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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.
I suspect he'll get to offer a private yea or nay to that question before anything more is heard.
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"
If I recall correctly, the left was pretty upset that Gates was going to be appointed. We had days and days of video of Ray McGovern getting kicked out of some conference as he protested.
So my question is: given how he is staying on, how much of that prior upset of ours was justified, how much of that was understandable mistake, and how much was manufactured nonsense that does us little good?
by jerry on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 06:22:08 PM EST
There was very, very good reason to be alarmed at Gates's appointment by Junior, but either his attitude has changed or he's been "misunderstood" or something (I have a vague recollection of reading he supported Reagan's mad idea to invade Nicaragua or something along those lines) because he's been very good as Sec Def and has gotten pretty convincing plaudits from Democrats who've dealt with him.
by gyrfalcon on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 07:43:08 PM EST
Speaking for me only I was not upset with Gates' appointment by Bush 43.
by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 06:25:35 PM EST
I was upset, but why? Kool-aid?
I don't like finding out that I drank the kool-aid or that people I supposedly trusted/admired/looked to as a reliable source poured me a glass.
I'm not qualified to judge, but it seems as though Gates has done a reasonable job.
And so what (if anything) does that say about us?
by jerry on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 06:35:08 PM EST
I do not know what you mean by kool aid.
I certainly did not criticize anyone for opposing Gates. I just did not share their view.
Not sure what you are getting at.
by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 06:41:44 PM EST
I'm not saying you were criticizing anyone, I'm wondering if "we" (blogosphere, liberals, ... were overly critical of Gates and if so, why.) So when Ray McGovern and some others criticized him, IIRC, all the blogosphere (and AirAmerica) jumped into the fray to try and shout him down. But why? Should we have known he would be "reasonable". Were we being loyal opposition, or were our efforts just being (disloyal) opposition of the sort we are expecting in a few weeks.
by jerry on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 06:52:46 PM EST
Good question ...and one we should ask ourselves more often in retrospect.
I think it makes great sense for Obama to keep Gates on right now.
I think BTD also makes a strong point about how this plays into the perception that Dems don't do military matters well. BTD is right; it does, and that's a shame. But I think challenging that perception has to take a back seat to trying to get it right in Iraq so that we can start safely drawing down just as soon as possible. Gates seems to be the best person for the job right now, and Obama seems to be all about that--much to my relief.
by kempis on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 07:22:10 PM EST
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...
About 550 soldiers with Fort Campbell's 3rd Brigade Combat Team returned from a 15-month deployment to Iraq on Friday, and in a few days the brigade will finish its redeployment.
The DoD has also announced that the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, which had been based in northwest Baghdad, will return home six weeks early. The unit that was scheduled to replace them will deploy to Afghanistan instead.
"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.
..."Many Iraqi officials are now calling the status-of-forces accord, or SOFA, "the withdrawal agreement," possibly as a way of marketing it to a wary public." That's as good as any description - because "The accord, which calls for complete withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2011, has been the subject of tense negotiations for the past seven months." Although throughout that period American media have worked very hard to keep Americans ignorant of the proceedings. But once president-elect Obama gives a green light to the effort, they can start calling it the withdrawal agreement too. (And that's why keeping Gates is critical. Switching managers at this point could delay implementation. Ooops - I mean delay "planning for a withdrawal from Iraq to begin as soon as possible".)
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.
Thanks for the comment and the mention in your blog! I am surprised that many Democrats, when suggesting alternatives to Gates, continue to mention Clark.
You made some good comments in your blog about not choosing Clark as SECDEF (although I can think of one particular General, George Marshall, who did a pretty bang up job as SECDEF and SECSTATE), but I would offer more:
Clark is largely reviled in the military by virtually every one old enough to remember who he is. Most people in the military view him as a shameless opportunist who would stop at nothing to advance himself. I have never heard a single person in uniform offer a good word towards Clark.
To a lesser extent, Clark also has a bit of foot-in-mouth disease from the Media (despite his years as a commentator). Obama had to distance himself from some of Clark's remarks about McCain during the campaign, and he was made fun of for some of the comments he made about subjects as varies as abortion and space travel during his ill-fated 2004 campaign as well.
