Gates to bring a ‘fresh per­spec­tive’ on Iraq

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Bill Gertz

For­mer CIA Di­rec­tor Robert M. Gates, Pres­i­dent Bush’s choice to be the new de­fense sec­re­tary, is a re­tired ca­reer intelligence an­a­lyst with lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in mil­i­tary and de­fense af­fairs.

If con­firmed by the Se­nate, the univer­sity pres­i­dent will take over the Pen­tagon at a time when U.S. troops are fight­ing the global war against ter­ror­ism, with its most vis­i­ble and costly bat­tle­front in Iraq.

Mr. Bush, in­tro­duc­ing his nom­i­nee on Nov. 8, said Mr. Gates “will

pro­vide the de­part­ment with a fresh per­spec­tive and new ideas on how Amer­ica can achieve our goals in Iraq.”

Mr. Gates said: “The United States is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are fight­ing against ter­ror­ism world­wide, and we face other se­ri­ous chal­lenges to peace and our se­cu­rity. I be­lieve the out­come of th­ese con­flicts will shape our world for decades to come.”

Not­ing that long-term U.S. strate­gic in­ter­ests and se­cu­rity are at risk and U.S. armed forces are in harm’s way, Mr. Gates said he did not hes­i­tate to ac­cept Mr. Bush’s re­quest to take the Pen­tagon post.

Iraq looms large in his new po­si­tion and re­mains a ma­jor fo­cus of po­lit­i­cal and other crit­ics, in­clud­ing some in the U.S. mil­i­tary and es­pe­cially the Army who op­pose cur­rent strat­egy and tac­tics, but who have of­fered few al­ter­na­tives.

Mr. Gates, 63, cur­rently is part of a spe­cial re­view panel on Iraq headed by for­mer Sec­re­tary of State James A. Baker III and for- mer Rep. Lee H. Hamil­ton, In­di­ana Demo­crat. The panel is ex­pected to present rec­om­men­da­tions soon for sharply re­vamp­ing the cur­rent pol­icy on the Iraq coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign.

An aide to for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, on whose Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil staff he served, Mr. Gates is cur­rently pres­i­dent of Texas M Univer­sity, a po­si­tion he has held since 2002. Be­fore that he headed the Ge­orge Bush School of Gov­ern­ment and Pub­lic Ser­vice at Texas M from 1999 to 2001.

Lit­tle is known of Mr. Gates’ views on de­fense and mil­i­tary af­fairs, other than that he ini­ti­ated a re­form ef­fort to in­crease intelligence sup­port to the mil­i­tary af­ter short­com­ings were found af­ter the 1991 Per­sian Gulf War. He spent two years as an Air Force intelligence of­fi­cer from 1966 to 1968, and his ca­reer in intelligence fo­cused on the Soviet Union.

He is ex­pected to bring new de­fense and mil­i­tary poli­cies to the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion that likely will be more mod­er­ate than the gen­er­ally con­ser­va­tive De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld, whom he would re­place. Based on re­cent pub­lic state­ments, he is also likely to fa­vor in­tel­li­gence­based so­lu­tions over mil­i­tary ones. By con­trast, Mr. Rums­feld has been a long­time skep­tic of U.S. intelligence ca­pa­bil­i­ties, of­ten re­fer­ring to intelligence prod­ucts as in­com­plete or in­ad­e­quate.

Mr. Gates, as co-chair­man of a re­cent Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions task force on Iran, stated that forc­ing regime change in Iran with­out mil­i­tary ac­tion is “highly un­likely” to suc­ceed, and that mil­i­tary ac­tion also will not work be­cause of U.S. com­mit­ments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The for­mer CIA chief said he fa­vors a pol­icy of “en­gage­ment” with Iran on its re­fusal to abide by in­ter­na­tional agree­ments on its nu­clear pro­gram.

He said in a speech last year that U.S. intelligence agen­cies had been un­fairly crit­i­cized for fail­ures, such as those re­lated to the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks and Iraq’s weapons of mass de­struc­tion. Intelligence dur­ing the Cold War played an aux­il­iary role, but is a main el­e­ment of the war on ter­ror­ism and is also more dif­fi­cult, Mr. Gates said.

Mr. Gates’ intelligence ca­reer and views were ex­am­ined in de­tail dur­ing a con­tentious Se­nate nom­i­na­tion bat­tle in 1991 for his CIA di­rec­tor­ship, which he held from 1991 to 1993. He joined the CIA in 1966. From 1989 to 1991, he was deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser in the White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Se­nate hear­ings on the mat­ter re­vealed Mr. Gates as a sea­soned if clean-cut bu­reau­crat, a view con­firmed by his 1996 mem­oir, “From the Shad­ows,” which re­vealed his bu­reau­crat-spy ca­reer un­der five pres­i­dents.


De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald H. Rums­feld joined Robert M. Gates at a White House press con­fer­ence on Nov. 8.

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