"The use of arms is ownership
Of the appropriate gun. It is ownership that brings
Victory that is not hinted at in "Das Kapital."
I think there is never but one true war
So let us as you desire perfect our trade." -- Tate
Brushing aside questions about Robert Gates' past involvement in the Iran-Contra debacle, and ignoring his role in the funneling of intelligence to Saddam during the Iraq/Iran war, and overcoming their own hesitance 15 years ago to advance him to the position of CIA director, the Senate Armed Forces Committee voted unanimously for the former analyst to replace the primary architect of every aspect of Bush's military muckraking abroad and assume responsibility for Rumsfeld's war against Iraq, effective with the anticipated vote of the full Senate later this week.
Gates will also assume responsibility for Bush's "war on terror" which he characterized in an answer to Sen. Lieberman, as a "long war", which, he said, "could go on for a generation." Gates didn't hesitate to draw a line to his version of success in his "long war" that continues through the occupied nation as he explained his determination to find a "path forward" in Iraq. The prospective defense chief continued the discredited administration rhetoric that casts the U.S. aggression in Iraq as a example of American resolve against those who would attack our nation, our interests, or our allies. If the Iraq occupation provides any example at all, it is of American arrogance and overreach, not any prudent approach to terrorism or anything related to effectively confronting the forces which attacked our nation on 9-11. It was disheartening to hear Gates continue the bluster about saving face before a band of thugs who he admits are "on the run."
"If you could get broad agreement on a path forward not only in Iraq, but then in terms of how we fight this long war," Gates told Lieberman and the committee, "then there would be consistency on the part of whoever is elected president in 2008 and beyond, so that we can carry on this struggle in a way that they don't think we're going to cut and run -- that they don't think we're going to walk away from this war on terrorism, and so that they don't think it's going to be easy to start attacking us here at home because we're not willing to take them on abroad."
Clearly Gates is looking at his responsibility in Iraq as an effort to "win" something there before he accepts that we are actually "losing" whatever Bush committed our soldiers to accomplish in his invasion and occupation. It is from that standpoint that Gates' appointment is fatally flawed. There is nothing for the U.S. to win in Iraq. Coupled with Bush's insistence that the success or failure of the Maliki regime is the most important barometer he will use to determine how long our soldiers stay in Iraq, Gates' desire to impress would-be terrorists with the number of insurgents our troops can kill and capture in Iraq is just a recipe for more muck for our soldiers to become further mired in.
Even more troubling is Gates' apparent embrace of the notion that "training" the Iraqi forces to more effectively kill other Iraqis will lead them to effectively defend their propped-up, new government as our forces stand down. While acknowledging that there needs to be a political solution to end the sectarian violence, Gates is ignoring the corrupting effect of a continuing or escalated U.S. role in the suppression of the Iraqi resistance. As our government advocates for the Maliki regime, supporting it with the full force of our military, it's more than cynical to suggest that any group in opposition to the new government enjoys the same advantages and benefits of association with the U.S.. Iraqis are prisoners to a government formed under active occupation and maintained under the heavy-hand of U.S. military occupation. The very act of maintaining the three-year U.S. military presence in Iraq undermines any independence and self-determination which might be assumed by the new regime. Bush undermines any notion that Iraqis are free to decide whether they want our troops there by setting his own criteria for success and twisting the Iraqis into accepting; as if they had a choice to begin with.
As Gates and others come forward with their plans to move Bush's military campaign "forward" in Iraq, it should not be forgotten that a significant faction of the Iraqi government has walked away from the parliament in protest of Maliki's continuing relationship with Bush, rejecting whatever initiative that was offered in Jordan last week. There is no consensus outside of the beleagered hovel of Bush, Maliki, and Talibani, for an increased or continuing U.S. presence in Iraq. Our soldiers can certainly serve as a buffer between the warring factions in Iraq, but, to what end? There is no role that the U.S. military can play in Iraq which won't be a destabilizing one, no matter how sincere any motivation may be for keeping them deployed there. Gates himself admitted before the committee, that he didn't have any "new ideas" on Iraq.
"I think that the -- it's my impression that, frankly, there are no new ideas on Iraq," Gates told the senators. "Everybody -- the list of tactics, the list of strategies, the list of approaches is pretty much out there, and the question is: Is there a way to put pieces of those different proposals together in a way that provides a path forward?
Gates won't have clean hands when he arrives on the path that's already been blazed. He was tied up in some fashion with Saddam in the past, providing Iraq with military intelligence during their battles with Iran. He's not a newbie to the global manipulation game that our government calls foreign policy. Gates may have indeed sacrificed a sweet spot in his life by giving up the presidency of Texas A&M, but, he's already indicated his determination, his ambition, to own Iraq, along with Bush and the other dilatantes we routinely elevate to lord over us; who divide the product of our sacrifices for their own benefit.
Gates doesn't want to merely facilitate an exit from Iraq, he's on board with the notion that there's something still left to salvage from the catastrophe if he can just manage to prod our over-extended troops to give it one more try in Iraq; to mold the occupation into some rational enterprise that the U.S. can posess for their own purposes, despite the grim reality of the aggravating influence of our forces which many Iraqis view as mortal enemies. That's not what voters told Bush they wanted to see in Iraq when they stripped him of his legislative majority last month.
Gates hasn't come to Washington to "be a bump on a log," as he told the committee. Gates will inherit all of the bureaucracy that Rumsfeld put in place to fund his own private army and intelligence branch, which some Pentagon officials reportedly refer to as the "secret army of Northern Virginia." He's also come to inherit, not only Rumsfeld's position as the point man for the military contribution to Bush's "war on terror," Gates has come to inherit Rumsfeld's occupation of Iraq; embracing it like Frodo charged with protecting Bilbo's ring.
It remains to be seen whether Gates will become enthralled like his predecessor with moving our troops around in Iraq like toy soldiers. In the hands of the new kid on the block, it would be easy for Gates and others to imagine that they're at liberty to use the troops to start an entirely new game in Iraq. These soldiers have already endured historic deployments for a dubious mission. They don't deserve to be further indentured to Gates' version of Rumsfeld's slam-dunk in Iraq. They don't deserve to be sacrificed to Mr. Gates' new war.