The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Gates at the Gates: The Most Important Man in the Afghanistan Debate

Last updated: 07/31/2020 08:00 | 09/22/2009 10:05
news
Anita Barnes

As I observed yesterday, one of the ways that the Republicans are going to try to box President Obama in on escalating in Afghanistan is to call for Gen. Stanley McChrystal to testify before Congress in the hopes of getting him on record contradicting Obama. (The Washington Times has a longer piece today on that strategy.) And it’s not just Republicans: Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote a letter on Aug. 13 expressing the same thing. But McChrystal shows no indication of coming to testify. “We’re aware of the calls for testimony, but at this point General McChrystal is not scheduled to return to Washington,” said Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, McChrystal’s spokesman in Kabul. Sholtis reminds that “testimony for him and other senior defense officials is coordinated through the Department of Defense.” And therein lies one of the most important backstories for the Afghanistan escalation debate.

Without hyperbole, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is the crucial swing vote on Afghanistan, and that complicates the argument for escalation in unexpected ways. Over the past several months, Gates has advanced a thoroughly nuanced and judicious number of proposals for Afghanistan. He advocated up to 30,000 additional troops in January, while arguing that the more important move would be to advance Afghan-driven security and publicly fearing that sending any more U.S. troops would push Afghans past a “tipping point” whereby they consider the U.S. to be occupiers. He fired Gen. David McKiernan for reasons that remain somewhat obscure and replaced McKiernan with McChrystal, a move that drew on Gates’ continued close relationship with Gen. David Petraeus, the Central Command chief. He ordered McChrystal to perform a strategy review, then kept it withheld inside the administration as a “pre-decisional” document in order to preserve the administration’s freedom of action, and compounded the move by cleaving McChrystal’s resource requests from the review itself. When it comes to the troop question itself, Gates has said over the last month that McChrystal has mostly persuaded him that Afghan perceptions of occupation depend on U.S. troop actions, not merely troop mass. But he’s also made clear that McChrystal has to make a really solid argument for any such troop increases, as he won’t be a “rubber stamp.”

Gates absolutely cannot be mau-maued as some kind of hippie. He was the defense secretary behind the Iraq troop surge, the man who fired Adm. Fox Fallon, the Central Command chief who vexed Petraeus on Iraq (though not really for that reason), and a prestige member of the non-neocon Republican foreign-policy establishment. His moves at the Pentagon for two and a half years have uniformly been to orient a massive bureaucracy toward supporting the wars it’s actually fighting instead of the theory-driven acquisition schemes that the different services desire. “My attitude [is]: If you’re in a war, it’s all in. I don’t care what we have left over at the end,” Gates told Wired’s Noah Shachtman for a brand-new profile. So when Mr. All-In says there are reasons to be skeptical of going all-in, it’s hard to argue for going all-in.

But even if he can’t be mau-maued, if Gates actually came out against the increase, he would still take heat from the right. But that wouldn’t be a position worthy of a former CIA director. Instead, Gates has placed himself in the best possible position: not an obstacle to a troop increase, but a persuadable skeptic. That means those who are trying to box Obama have to spend time dealing with Gates, and not alienating him. Hence the section of the Kagans’ proposal that spends time arguing that the U.S. doesn’t have to worry about being seen as an occupying power. The last thing escalation advocates want is to be refuted by the Republican defense secretary behind the surge. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has urged Obama not to “Rumsfeld” Afghanistan by declining to send more troops. But when the Anti-Rumsfeld disagrees, that’s the end of that line. Gates has ways of preserving Obama’s freedom of action and keeping everyone in the Pentagon and in Kabul on board. He will fire you if he feels you’re getting out of your lane, as ex-Army Secretary Francis Harvey and the Air Force leadership can all testify.

And so, not surprisingly, when Gates received Skelton’s request for McChrystal’s testimony, the response, delivered through Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, was “The secretary believes his focus and attention should be there and not back here in — in a political process.” That’s Gates’ job. And Gates is succeeding.

Anita Barnes | With over twenty years of professional experience in the design industry, I'm a web designer and front-end web developer. As a small business owner, I am familiar with the difficulties that come with running a business. One of those challenges is creating a strong online presence. One that not only represents your ever-changing brand and personality, but also appeals to your target audience. Throughout my web design career, I've built a distinct design style that emphasizes attention to detail. I assume that less is enough when it comes to design. You don't have to have all the bells and whistles only because you can. It's critical to figure out which elements are essential for getting your message through to your customers – and which ones are unnecessary. I'll assist you in sorting through the choices to see what works best for you.

Related

Exposing Domestic Intelligence “Fusion Centers” in Michigan

EPA Administrator Addresses Concerns About Oil Spill Waste Management

At a hearing of the national oil spill commission today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson addressed concerns about waste disposal from

E-Verify Mandate Begins Today

The Obama administration today begins implementation of a new mandate to require all federal contractors to check the legal status of their employees to confirm

EPA administrator defends allowing Florida to write its own water pollution rules

The EPA seal (Pic via sentryjournal.com) The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire for its decision to allow the state of Florida to write its own water pollution rules (known as “numeric nutrient criteria”). EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming is now firing back, writing that the Agency commends the state Department of Environmental Protection for its draft of a proposed standard. A host of environmental groups filed suit in 2008, seeking to compel the EPA to implement a strict set of water pollution standards in Florida, arguing that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act.

EPA administrator fires back at critics in op-ed

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Pic by USACEpublicaffairs, via Flickr) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson penned a new op-ed for the Los Angeles Times , criticizing House Republicans desperately seeking to undermine the authority of the agency they have dubbed a “job killer.” Arguing that the environment affects red states and blue states alike, Jackson writes that “it is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water.” As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson has faced harsh criticism from House Republicans and GOP presidential candidates who say the agency’s regulations are an undue burden on businesses that have to cut jobs simply to comply with clean water and air rules. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann  has pledged to end the EPA if she takes office. “Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws,” writes Jackson.

EPA Analysis Says Climate Bill’s Cost for Households Would Be ‘Modest’

All the attention on the energy front today is going to the BP spill, but the Environmental Protection Agency quietly released its long-anticipated analysis of

EPA administrator says federal nutrient criteria is a ‘myth’

In testimony given late last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that false accusations about her agency’s numeric nutrient criteria to govern Florida waterways are proving to be a detriment to their implementation. # Testifying before the House Agriculture Committee, Jackson said her agency’s work was often “mischaracterized” and addressed several myths surrounding its work

EPA: BP Has 24 Hours to Find a Less Toxic Chemical Dispersant

Thought the massive quantities of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico were the only major threat to the country’s southeast coastal waters right now? Think

EPA biologist says fracking may be partly to blame for West Virginia fish kill

New documents obtained by an environmental news service show that an EPA analyst believes that wastewater from fracking may be partly responsible for a fish kill in a West Virginia river. Scientific American reports : U.S

© Copyright 2021 The Washington Independent All Rights Reserved

Terms & Privacy | twi.news@washingtonindependent.com