"Old soldiers never die, they just fade away" is from the farewell address General Douglas McArthur gave to Congress after he had been summarily fired for insubordination by President Harry Truman during the Korean War. McArthur had been outspoken in his criticism of the president regarding the conduct of the war thus overstepping his military role that required him to defer to the authority of his civilian commander in chief. Truman rightly believed the general crossed the line, not to him personally, but to the Office of the Presidency and the president being an old captain in the artillery himself during W.W.1 and believing in the chain of command, took exception and relieved McArthur of his command in Korea.
Somehow that little episode came to mind after reading about a speech by retiring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who was openly critical of NATO saying there "were shortages of military spending and political will" by the organization, that it's "apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources"to be a serious and capable partners in their own defense," while relying too much on the U.S. for the defense of Europe.
In response to the Secretary's remarks a spokesman for the Obama administration said Gates was speaking for the Pentagon and not the administration, in essence distancing itself from the remarks of the departing Pentagon chief. Hmm; isn't the Pentagon and Department of Defense a part of the administration? Well yes, but"one guesses the soon to be ex-Secretary may have been spouting off presumably to get a head start for a personal tell all book and the attention of prospective publishers who might be frothing at the mouth wanting to get his signature for a six figure deal with them.
Or maybe the old warrior in him felt with his tenure about to expire he could throw a few "bomb lets" at those sissies in Europe for their half hearted participation in Afghanistan?
But from here, Gates as well as NATO are both cold war anachronisms, both irrelevant and unnecessary. NATO is a cold war relic and Gates is an old cold war warrior. Both are in need of being placed on the scrap heap.
Afghanistan has nothing to do with Europe's defense and the Europeans know it. They placate the U.S. with their participation but deep down know this inane U.S. led enterprise is an absurd endeavor. Gates criticism of them is most probably easily dismissed. After experiencing directly the brunt of two world wars on its soil, Europe, unlike the U.S., knows first hand that war is hell and is to be avoided unless it is in danger of imminent attack.
That threat ended with the demise of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Europe knows full well they are in no danger of an imminent attack and that terrorism is not something you go to war over. That is simply American led hysteria which the Bush mob foisted upon the people of Afghanistan and Iraq along with the deceptive lying and propaganda fed to the American people after 9/11.
As for Libya, the Europeans, NATO and initially the U.S. saw the people of Benghazi under imminent threat and attack by Colonel Qaddafi who was about to lay siege to the city and its people. It was a humanitarian intervention and appropriate (as this writer has indicated previously in these pages).
It is recognized and questionable at best whether the defense of the Libyans against Qaddafi falls within NATO's jurisdiction. Libya is not part of Europe. The intervention into Libya should have been U.N. approved and sponsored. It was approved by the U.N. but the body was incapable of acting directly so with jurisdiction unclear, the U.S. France and Britain intervened with NATO assuming command in the weeks that followed.
As for Gates, his departure is with good riddance. His earlier statements regarding U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan are unwelcome and if followed would only prolong this unnecessary war.
Leon Panetta leaving the CIA to replace Gates at the Pentagon and General David Petraeus taking Panetta's job in Langley just seems like a revolving door that bodes ill (more drone attacks and missile strikes)for the people in the AF/Pak war and no real retrenchment in U.S. policy.
That's the real sadness that prevails. There seems no light at the end of the dark tunnel U.S. policy makers have put us in and which most Americans continue to enable with their passive indifference.