Gates into his own head

Robert Gates’  article in Foreign Affairs acknowledged divergent views, but in the end, only paid them lip service.

The U.S. Defense Secretary began his piece with, ” The United States cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything.”   


He called for balance, but only in relation to meeting the myriad wants of defense, not it’s scope in relation to other national interests. He wrote about preserving Cold War-esque arms and mentalities, while asking for increased attention on counterinsurgency tactics and technology.

After referencing perceived threats posed by Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, Gates wrote, “The United States cannot take its current dominance for granted and needs to invest in programs, platforms and personnel that will ensure that dominance’s persistence.”

 He then surprisingly relented on U.S. military exuberance, the U.S. naval “battle fleet is still larger than the next 13 navies combined — and 11 of those 13 navies are U.S. allies.”

Just showing how obtrusive the U.S. military is doesn’t mean the secretary is willing to call for a diminished force. Quite the contrary. He spins it into retaining a “credible strategic deterrent.”

On the military’s technological advancements, Gates wrote, “A button can be pushed in Nevada, and seconds later a pickup truck will explode in Mosul [Iraq]. A bomb dropped from the sky can destroy a targeted house while leaving the one next to it intact.

“But no one should ever neglect the psychological, cultural and political, and human dimensions of warfare. War is inevitably tragic, inefficient, and uncertain, and it is important to be skeptical of systems analyses, computer modes, game theories, or doctrines that suggest otherwise. We should askance at idealistic, triumphalist, or ethnocentric notions of future conflicts that aspire to transcend the immutable principles and ugly realities of war, that imagine it is possible to cow, shock, awe an enemy into submission, instead of tracking enemies down hilltop by hilltop, house by house, block by bloody block. As General William Tecumseh Sherman said, ‘Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.’ “

That “block by bloody block” strategy, as showed in Wednesday’s  New York Times, isn’t the “patient accumulation of quiet successes over a long time to discredit and defeat extremist movements and ideologies” that Gates foresees.

Again, quite the contrary. Actions of the special forces in Afghanistan were recently stopped supposedly because of extensive civilian casualties. The death of innocents only credits and enthuses the movements Gates wants to defeat.

In conclusion, Gates calls for a “balanced approach,” meaning all the military’s needs are met equally, not in the larger scope of the nation’s — much less the world’s — collective interests.

I understand it’s not in Gates’ interest to call for fewer resources, but trying to pat anti-war advocates on the head, and masking it in “balance,” isn’t the same as trying to refrain from conflict.



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