Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is It Too Late To Find A New Replacement?

Mr. Gates appears to be engaging in some doubleplusungood wrongthink:
President Bush’s nominee to be Secretary of Defense said today that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq, and that an American failure there could help to ignite “a regional conflagration” in the Middle East.

Robert M. Gates, who will succeed Donald H. Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief if he is confirmed as expected, also told senators that the United States went to war in Iraq without enough troops, as some generals said at the outset of the conflict.

The statements about the situation in Iraq came during an exchange with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, during Mr. Gates’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We are not winning the war in Iraq, is that correct?” Mr. McCain asked.

“That is my view, yes, senator,” Mr. Gates replied, adding shortly afterward that the United States is not losing the war either. His assessment came minutes after Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who heads the committee, said he believed that the United States was “drifting sideways” in Iraq, and that the American people are demanding change.

Mr. Gates said “there clearly were insufficient troops in Iraq after the initial invasion.” While he said that he envisions “a dramatically smaller” number of United States troops there, he said an American presence would be required “for a long time.”

Developments in Iraq “in the next year or two” will shape the future of the entire Middle East, Mr. Gates said in describing the possibility of a “regional conflagration” arising out of the Iraq bloodshed.
Wow, some of that actually sounded kinda like straight talk. But don't worry, he starts sneaking back onto the reservation:
Mr. Gates told the senators at the outset that he is “open to a wide range of ideas and proposals” about what to do in Iraq, and that America’s overall goal should still be an Iraq that can “sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself,” the objective that President Bush has long set out.

(...)

Mr. Gates has been president of Texas A&M University, and he told the senators that he is not giving up that job, which he loves, to be anyone’s sycophant in Washington. “I don’t owe anybody anything,” he said, vowing to give not only the president but the Congress his unvarnished advice.
Yeah, good luck with that, Bob.

The thing is, while yes, Rummy was incompetent and awful, most of what went wrong with Iraq was dictated from above. If we venture for a moment into Magical Sugarplum Fantasyland and imagine that The Donald was the smartest, most competent SecDef in the history of all the universes, and told Dubya that his plan was The Suck, and refused to invade without a better plan, our clueless leader would have immediately shitcanned him and replaced him with Harriet Miers, or Joe Lieberman, or Jeff "Bulldog" Gannon, or Ryan Seacrest DSV.

In other words, the Defense Secretary does not set the Iraq policy; he merely executes it (or tortures it, as the circumstances require). It really doesn't matter whether Gates has a plan for Iraq or not. Bush will do What Bush Wants To Do, which will inevitably be the most foolhardy and disastrous course possible.

Replacing the SecDef is all well and good, but we won't have any chance of a least-bad outcome until we replace his boss.

UPDATE: I have found the perfect replacement! Certainly a better strategic thinker than Gates or Rummy, and probably more compassionate as well.

4 comments:

Sanjay said...

It is teh fault of the Bush.

Elmo said...

I agree, other than admitting we were losing in Iraq, the rest of the message from Gates was "stay the course."

RoseCovered Glasses said...

There are good points in the article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armements”

http://www.rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com

The Pentagon is a giant,incredibly complex establishment,budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Adminisitrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the Sec. Def. to be - Mr. Gates- understand such complexity, particulary if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefor he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is ablsolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen unitil it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagon instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

Eli said...

Thanks, RCG!

I think your bottom-up description sounds right from an operational perspective, but I can't believe that the decision to invade Iraq (without a plan), and to continue staying in Iraq until... something positive magically happens came from the bottom up. I'm pretty confident that that one came from The Decider himself, or one of the many Bush Whisperers around him.