Meh Culpa

Meh Culpa: On extending Robert Gates’ tenure

Those who have their undies in a bind about the news–although it’s not yet a done deal–that Robert Gates may be staying on as Defense Secretary for at least a year, no doubt need to reread this NYT article.  I think he’s being kept on for his management style, his ability to revive the Department, his use of inclusion (also an Obama signature), his ability to build relationships, his background in the Intelligence community, and his willingness to make his boss look good.

At the Marine Corps Association’s annual dinner in July, Gates cried while eulogizing Capt. Douglas Zembiec, a marine known as “the lion of Fallujah,” who had recently died in battle. By that time, Gates was writing personal notes at the bottom of every condolence letter sent to families of troops killed in battle. “I want the recipient of that note to know that the secretary of defense actually saw that letter, signed that letter, thought about that letter,” he told me on the plane ride back from Fort Hood. “It forces me to pay attention to every single one of the young people killed — how they died, where their hometown is, what other members of their unit were killed. I’ve kept count — 796 Americans have been killed in Iraq on my watch.” (This was as of Nov. 27 [2007].)

You gotta like a guy who cares about what happens to our soldiers. So what if he’s a Republican?

And then there’s this:

“Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost,” [Mr. Obama] said. “It comes from me.



November 26, 2008 - Posted by | appointments, Defense, politics, transition | , ,


  1. Would you consider subscribing to my blog?

    We were recognized by on Nov. 19 under the headline “A student at the University of Georgia tries to reinvent the GOP.”

    Thanks, fellow blogger.

    Comment by newrepublican | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. The Danger of Keeping Robert Gates

    Comment by Jesse | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  3. That may be so, Jesse. I’d like to see what Obama does with Gates first, though.

    Comment by mehculpa | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thank you for the invitation, Steven. 🙂

    Comment by mehculpa | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  5. Well we know that Gates favors “surging as many forces as we can” into Afghanistan before Sept 09.

    I wonder how the politics will be doled-out when we see a surge in violence, despite the alleged ‘success’ of the past ‘surge’ that both Gates and Obama have praised.

    They gave Rumsfeld the boot because he strayed from the admin’s desired course to save their own hides. Or maybe Bush n friends were looking to have Gates on board due to his expertise and association with ISI and militant Islam.

    Hopefully this admin will give Gates the boot if and when Obama realizes Afghanistan is a bad way to go. Not to mention bad politics. I am not sure what kind of rabbit-out-of-a-hat trick Obama could be pulling by keeping Gates on as Secdef.

    It will be interesting. But I don’t trust him. But you already knew that I bet.

    Comment by Jesse | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  6. Well, I think this is where I will disagree with you, at least in part. Obama didn’t approve of the surge and gave it only grudging praise when forced into a corner, and that was praise in the sense that he said our troops did a good job, which is a completely different ball o’ wax..

    Obama’s thinking is much more nuanced than, “Oh, the surge worked,” or “Oh, it didn’t.” He didn’t believe the surge addressed strategic issues or long term goals. It certainly didn’t improve the political situation in Iraq. Obama thought we shouldn’t have been in Iraq at all and he believe that more troops should be introduced into Afghanistan. That last thing doesn’t indicate a surge per se. It meant he knew we couldn’t deploy troops from one region to the other because they couldn’t be spared.

    I think Obama is a good reader and a student of history to the extent that he probably realizes there is no way to “win” in Afghanistan. He will probably be aware that the Russian “surge” didn’t work, and before that, that the British didn’t last after their forces were decimated at Herat. When he takes office in January, he’ll have to deal with Pakistan because it’s fraying at the edges and threatening to collapse altogether, and because that’s where the fight really is. (Although India’s now antagonized by the Mumbai attacks allegedly carried out by a Pakistani terrorist group, so the situation could get even more complicated than it is now.)

    I’m not sure there’s any way to handle the war in Afghanistan except to slap down the Taliban (again), try to reinvigorate the economy (instead of getting distracted and assuming victory has occurred), and take to the mountains on the border of Pakistan with the agreement and aid of the Pakistani government–should it still be in power. Even then, I think the so-called War on Terror is best handled piecemeal rather than by invasion of an entire country.

    I think Gates is also being kept on because the interlude between administrations makes us more vulnerable. It helps that Gates already is familiar with the issues as well as the bureaucracy. I hope Obama sees the perils of the “surge” Gates wants in Afghanistan, but since he thinks a smart war is OK, he’s a not-so-undercover hawk. That troubles me. Of course, I’m averse to waging war as a matter of principle, and I think the notion of a smart war is ludicrous. So that represents a grave difference between my thinking and Obama’s. But I’m willing to see what he does before passing judgment.

    Comment by mehculpa | November 27, 2008 | Reply

  7. Thanks so much. Hope we’ll frequent eachother’s blogs. I changed the header as you requested.

    Comment by newrepublican | November 28, 2008 | Reply

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