Saturday, November 11, 2006

Business week

A lot of talk is circulating these days about the nature Bush's (which one?) nominee for Defense Secretary, Robert Gates. Much of it examines the ominous shadow of Iran-Contra and Gates' reputation for fixing intelligence around the policy, while the mainstream, as usual, tends to blow this off in favour of portraying Gates as the right man for the job, a sentiment that seems to be summed up by a wave of the hand and a "well, at least he ain't Rumsfeld." What sets Gates apart from the neocon wing of the Pentagon is his arguing that the administration should be negotiating with Iran and to abandon its Cheneyite intransigence. Of course, this is the reason Gates has been brought to the fore: Bush I, Baker and the rest of the Carlyle Group have finally stepped in to put an end to the reckless neocon agenda. And that won't just stop with Rumsfeld. Neocon chum Stephen Cambone may also be on the way out.

An article in The Houston Chronicle points out that, indeed, Gates' past and ghostly ties with the Iran-Contra affair and previous assessments about him could and should come under scrutiny again. But one passage jumped out that indicated Gates is not there to embarrass the administration. Despite the fact that "defense conservatives" are not happy that an agent of the Carlyle coterie is going to be SecDef -- too much in the "realist" foreign policy camp -- as a former CIA director, Gates' stands firmly behind the White House nonsense that they were "misled" by intelligence about Iraqi WMD:
Robert Gates, President Bush's choice to lead the Pentagon, has argued that the United States should be talking with Iran instead of shunning it.

He has said that U.S. spy agencies misled the president on whether Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction — but he also thinks the nation should never launch another pre-emptive military strike without "unambiguous" intelligence.
This position is now the default for any and every public official -- certainly those within government. This has just become boilerplate crap these guy have to say publicly. In fact, we know it is. And Gates is certainly not going to come out and say the White House jacked up the intelligence to suit its own black purpose. Gates' purpose is not to hash over old news but to insert some modicum of reason into the administration (reason may have been hiding in nooks and crannies somewhere in the White House, but it would never jump out when Bush was in the room). With Gates being a loyalist, not to W, but to the old school Bush crowd, we might actually see some well-deserved friction in the White House, and especially between the Veep's office and the Pentagon. This is assuming that Cheney has not already been neutralized by the powers that be. Since Rumsfeld got the boot, much to Cheney's chagrin, Dick himself may not be long for his job should he continue to be seen as a problem child.

Yes, Rumsfeld was a fractious figure in and out of the Pentagon. Proposals, ala McCain, to send in 20,000 more troops are hardly going to suffice in stopping the chaos in Iraq and right now there seems little that can be done to recover from that country's current state. And one thing is certain: Robert Gates won't be the one fixing it. But what has really happened with the Gates nomination and likely confirmation is that Cheney's press for an attack on Iran has been effectively halted. Say what you will about the Baker's dozen, but at least they have the sense to recognize that more war and further destabilization in the Middle East is simply bad for business.


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