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November 26, 2008
Gates Stays on at Pentagon?By Greyhawk
First, your U.S. history trivia for the day: Henry Lewis Stimson, Secretary of War throughout World War Two under Democrat Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, was a Republican.
And now back to the news. If the rumors are true, then Politico gets the headline right: Gates agrees to stay on under Obama. That's not the same as saying "Obama to keep Gates on at SecDef". Both might be true, but there was no "b" without "a", and as a certain local blogger opined shortly after a recent election:
SecDef? Current odds-on: Robert Gates.Because if you're willing to be Secretary of Defense in the midst of war and a financial crisis, you aren't in it for the money and fame. And the same reasons that make Gates a great choice to keep at the Pentagon make him highly desirable in the private sector, too.
Some of those good reasons (overlooked by many) are detailed in this post at Acre of Independence, to which I offered this comment:
Don’t forget that Gates has a “vote” on this issue, too. More than anything else, the man deserves credit for staying on in what’s certainly an underpaid job with no safety net. If all goes well, good on Obama. If not, Gates screwed up - and BOTH are well aware of this. I’m not knocking Obama here (I agree that he made a great choice, assuming the choice has been made), I’m crediting Gates, whose motives might be described by that oft-ridiculed term “patriotism”.Or perhaps simply "duty".
We're about to take a look at some blog reactions to Gates as Obama's SecDef. Before proceeding, a quick look back at a story from early in the Primary campaign season...
The senator shook a few print reporters' hands -– told a few bloggers he doesn’t read blogs –- and then headed to the back of the plane -– a part he dubbed "the fun part of the plane" -– where the photographers sit.Got it? Good. Onward then...
The most important appointment decision Obama will make during the transition, bar none, is who becomes, or remains, Secretary of Defense. As I have noted in the past, the Department of Defense oversees the expenditure of 52% of all discretionary spending, rendering it literally impossible for any other cabinet Secretary to oversee as much federal money. Further, keeping Gates on would only worsen Democratic image problems on national security, as he would be the second consecutive non-Democratic Secretary of Defense nominated by a Democratic President. The message would be clear: even Democrats agree that Democrats can't run the military.Actually, if your first response to "defense" is "budget", then you shouldn't even bother to involve yourself in discussions of the military. (At least not the Executive branch aspect thereof - Congress determines that budget.)
Unlike a lot of folks, I respect Bush 41ers like Gates. My one problem with this is that it sends the message that Dems can't do Defense. I would prefer General Wes Clark at Defense, but Congress would have to do a fix for that to happen (as a retired military officer, Clark is ineligible for the Defense post for 10 years after retirement. He retired in 2000.) I have no obvious eligible candidates for the job.Retired generals don't always make good civilian heads of the military. (If for no other reason in this case - which there are - the USAF, Navy and Marines might feel slighted.) Isn't there a Democrat anywhere that can think of a well qualified civilian Democrat to be Secretary of Defense? If not, that sort of validates those feelings of inadequacy in that Department.
Actually, I like Talk Left. Because you can find thoughtful comment threads there like this one:
There was bad blood between the left and Gates.That last bit is just about right - to be exactly right it should say "continue drawing down" rather than "start"
In roughly 10 days' time, the first of four 101st Airborne Division brigades will be completely redeployed from combat — about a month ahead of schedule.So...
"Planning for a withdrawal from Iraq" has been ongoing, of course - so it's too late for it "to begin as soon as possible". But that sort of phrasing might placate Obama voters who bought in to a pledge to "end the war."And Obama has already seen and approved (and now you can, too) the SOFA. At least, that's one explanation for a sudden but quiet switch last week from a campaign-era demand that the U.S. Congress "must approve" it to a simple acknowledgment that Congress "should review" the agreement.
That's his third major shift in Iraq policy, by the way. The first was 'clarifying' that "immediately begin withdrawal/16 months" bit last July, the second was quietly dropping the call to eliminate "security contractors" (probably in light of reality) - and I give him much credit for those choices, too.
Many question marks and assumptions remain concerning Gates (will he?) and the SOFA (will they?) and other issues (Provincial elections?). As those are answered, clarified or eliminated, we'll keep looking ahead to what's next for Iraq...
Wait - a bonus history trivia bit: Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War during the Civil War under Republican President Lincoln, was a Democrat.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 26, 2008 11:34 AM | Permalink
Really. Sticking with Robert Gates as Sec Def?It’s “a show of bipartisan continuity in a time of war that will be the first time a Pentagon chief has been carried over from a president of a different party.” First time? Um, no. ... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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