Whither Iraq: Bob GatesI really don't like realist conservatism. It often produces detestable, morally- cringeworthy Republican policy: for example, the retreat from Lebanon after Hezbollah bombed our Marine barracks, abandoning the Shi'ites and the Kurds in 1991, the decision to abandon Afghanistan to rack and ruin after the Soviets left, etc. And all of these realist positions have created enormous problems for us as well in the course of time, problems not visible immediately, but which have created the seeds of most of our current problems.
And so this new appointment of Bob Gates, which I note Dick Cheney opposed - good for him (see below for more) - is making me nervous. If, after our support of the last few years, Bush sells out the hawks on Iraq, there is going to be a cataclysm on the right. I hope Bush understands this in a way he did not understand how the Miers nomination would focus the ire of his own party.
To the Iraqi Shi'ites, the symbolism of President Bush nominating Bob Gates is going to be difficult and may be interpreted - rightly or wrongly we have yet to see - as the first American retreat on Iraq.
Most troubling regarding Iraq, Mr. Gates was deputy national security adviser under Brent Scowcroft in 1991, when President Bush's father abandoned the Shiite uprising that followed the first Gulf War. One reason the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki has had such a hard time dismantling Shiite militias is because Shiites fear that it's only a matter of time before the U.S. abandons them again and they will have to confront the Sunni Baathist insurgency on their own. If President Bush wants to reassure Shiites on this score and about Mr. Gates, he should announce that the recent efforts to appease the Sunni terrorist political fronts in Iraq have failed.
In addition, according to Christopher Hitchens on the Hugh Hewitt show, Bob Gates was in charge of the pro-Saddam Hussein policy at the CIA in the 1980s.
HH: I want to go back to the country, and its ability to wage this war after last night. Has it been compromised?
CH: Very much by the appointment of Mr. Gates, I believe. I mean, I think that's a disgrace. It was very lucky for Mr. Gates that he was able to escape prosecution during the Iran-Contra scandal. And before that, he was the man at the CIA who was in charge of the pro-Saddam Hussein policy of the mid-80's, including giving, directly, important intelligence to Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran. He's hopelessly compromised. I can't think of a worse choice, really, and I hope he gets a real hard time at confirmation from Republicans.
Paul at Powerline says:
Yesterday, just after President Bush announced that he would nominate Robert Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld, I suggested that Gates would not enjoy his confirmation hearings. After all, they will be chaired by Sen. Levin who helped lead the charge against Gates when Gates was nominated to head the CIA in 1991. Levin ended up voting against Gates. He cited Gates' alleged dishonesty in answering questions about Iran-Contra, the liberal cause celebre of a few years earlier.
But I made my prediction before I knew about Gates' close relationship with former Secretary of State Baker, the man heading up the commission that trying to figure out what to do about Iraq. Reportedly, the commission is seriously thinking about enlisting our friends the Syrians and Iranians to cover our exit.
MSNBC on Cheney on the Rumsfeld question:
But a source told NBC News’ military analyst Bill Arkin that prior to the election, Vice President Dick Cheney argued with other politicians over whether Rumsfeld should stay. White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and others said Rumsfeld should be removed, the source said. Both sides agreed the decision would be made after the election, when Bush would make the final call based on how Republicans did.
According to the source, Bush agreed Rumsfeld should be removed after seeing election results favoring Democrats. Cheney then lost another argument, protesting Gates’ nomination as Rumsfeld’s replacement.
On the other hand, for a positive take on Gates, see here.
Fritz W Ermarth: Well, from everything the president has said, the strategy won’t basically change. Now, I can’t guarantee that sitting here in my study, but the execution you can count on will be very thoughtful and careful. That’s the kind of person Gates is. But until the president signals it, I don’t think you ought to look for a change of strategy...
He’s very realistic, and he’s very committed to the exercise of American power in a thoughtful way, and I think for all those reasons he’s an excellent choice.
The National Interest: What would you say his ideology is?
FWE: He’s a national security professional. He comes from a camp with which I personally identify. He understands strategic realities such that he’ll know we can’t back out of the situation we have in Iraq, but we can’t stay in it either without behaving very deftly and getting as much support as we can.
I also heard Lawrence Eagleberger interviewed on Bob Gates and he was extremely positive about the man and his demeanor and his abilities.
Clarice Feldman notes on The American Thinker that the VIPS, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who played a large role in supplying the "intelligence" in the Plame affair, appear to hate Bob Gates and regularly target him in their articles.
She writes: I consider the opposition of these moonbats to Gates as a major plus for him.
On the other hand, Powerline is sounding is even more bleak:
Robert Gates is drawing rave reviews from those who want the U.S. out of Iraq. Zbigniew Brzezinski says "I think the Gates appointment is the best appointment that President Bush has made in the course of his six years in office." Sen. Hagel says "President Bush has made an excellent choice for this critically important position. Bob Gates is qualified, competent and experienced." Rand Beers, a national security adviser to the Kerry campaign also has kind words for Gates.
That sounds an awful lot like Nancy Pelosi on Fox calling Iraq not a war but a situation to be solved.