My guess is that a guy like Richard Danzig (who apparently is related to rocker Glenn Danzig!!), or some other former Service Secretary or undersecretary of defense will follow Gates, NOT Clark.
Posted by Bob W. at November 26, 2008 12:13 PM
As a condition for Gates agreeing to stay on, Obama should publically announce that the goal of his administration in Iraq is victory. Not a "draw down", not "bringing the troops home safely", not "end the war swiftly and safely", but victory. Anything else is as clear a signal that something dirty is going on. Did Roosevelt or Lincoln waffle the way Obama has on winning the wars they were charged with fighting?
If Obama refuses to do this, Gates should not touch the SecDef job with a ten-foot pole. Don't mistake Obama endorsing (or seeming to endorse) Bush's policies in Iraq for having the desire - much less the competence - to carry them out. If Obama won't publically pursue victory in Iraq then all he is interested in is using Gates as a lightning rod while burnishing his "bipartisan" credentials. Failure could then be explained away as purely Gates's fault, while success (or even lack of spectacular disaster) is the result of the Chosen One’s wise actions.Posted by Mwalimu Daudi at November 26, 2008 02:12 PM
"Victory" - or whatever end state Iraq achieves, is mostly out of our hands. We can do our part, to be sure, and it doessn't look like abandonment is in the cards, but we have reached that point where the remainder of the solution is mostly in the hands of the Iraqis (civil and military).
If that sounds familiar, it's because Democrats were saying it two years ago. Now it's actually true.Posted by Greyhawk at November 26, 2008 03:12 PM
Failure could then be explained away as purely Gates's fault, while success (or even lack of spectacular disaster) is the result of the Chosen One’s wise actions.
Umm, I rather think that the reverse is likely to be far more accurate. Gates by staying, is now in a position to INSIST on certain things. He probably already has. Namely VICTORY in Iraq. Can you see the mess created should The SecDef suddenly announce his resignation due to Obama's poor decisions on the BIG ISSUE still outstanding ? And I'm sure Gates would do precisely that. What really would he have to lose ?
But I am tired of the Obama, judgment games. The more I see him in operation the more I think that he most of all wants to be SUCCESSFUL and be seen as successful. Period. End of Story. Ideology be damned.
As far as Iraq and the WOT go --- that is a very good thing indeed. His choice of Gates,IMAO, is a sincere reflection of that desire. Obama is NOT a foolish man. I may not agree with everything he says or does, but I am prepared to be pleasantly surprised by his administration.Posted by dougf at November 26, 2008 03:13 PM
Thanks for linking me in your post! Odd how many of the leftward bloggers/commenters say they've heard some vague rumors that Gates had done some good things over the past couple years. None seem too sure exactly what those things are...
I second most of that - I'm not sure I see Gates as one for a dramatic and public sword dive though...
Obama has shown much more realism on his policy than I expected. I don't know exactly how I feel about it. On the one hand, if all these switches reflect an inexperienced but intelligent person changing his mind as new data come in, then I can be somewhat optimistic and indeed welcome him on board. I'd like to have that interpretation. The alternate interpretation, that Obama is primarily an empty politician willing to say anything to acquire fame, aclaim, and power is worrisome. I'd normally gravitate to the former out of a desire to be charitable, except that I know that the latter describes people like Hillary Clinton all too well.
In any event, so far the best I can hope for out of this is four more years of Bush. I don't see alot of sign that Obama is the sort of person with the imagination and intelligence to avoid repeating the same mistakes. The most marked aspect of this transition is how smooth it is going to be, with neither Bush or Obama seeming to disapprove with the others policy all that much. It is increasingly appearing that - rhetorical flourishes aside - the Obama administration will continue virtually all of the Bush administration policies with only the slightest refurbishing.
