Skip to comments.Gates's shocking thinking on Iran--The un-Rumsfeld
Posted on 12/06/2006 3:38:13 PM PST by SJackson
Now it falls to Bush to reveal if he shares Gates' thinking, or is still committed to a nuke-free Iran
Defense Secretary-designate Robert Gates sailed through his confirmation hearings this week. Congress was looking for an "un-Rumsfeld," as The New York Times gleefully called Gates, and even an "un-Bush." Along with their enthusiasm, however, it is unfortunate that Gates's problematic testimony did not meet with more serious questioning.
While everyone was looking for Gates's exit strategy on Iraq, he said what he should have, namely that the objective - even if it is not now being met - is still to win and there will be no precipitous withdrawal before achieving that objective. No real surprises here.
The real news came from his answers on Iran, which raise serious questions about the direction of US policy.
When asked by a senator whether he thought Iranian President Ahmadinejad was "kidding" when he denied the Holocaust and called for "wiping Israel off the map," Gates responded: "No, I don't think he's kidding. But I think that there are, in fact, higher powers in Iran than he, than the president. And while they are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent.
"They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons - Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west, and us in the Persian Gulf."
The senator followed up, "Can you assure the Israelis that they will not attack Israel with a nuclear weapon, if they acquire one?"
Gates responded coldly, "No, sir, I don't think that anybody can provide that assurance."
These are shocking responses, not so much for what they say about what the US will do, but for what they reveal about the thinking of the man poised to become the top defense adviser of the president of the United States. Gates's first instinct when asked about Iran's potential nuclear capability is not to explain why he views such a prospect as inimical to US interests, but why it might not be such a dangerous thing.
Gates assures us that although Ahmadinejad may be wacko, his Iranian leadership higher-ups have got to be more responsible. These moderate, reasonable, Iranian leaders, Gates calmly explains, have perfectly understandable reasons to want nukes to defend themselves. Not to worry, it's just the Cold War Iranian-style. Israel, the US, and Pakistan have nukes, why not Iran?
But what if this sunny analysis is wrong and Iran lobs a weapon of mass destruction at Israel? Well, that's a risk that Gates seems willing to take.
In another response Gates said, "I think that the consequences of a conflict - a military conflict with Iran could be quite dramatic. And therefore, I would counsel against military action, except as a last resort and if we felt that our vital interests were threatened."
Unfortunately, no senator thought to ask whether Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon itself would threaten America's vital interests. But it is not too hard to read between the lines of his response when asked to describe the consequences of a US attack on Iran: "While Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real. They are certainly not being helpful in Iraq but I think they could do a lot more to hurt our effort in Iraq.
"They could provide certain kinds of weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical and biological weapons, to terrorist groups. They have the capacity to do all of these things, and perhaps more, that I just described."
Gates has now made the case for tolerating an Iranian nuclear weapon and against taking military action to prevent that eventuality. In doing so, he elicited no discernible alarm from his Senatorial inquisitors.
We wish one of them had pointed out that an Iranian nuclear weapon would dramatically increase both Teheran's capability to inflict increasing damage against US interests and the likelihood of Iran doing just that. Now it falls to President Bush to reveal whether Gates's thinking reflects his own, or whether he is still committed to preventing the world's most dangerous regime from obtaining the world's most dangerous weapons.
Bush has officially self-destructed by nominating Gates and listening to the Iraq Study Group.
IF he agrees with them, and the Gates appointment and Baker's role makes me think he might, I agree.
Why wouldn't they?
"Did you see how fast they Confirmed him?"
Like he was on rails. What's the confounded rush, I wonder?
is he the real fall guy? normally when they blo in so quick their exit is the same.
'Cause once he's confirmed, Rummy leaves.
The President is doing his best to win overseas at the same time he has lost at home. Remember, he has lost not just the antiwar RATS but also a considerable segment of the Pubbie voters including almost all the Objectivists, Libertarians and Paleoconservatives. Not an easy task and I pray he will prevail.
it seems to me that the iraq study group was set up to present a "realist" analysis and set of recommendations. that is why Baker was chosen as head of it.
who set it up? who chose the members?
i am assuming bush wanted political cover to pull out of iraq.
this is very similar to what nixon did with "vietnamization" of the vietnam war: reduce the US army role to that of advisors, and let the locals fight the bad guys. then pull out troops, and declare "peace with honor".
i recently read an article by brent scowcroft claiming that vietnamization would have worked (if the dem congress hadn't sabotaged it), and that we should use the same strategy in iraq.
i think this is what is going on: "iraqization".
there may not be any real alternative--it is hard for a democratic country to fight a war without public support.
No "blue ribbon" committees in Washington are to diffuse responsibility and concentrate power. Nothing has changed. POTUS has the power and needs peace at home to wage war in Iraq.
The President is a class act politician and knows the above.
A year ago I might have agreed with you...but every human has their breaking point...I fear GW may have met his.
Perhaps. But I see him as being the prototypic "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" type. More definitively he takes anxiety and anger to blend into a fierce resolve to succeed. It is usually experienced as an emotional high and men at least find it almost addictive. That is why they do crazy dangerous things just for fun.
Good combat pilots and other dangerous occupations are filled with such individuals. They never break but they can be carried out feet first. That is what they will have to do with POTUS. You can shake his demeanor and confidence but not his resolve and joy in the challenge.
Politicians and consituents who--out of cowardice/selfishness--want to allow a small ally to be overrun by Islamists will eventually find out that Iran's talk about Israel is nothing more than a ruse to divide us. Imagine the political and international scenario, if Israel is overrun.
Such politicians and interests (including market interests) will get my hostility instead of support, when their moment of truth comes. ...Nazis!
On second thought, maybe the whole procession of events will be a blessing in disguise. If Israel further builds and maintains a great nuclear arsenal and anti-ballistic missile defense, Iran will go after its next object of conquest: those who are sending their forces to Lebanon.
If it were up to me, I would pull their govt. pensions and benefits and let them live as paupers for the rest of their lives.