New De­fense Sec­re­tary Gates likely to sus­tain ter­ror war

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

De­fense Sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Robert M. Gates is not ex­pected to rein in the ag­gres­sive global war on al Qaeda started by pre­de­ces­sor Don­ald H. Rums­feld or re­verse the trans­for­ma­tion of the Army, but in­stead­fo­cu­son­how­towin­inIraqand get Amer­i­can troops home, cur­rent and for­mer Pen­tagon of­fi­cials say.

“Hedef­i­nite­ly­is­not­seenas­some­one wimp­ing out on the global war,” said a Pen­tagon ad­viser. “How he does it, and what tools, and who he en­trusts with them, that’s a whole dif­fer­ent is­sue.”

Mr. Gates, once con­firmed by what Repub­li­cans hope will be a De­cem­ber floor vote, will ar­rive at the Pen­tagon need­ing to re­place a num­berof­se­nio­raidestoMr.Rums­feld who set pol­icy on intelligence, spe­cial­op­er­a­tionsandthe­war­it­self.

Some other of­fi­cials Mr. Rums­feld eyed for se­nior posts may be dis­carded be­cause they would not get through a Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate, Pen­tagon of­fi­cials said.

Pres­i­dent Bush in­tro­duced his new de­fense sec­re­tary on Nov. 8 and said Nov. 11 that Mr. Gates was an “agent of change” in a sign of the grow­ing mo­men­tum for a new di­rec­tion in Iraq pol­icy af­ter elec­tion de­feat for Repub­li­cans.

“He­ha­s­ex­pe­ri­ence­lead­inglarge and com­plex or­ga­ni­za­tions, and he has shown that he is an agent of change,”Mr.Bush­said­in­hisweekly ra­dio ad­dress. “He will pro­vide a freshout­lookonourstrat­e­gy­inIraq, and what we need to do to pre­vail.”

That task will be Mr. Gates’ over­rid­ing fo­cus in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s last two years. The quiet gov­ern­ment staff man and for­mer col­lege pres­i­dent will be the Pen­tagon leader the pres­i­dent hopes will en­sure that Iraq is not as dam­ag­ing in the 2008 elec­tion to Repub­li­cans as it was in 2006.

Mr. Gates on Nov. 10 re­signed from the Iraq Study Group, a bluerib­bon panel es­tab­lished by Congress to find new so­lu­tions for Iraq. The bi­par­ti­san group is headed by for­mer Sec­re­tary of State James A. Baker III and for­mer Rep. Lee Hamil­ton, In­di­ana Demo­crat.

It is Mr. Gates’ ties to Mr. Baker and Brent Scowcroft, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bush’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, that has Repub­li­can hawks wor­ried.Mr.Gatesworked­with­both in the first Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion as CIA di­rec­tor and deputy to Mr. Scowcroft.

Mr. Scowcroft op­posed the war and is said to be cool to Mr. Rums­feld’s ag­gres­sive style of us­ing the full force of the mil­i­tary to con­front alQaeda.He­wasa­mong­th­eteamof aideswhoad­visedthe­firstPres­i­dent Bush­toendthe­fight­in­ga­gain­stIraq in 1991 in the first Gulf war.

In an pub­lished in­ter­view two years ago in Lon­don’s Fi­nan­cial Times, Mr. Scowcroft said Iraq was a “fail­ing ven­ture.”

Mr. Baker’s State De­part­ment prac­ticed­prag­ma­tismat­timesover loftier goals. He al­ready has said he sup­ports talk­ing to one’s en­e­mies, a sign the study group may rec­om­mend en­gag­ing in talks with Iraq’s ter­ror­ist-spon­sor­ing neigh­bors, Iran and Syria.

“I don’t think you re­strict your con­ver­sa­tions to your friends,” Mr. Baker told ABC News.

Some­con­ser­va­tives­fear­such­language means Mr. Baker — and Mr. Gates — will urge a po­lit­i­cal agree­ment that re­wards the two hard­line regimes that have sup­ported the deadly Iraqi in­sur­gency with mil­lions in cash, train­ing and weapons.

“Gates has no cre­den­tials as a mil­i­tary strate­gist or in­no­va­tor,” said Jed Bab­bin, a se­nior Pen­tagon of­fi­cial in the first Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. “Tore­placeRums­feld­with­some­one lack­ing th­ese cre­den­tials is more than wor­ri­some. [. . . ] How will we pro­ceed to win the war? It all comes down to how the pres­i­dent wants to pro­ceed. That’s the most im­por­tant open ques­tion.”

Mr. Gates will bring a new style to a Pen­tagon. While Mr. Rums­feld is­brashand­com­bat­ive,Mr.Gate­sis stu­dious and mea­sured.

He is not viewed as a con­ser­va­tive ide­o­logue, but rather a ca­reer man­ager who rose through the ranks of the CIA’s aca­demic-style an­a­lyt­i­cal branch at Lan­g­ley head­quar­ters. He is more bu­reau­crat than revo­lu­tion­ary like Mr. Rums­feld, who pushed through more than 100 trans­for­ma­tional re­forms and poli­cies.

Mr. Rums­feld in par­tic­u­lar brought spe­cial-op­er­a­tions forces off the shelf af­ter the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks and em­pow­ered com­man­dos with money and man­power to be­come al Qaeda hunters.

“Rums­feld un­der­stood mod­ern war and real trans­for­ma­tion,” said an Army Spe­cial Forces sol­dier. “Let’s hope Gates doesn’t can Pen­tagon [intelligence] col­lec­tion ef­forts in fa­vor of his old alma mater. Let’s also hope that gen­er­als don’t con­vince Gates that true trans­for­ma­tion means more ar­tillery and big­ger tanks.”

The­cup­board­will­be­abit­bareat thePen­tagon.PeterRod­man,th­e­as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of de­fense who over­sees Iraq and Afghanistan pol­icy, told his staff two weeks ago that he will leave with Mr. Rums­feld. Stephen Cam­bone, a close aide to Mr. Rums­feld and his top intelligence of­fi­cial, also will likely leave. Thomas O’Con­nell, the top pol­i­cy­maker for spe­cial op­er­a­tions, al­ready had said he would be leav­ing af­ter the elec­tion.

Mr. Gates, who will bring in his own staff, is work­ing out of the White House to pre­pare for con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. By law, he is not al­lowed to en­gage in pol­icy-mak­ing un­til sworn in.


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