Robert Gates Doesn’t Get the Boot


If Obama’s going to have to salt token Republicons throughout his administration in order to live up to the post-partisan promises, this seems like a decent start:

Following up on an item from Wednesday, I’ve been reading a bit about the various perspectives on whether it’s wise for Barack Obama to keep Robert Gates on as the Secretary of Defense. Slate’s Fred Kaplan, whose perspective on military and national security issues I regularly enjoy, described Gates as “an excellent choice” and “a stroke of brilliance.”

In his nearly two years at the helm of the Pentagon, Gates has delivered a series of speeches on the future direction of military policy. He has urged officers to recognize the shift in the face of warfare from the World War II legacy of titanic armored battles between comparably mighty foes to the modern reality of small shadow wars against terrorists and insurgents.

More than that, he has called for systematic adjustments to this new reality: canceling weapons systems that aren’t suited to these kinds of wars and building more weapons that are; reforming the promotion boards to reward and advance the creative officers who have proved most adept at this style of warfare; rethinking the roles and missions of the individual branches of the armed services; siphoning some of the military’s missions, especially those dealing with “nation building,” to civilian agencies.

From the start, he knew that he wouldn’t have time to make a lot of headway in these campaigns — which, within the military, represent fairly radical ideas. His intent was to spell out an agenda, and lay the groundwork, for the next administration.

I know. Kaplan’s laying it on thick, right? May be a little too starry-eyed to trust his judgement. That’s where Steve’s post from last week comes in:

Gates may be a leading member of Bush’s team, but he represents a complete break from the neo-conservatives who dominated the administration’s first term. Gates is considered a non-ideological pragmatist, who’s open to competing ideas, and who enjoys broad respect from the brass and lawmakers in both parties. In the midst of two wars, having a competent and qualified Pentagon chief, who has no partisan or ideological axe to grind, will bring a degree of steadiness and consistency that may benefit Obama enormously.

You know what he sounds like? An Obama Democrat. I don’t think Obama would be keeping him on otherwise – post-partisan stops at retaining the bumbling fuckwits that got us in to this mess. It seems Gates has been trying to dig out, and making a bit of headway even though the Bushies above keep trying to fill the hole back in.

I know a lot of folks are screaming for change, change, and more change. They want nothing but die-hard Democrats posted throughout the administration, a quid pro quo, in fact, for the Bush years. And that would be emotionally satisfying, yes. But it won’t get us anywhere. That would be playing the same childish games that Bush did.

So Obama reaching out to the two or three eminently-qualified Republicans left, holding on to the very few folks that somehow convinced Bush they were incompetent enough to serve the regime even though they were actually smart, tough, and independent-minded, that doesn’t bother me in the least. Maybe I’m not far-left enough, but I just can’t see punishing good people for the dumbshit they served under. If they’re good at what they do, that’s what matters. And it seems that Gates is good at what he does.

Besides, this shuts down a lot of the trouble Obama would’ve gotten in to had he appointed someone else more to the left’s liking. That’s how real governing is done.

We may not recognize it after the last eight years.