It is difficult, even impossible, to accept President Obama’s “New strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan” as described by him in a formal speech on March 27. It fails by imperial and non-imperial standards.
First the imperial: Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA agent, reports in his book Nemesis: “The Carter administration deliberately provoked the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In his 1996 memoir, former CIA Director Robert Gates acknowledges that the American intelligence services began to aid the anti-Soviet mujahideen guerillas not after the Russian invasion but six months before it. President Carter’s purpose was to provoke a full-scale Soviet military intervention to tie down the USSR.” Will an expanded military effort in Afghanistan tie down the U.S. as it did the USSR?
Obama plans a U.S. military effort in Afghanistan lasting at least five years in a country 50% larger than Iraq in area and population. The NATO allied forces are token in size and commitment and rarely leave their base camps. A serious U.S. military effort will require at least 250,000 troops tied down in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Will America be unable to react to other challenges as they arise especially its obligations, to protect Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, to deter Iran from a nuclear program, to support Pakistan from collapse; etc?
The invasion of Iraq could be justified on imperial grounds because it is strategically situated in the heart of the largest concentration of oil in the world. Afghanistan has no comparable resource, one of the poorest countries, no industry, little farming, rugged terrain, a land of banditry and bribery.
The adventure fails from a non- imperial perspective. Obama says “That country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.” None of the 19 people who perpetrated the September 11 criminal tragedy were Afghan or Taliban. Fifteen of them were Saudi. There are no Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan any longer. Osama bin Laden and what is left of his crew is in hiding somewhere in the wilderness of Pakistan. The Al Qaeda operation is scattered and disorganized. Yes, another 19 thugs could infiltrate the U.S. and kill Americans, but sending an army into Afghanistan is not going to prevent another such criminal act. In fact, the hyped war in Afghanistan is more likely to divert us from protecting ourselves against another September 11.
Confirmation Hearings Begin for Robert Gates. Pundits and politicians are saying Gates is a “breath of fresh air.” Some surmise he is “open” and “honest,” at least in contrast to his predecessor, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Yet, let us assess the record.
Washington D.C., November 10, 2006 –Bush administration nominee for Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates had a long career in government which showed a notable combination of ambition and caution, according to a new book by Archive senior analyst John Prados [Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006)] which deals with Gates among its much wider coverage of the agency since its inception.
As Director of Central Intelligence in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, Gates faced criticism for moving slowly with reforming the agency for the new era, and thus missing a moment of extraordinary opportunity that occurred at that time. In earlier posts at top levels of the CIA, Gates figured in the Iran-Contra affair, in which he engaged in sins of omission if not commission, hesitating to make inquiries and pass warnings that might have headed off this abuse of power. As the CIA’s top manager for intelligence analysis in the early 1980s he was accused of slanting intelligence to suit the predilections of the Reagan administration and his boss, Director William J. Casey.
Apparently, this is Gates’ third Senate hearing and perhaps this one will be the charm. It is not his pragmatic nature that charms members of the Senate; nor is his capacity for consensus building. These qualities are not swaying this Congressional Committee. What is influential is Gates is not Rumsfeld. At this point in the Iraqi conflict, a combative Secretary is no longer desirable.
Still, there are concerns; however, ignored.
The record suggests that Gates combines caution and ambition. As Director of Central Intelligence, leading the CIA after the Cold War, Gates promised many reforms but went slowly in implementing them, carefully marshaling agency support before embarking on those reforms. In Iran-Contra, the record of the special prosecutor’s investigation shows that Gates learned of a number of the key developments at a time when he could have intervened, but remained hesitant to do so. That caution cost him the first two times he was nominated for Senate confirmation-in both cases, to head the CIA-in 1987 and 1991. In the first instance, he was forced to withdraw from consideration. Gates’ second nomination, in 1991, led to the contentious hearings posted here.
As a manager of intelligence analysis under CIA Director Casey, Gates again demonstrated his two most recognizable traits. Knowing that Casey wanted to see certain kinds of analyses, for instance that painted the Soviet threat in bleak terms, Gates, according to former intelligence officers, demanded that his staff comply and encouraged reporting that some insisted was blatantly slanted, to a degree that led a variety of intelligence analysts to oppose his nomination as director. Such opposition was and remains unprecedented in the history of the CIA. On the other hand, on the Nicaragua covert operation of the mid-1980s, Gates showed caution in advising Casey near the end of 1984, when Congress was on the verge of cutting off all aid to the U.S.-backed Contra rebels to hand off the project to some other U.S. agency, which would protect CIA from charges that resulted from questionable activities. In the Carter White House and as an aide to CIA Director Stansfield Turner, Gates also displayed his guardedness. Until 1986, when he emerged as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, Gates functioned in a quintessentially staff role.
Given his narrow background in military affairs, Robert Gates may be expected to go slowly in innovating new policy or strategy as Secretary of Defense, to devote considerable effort to reestablishing rapport between the Secretary’s office and the military service chiefs, and to work loyally in support of White House objectives. On Iraq, that may mean shifts in nuance but not direction. On the other hand, the Gates appointment may be a moderating influence on U.S. Iran policy, since he has dealt with this issue and has knowledge of the players going back more than two decades, was burned by policy missteps on Iran during the Reagan administration, and has in the past favored an opening to the Teheran government.
Gates may not be “the right man for the job,” still he is available and a friend of Daddy’s. The senior Bush is said to be George W.’s best and closest adviser. Where was forty-one years ago? We can only assume that the father had hoped, this would one be the one career choice in which Baby George excelled.
George W. Bush destroyed every business he entered. Now he has shattered not only a nation; he has devastated a world. Will our globe survive the legacy of Baby Bush? Stay tuned. Perchance the “super-hero” George Herbert will rescue his son, again. Perhaps, it is too little too late. Might we consider the father was also a failure. Just as Gates is said to be better than Rummy, Daddy may only be better than the Boy.