Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gates and change

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The WSJ is reporting that "Obama is leaning toward asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain in his position for at least a year, according to two Obama advisers. A senior Pentagon official said Mr. Gates would likely accept the offer if it is made."

I'm sorry, but that's not change I can believe in.

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Actually, I don't feel too strongly about this one way or the other. I would certainly like to see Obama start over at the Pentagon, not more of the same, but Gates has done pretty well -- well in absolute terms, but even better relative to Rumsfeld. And I suppose there is a case to be made for continuity.

The problem is, Gates supports an escalation of the war in Afghanistan (more troops) and the continuation of the war in and occupation of Iraq (no timetable for withdrawal). I am much more sympathetic to the former position than to the latter, but what is needed now is fresh thinking. As the WaPo reported yesterday, Obama plans "to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan," which is promising, but keeping Gates would be a clear sign that the old ways, the failed ways, are still in play.

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