I don't think that either the Left or the Right is going to be particularly happy about that.Posted by celebrim at November 26, 2008 05:01 PM
I wasn't sure what to expect under Obama, because it seems like every position he's ever had has changed dramatically depending on circumstances. I'm very relieved that he'll keep Gates and is essentially signalling a 'steady as she goes' approach to Iraq. He's done that without ever saying that Iraq has greatly improved, or that the surge was a success. I can't imagine that his most ardent supporters can wrap their heads around that. I'm glad that the leftosphere is taking another look at their disapproval of people based purely upon whether they were democrat or republican, and they seem to be re-thinking whether Iraq needs to be evacuated asap or only after victory is complete.Posted by Bryan McRoberts at November 26, 2008 05:17 PM
Gates by staying, is now in a position to INSIST on certain things. He probably already has.
Probably? That is a pretty thin reed. And given the vile campaign Democrats have waged against Iraq war supporters, having Obama publically commit to victory in Iraq would be real change even I could believe in.
Can you see the mess created should The SecDef suddenly announce his resignation due to Obama's poor decisions on the BIG ISSUE still outstanding ? And I'm sure Gates would do precisely that. What really would he have to lose ?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but what makes you think that the MSM will do anything but spin it Obama's way? Remember how for years the MSM managed to portray Iraq as a complete disaster, and when that became impossible successfully diverted the public's attention onto other issues?
The more I see him in operation the more I think that he most of all wants to be SUCCESSFUL and be seen as successful. Period. End of Story. Ideology be damned.
It's not ideology I am talking about here - it is basic intelligence and competence. The Chosen One may wish to be successful, but having watched him in action all that I see is a man who has lived in a protected leftist bubble most of his adult life and who is clearly in over his head. Wishful think will not bring success in Iraq, any more than it will lower the ocean levels. Nor is there a game plan in Iraq and Afghanistan that Gates could hand Obama and be assured of success. As a sage once said, making something foolproof is impossible because fools can be so ingenious.
Obama is someone who (as far as I know) never held a private sector job. He spent most of his adult life in either academia or public office, not exactly the places one would look for a worldview relatively free from ideological blindness. His judgment – the selling point of his campaign – has been abysmal. He was flat wrong about the surge in Iraq. He courted the likes of hate-filled maniacs Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright. He proposed bombing Pakistan if he found “actionable intelligence” that Osama bin Laden was there, but seemed to stumble when asked what he would do if such a bombing had negative long-term consequences (would Obama be prepared to occupy Pakistan to prevent an Islamist government from rising to power if bombings caused the present government to fall?). He talked about change during the campaign and yet his administration looks like Clinton III. He lambasted Hillary during the Democrat primary for her alleged bad judgment on Iraq, but has made her Secretary of State. Obama and his supporters seem to have literally not thought beyond the next headline.
Watch the second and third-level appointments in Defense. If Obama puts anti-Iraq War ideologues and/or political sycophants in those slots then that is proof that Obama remains fundamentally unserious about fighting Islamic terrorism and is simply using Gates. Heckfire – he put Janet Napolitano in charge of Homeland Security, a governor with zero experience fighting terrorism, and whose only qualification is that she comes from a border state. Napolitano vetoed immigration reform in her state in order to ensure that a toothless version of the same bill would pass, so securing the US-Mexican border cannot be the reason that she was selected.
So what. Government forces have the competency-integration skills of kindergartners.
The military is essentially a socialist organization made up of primarily incompetent, and often unnecessary components in the nuclear age.
It's just an excuse for a few guys that SORT, of understand efficiency to go through and make some budget cuts by making the Reserve force do more crap that the regular forces charge more money for. The reserve is the Army's Mexican labor.
Why do you think it's so hard to bring them home right now? The Army doesn't want to do these perpetual wars anymore, and they need someone to bitch-labor the job.
Personally, I think the military needs to scrolled back to just the National Guard and be done with the rest of the armed services. The only thing a big military is good for is Mercantilism; and the only invading force we have at home is politicians.
No one is going to fight us; we are as armed with nukes as anyone can be. When's the last time you saw a Chinese jet fighter? It's all a WASTE of money. Nukes are the ultimate cost-cutter; and if we had fewer and more accurate nuclear technology, we would not only be safer; we'd have more of our own money: http://mediacondom.com/?p=385Posted by Jason Sieckmann at November 28, 2008 07:05 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(10) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)