5 years, 12 months ago
The Captain’s Journal respects only one individual on the national security team and featured in the photograph above – Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He has earned every bit of respect he has throughout the defense community. The balance of the team must earn their respect but is off to a very bad start. Eric Holder with his pitiful judgment inspires absolutely no confidence, and Janet Napolitano may as well have turned Arizona over to MS 13. The President-elect stands opposed even to refurbishing the existing nuclear weapons stockpile (the greatest deterrence we have), much less do we believe that we’ll get support for new developments in nuclear weapons.
As for the incoming Secretary of State, that horrible, juvenile interrogation before the Senate where General David Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were mocked by both Biden and Clinton will go down as one of the worst and most dishonorable displays of any politicians in our history. As it turns out, Crocker and Petraeus were right, so our incoming Secretary of State and Vice President-elect are batting 0.000.
President-elect Obama has talked a good game at times, vowing to fund the U.S. military needs of the 21st century.
“We will also ensure that we have the strategy — and resources — to succeed against al Qaeda and the Taliban,” Obama told a news conference. “And going forward, we will continue to make the investments necessary to strengthen our military and increase our ground forces to defeat the threats of the 21st century.”
But these words ring hollow when he has all but given up on high powered deterrence such as nuclear weapons and put into place a national security team that has such a poor incoming record. Secretary of Defense Gates, who opposes Obama on nuclear weapons, is the one bright spot on the team. Thank God for Gates.
The Obama team will back the use of soft power in the coming months and years.
President-elect Barack Obama’s national security team, introduced Monday in Chicago, includes two veteran Cold Warriors and a political rival whose records are all more hawkish than the new president who will face them in the White House Situation Room.
Yet all three of his choices – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as old rival turned secretary of state; General James Jones, the former NATO commander to be the national security adviser; and Robert Gates, the current and future defense secretary – were selected in large part because they have embraced a sweeping shift of resources in the national security arena.
The shift in resources, which would come partly out of the military’s huge budget, would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states. Obama also said he was nominating Susan Rice, a former National Security Council official, as ambassador to the United Nations.
“Whether they can make the change one that Obama started talking about in the summer of 2007, when his candidacy was a long shot at best, will be the great foreign policy experiment of the Obama presidency,” one of his senior advisers said recently. But the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the three officials had all embraced “a rebalancing of America’s national security portfolio” after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the presidency of George W. Bush.
But is Gates really completely in line with this thinking? To be sure, he has advocated the use of soft power in counterinsurgency.
… my message today is not about the defense budget or military power. My message is that if we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad. In short, based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former Director of CIA and now as Secretary of Defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use “soft” power and for better integrating it with “hard” power
Gates nowhere discusses the diminution of combat capabilities or the jettisoning of military power as a foundation for being able to afford this soft power. In fact, just before making the statement above, Gates said this.
One of my favorite lines is that experience is the ability to recognize a mistake when you make it again. Four times in the last century the United States has come to the end of a war, concluded that the nature of man and the world had changed for the better, and turned inward, unilaterally disarming and dismantling institutions important to our national security – in the process, giving ourselves a so-called “peace” dividend. Four times we chose to forget history.
The left has their pet views about what Obama has promised and what he should accomplish.
President-elect Barack Obama has affirmed his commitment to bring the war in Iraq to a close and to refocus our attention on Afghanistan. To do both, Obama must do more than fix ambitious timelines or offer hazy plans with muddy particulars. He must stick to his campaign pledge that would fundamentally shift the ideological orientation of America’s foreign policy establishment: ending the Iraq mission will require engaging Iran, solving Afghanistan will mean dialogue with terrorists.
Tacit in this demand is that Iran is participating in the violence and engaging them in dialogue will convince them to renounce that violence despite the fact that twenty five years of engagement has failed to do this. Tacit in the expectation that we dialogue with the Taliban is that they are interested in this dialogue. Hamid Karzai has literally begged Mullah Omar to negotiate and promised him complete safety, but both The Captain’s Journal and Ayman al-Zawahiri have pointed out that we would be currently negotiating from a position of weakness rather than strength.
The full engagement of the State Department should involve things like democracy programs for Iran (which the State Department effectively killed), while the perspective is being nurtured by the incoming administration that full involvement of soft power involves thousands of negotiators, as if, hearkening back to their experience in American jurisprudence, we can lawyer our way to victory if we only deploy better talkers than they do.
So there seems to be a fundamental difference between Gates and the balance of the team. Gates apparently doesn’t believe in fairy tales and myths, while the demands on the left are for Obama not only to defund the military and engage enemies with dialogue, but to succeed, and that, remarkably so. This administration and the American public are being set up for huge disappointment, but all is not lost. At least we have one adult on the national security team who can speak sense to the others.