, a financial consulting firm that specializes in working with military contractors.
In June 2012, Keane was named a "senior adviser" to Academi LLC, the most recent incarnation of the notorious military contractor Blackwater. Announcing Keane's selection, Academi board member and former White House Counsel Jack Quinn called Keane "an American hero" whose "commitment to our national security is second to none." Quinn promised that Keane "will help continue to bring Academi to an even higher level of performance."
Because Keane advocates prolonged counterinsurgency campaigns and military confrontations that would presumably benefit his business with military contractors, Real News Network reporter Jesse Freeston has called him "a textbook example of the military-industrial complex in action."
Keane was a stalwart opponent of withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq and remains an avid supporter of the war in Afghanistan, telling Fox News in March 2012, "If we move out too early, if we cut and run, we will turn [Afghanistan] back into a sanctuary, the al-Qaeda will return, and the risk I believe to the United States is absolutely unacceptable."
In a January 2012 appearance on the network, Keane also predicted war with Iran. "I think we've been on a collision course with Iran since 1980 when they declared us their strategic, number-one enemy in the world," he said, "and they've been using state-sponsored terrorism against us through their proxies for 30 years and it's not gonna stop. I think it's inevitable that we will have some kind of conflict with them." During the interview, Keane suggested that U.S. intelligence agencies believed Iran was "a year or two away from [nuclear] weaponization" —even though, as of mid-2012, U.S. intelligence officials have continued to conclude that Iranian leaders have not decided to build a nuclear weapon.
Keane is perhaps best known for his co-authorship, with AEI's Frederick Kagan, of "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq," a 2007 policy paper that many observers—including Gen. Davis Petraeus—credited with laying the political groundwork for President Bush's troop surge in Iraq. Keane subsequently became a vocal public proponent of U.S. counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, warning about the alleged impact of "failure" in Iraq on regional security issues, including in Iran. In an October 2011 interview with Fox News, for example. Keane suggested that the then-pending Iraq drawdown was "a disaster" that would weaken U.S. "influence" against Iran.
Shortly after the Fox interview, on October 26, 2011, Keane appeared at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing on "Iranian Terror Operations on American Soil" to discuss an alleged plot by Iran to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Discussing the alleged conspirators, Keane said: "We've got to put our hand around their throat now. … Why don't we kill them? We kill other people who kill others." Keane described Iran as "our number-one strategic enemy in the world," declaring the alleged plot a "stunning rebuke to the Obama administration's policy of negotiation and isolation with the Iranians." He then recommended undertaking "covert operations led by the CIA" and giving "money, information, and encouragement to the dissident leaders inside Iran to use their population to put pressure on the regime." Joining Keane at the hearing were Reuel Marc Gerecht of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Investigative journalist Gareth Porter credited Keane with quietly working behind the scenes to curry both active and retired military opinion in favor of a protracted U.S. presence in Iraq. In a 2009 interview with the Real News Network, Porter called Keane "the mafia don of this network of retired and active-duty generals who are now quietly at work trying to figure out how they can really turn this [Iraq] storyline … against Obama, making sure that anybody in the Pentagon who meets with a reporter is going to give the same line that … [Obama]'s threatening stability in Iraq."