Robert Gates' Disastrous Tenure at DoD
Robert Gates plans to step down as SECDEF tomorrow (June 30) -- and not a moment too soon. This is a good opportunity to sum up his tenure as Pentagon chief.
Gates was nominated for Secretary on November 8, 2006, after Donald Rumsfeld resigned. The Iraq War was going badly, the Taliban were recovering from their losses in Afghanistan, rogue states were pursuing weapons of mass murder, Russia was resurgent, and China was growing in strength. Gates had an opportunity for a fresh start, an opportunity to fix things.
Instead, he doubled down on Rumsfeld's policies. Then, when Barack Obama became president, Gates slavishly obeyed all of Obama's edicts, thus making America much weaker and much less safe.
Gates has insisted on continuing in Iraq, no matter the cost. The result? American troops remain in that country to this day and continue to die there, war costs continue to pile up, and Iraq is no more stable or safer than it was in 2006. Indeed, Iraq is still undergoing a civil war. Violence and civilian casualties are back to their pre-surge levels, and Iraqi Christians (whom Saddam protected against Muslim zealots) face the prospect of extinction for the first time ever.
In Afghanistan, Gates doubled down on his failed policies, insisting on the necessity of "winning" in that country (where no foreign army has ever won, and where ISAF will not win either) for America's national security and for winning future wars -- as if America's security were somehow connected to Pakistan's. Al-Qaeda has already relocated to Yemen. The 9/11 attacks, contrary to the popular myth, were planned and prepared in Germany (by the Hamburg cell), not in Afghanistan. America's interests require getting out of Afghanistan, not staying there indefinitely. Yet Gates has insisted on a "surge" of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan and on staying there even after 2014.
Gates, whom the DOD bills as "a Russian affairs scholar," but who needs an interpreter to talk to his Russian counterpart, is the chief proponent of appeasement towards Russia. He has refused to classify Russia as an opponent of or a threat to the U.S., saying that the U.S. has normal relations with Moscow. In 2007, Gates sat and tolerated Vladimir Putin's bashing the U.S. and its allies during the Munich Security Conference. Meanwhile, Moscow continues to back and arm the rogue regimes in Pyongyang, Tehran, Damascus, Caracas, and Havana, and to demand veto rights over American missile defense networks.
Gates has been the chief advocate of the disastrous New START, which obliges the U.S. to make unilateral cuts in its arsenals of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, while Russia, already below treaty limits, is allowed to build. Gates thinks this political gesture will convince North Korea and Iran to cease developing nuclear weapons and will induce other countries to back sanctions against Pyongyang and Tehran. It hasn't and won't. The treaty has only further weakened America's own defense.
Gates is also the leader in appeasing China, America's most dangerous enemy. He has consistently denied that China is a potential foe or a threat, has welcomed China's "peaceful rise" (which is not peaceful), has invited Chinese generals to visit sensitive military installations, and has tolerated Chinese espionage in the DOD. He appeased China egregiously just in order to get an invitation to Beijing in January 2011. According to Gates, a regime that has harassed unarmed American ships in neutral waters, that brought down an unarmed plane in neutral airspace, that blinded an American satellite, and that continues to wage an arms race against the U.S. -- with its weapons clearly designed against the U.S. -- is not America's enemy. Gates considers China a reliable partner.
Coupled with Gates's above-mentioned ludicrous statements about America's potential adversaries are his ridiculous insistence and strong belief that the U.S. will never again fight a conventional war, and his policies that mirror that belief. Gates doesn't think China or Russia would ever perceive the U.S. as an enemy, and he makes light of the threats posed by North Korea's huge conventional army; Venezuela's Flankers, SAMs, and submarines; and Iran's growing conventional capabilities.
Accordingly, Gates has reduced America's conventional units (heavy combat brigades, fighterplane wings, etc.) and cut or closed over fifty conventional weapon programs, most of them necessary to prepare the military for conventional and irregular threats. Among them were the F-22 fighterplane type, the Next Generation Bomber project, the next-gen gunship, the Zumwalt class, the Future Combat Systems, the NLOC, and others, as well as programs very useful against irregular enemies, such as the Combat Search and Rescue helicopter program.
Because conventional weapons have proven very useful and effective against irregular opponents, cuts of such weapons have not only weakened the military, but also reduced its ability to fight insurgents and terrorists. After all, Zarqawi was killed by F-16s, not a UAV. Forty percent of the bombs dropped during the first two months of OEF were delivered by B-1s. B-2s have slammed Afghanistan and Iraq. The USAF's fighters patrol the skies over the U.S. everyday to prevent a repeat of 9/11.
But Gates seems ignorant of all that, and as for future adversaries and wars, he believes that preparing for them is a mental disorder, which he calls "next-war-itis." He has been singularly obsessed with Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, after four and a half years with Gates, the military is still unprepared for future wars, while China, Russia, and others have made significant progress.
And in trying to justify his indefensible cuts, Gates has frequently resorted to rhetoric, such as claims that this or that program was "unneeded" or that his cuts were the results of a holistic analysis of requirements. He further has indulged in rosy predictions about the future environment and future capabilities of America's adversaries. He's been proven wrong time after time about all this, yet he still refuses to admit any error.
The F-22 is a classic example. In 2009, Gates claimed that China wouldn't have any stealthy fighterplanes even by 2020, and only a handful by 2025. But in January, China flew its first such aircraft, and U.S. intel predicts that said craft will be inducted in 2017 -- over three years earlier than Gates claimed. Yet Gates still cleaves to his earlier prediction and claims that more F-22s aren't needed. Now the future of America's entire fighterplane fleet depends on a single, troubled fighterplane program.
Gates has also claimed that all of his cuts were caused by sober analysis, not political directives from Obama and the OMB. There is ample evidence to the contrary. For example, in March 2009, Josh Rogin reported that Gates received orders from the OMB to cancel the next generation bomber program and delay the tanker program. Gates duly obeyed in April 2009, while also obeying the OMB's order for further defense cuts detailed herein.
In sum, Gates is one of America's worst Defense Secretaries ever, if not the single worst. He has implemented disastrous policies and tried to justify them with lies and fantasies. He has driven America deeper into two quagmires. Bluntly put, our soon-to-be ex-Pentagon chief should be ashamed of himself and his policies.