Permissible Arms

Two Older White Dudes, Reviewed.

Posted in afghanistan, american media, pakistan, us defense, us politics by Karaka on 22 September 2009

There are a couple profiles out of key players in today’s military-political-defense scene. First is Noah Shachtman ‘s look at Sec. Defense Robert Gates over at Wired:

Every secdef talks about changing the Pentagon, then almost immediately gets stymied by bureaucratic resistance. Only this time, Gates’ talk is turning into action—a Gates Doctrine, if you will. Its core tenets: Base policy on the wars that are most likely to happen and the technology that’s most likely to work. Stop trying to buy the future when you can’t afford the present. With a White House veteran’s feel for Washington, a love of policy, a penchant for secrecy, and an old man’s sense of the ticking clock, the silver-haired administrator has become the most dangerous person in the military-industrial complex. “I’ve referred to myself as the secretary of war, because we’re at war,” he says in a nasal Kansas twang, raising his voice over the roar of the plane’s engines. “This is a department that principally plans for war. It’s not organized to wage war. And that’s what I’m trying to fix.”

Also related, a similar look at Gates from the NYT:

The looming decision on Afghanistan could put Mr. Gates’s experience to the test as never before. With both Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now on record as saying more combat troops would be required for victory, Mr. Gates must balance his commanders’ desires and his president’s stated skepticism.

As sort of the single major holdover from the transition from Bush to Obama, Gates seems to be in a unique position to advise the President on previous doctrine, namely the “suggestions” and “deadlines” left in place by a Cheney-directed group of defence aides; the desires of the military officials (McChrystal and Mullen and, as other bloggers never fail to remind me, McKiernan as well before his dismissal) to shore up the troops and resources; the limits of Obama’s political willingness to remain in Afghanistan; and the places all of those different things intersect.

Either way, he’s an interesting man to follow.

The New Yorker’s George Packer goes in-depth with US Special Representative to Afghanistan-Pakistan Richard Holbrooke. That links to the abstract; the print edition won’t be out until the 28th, and I will be patiently waiting for it until then. (Unless some friendly reader can hook me up with an electronic copy?) Either way, given how much influence Holbrooke has on the President, I am certain it will be an interesting read.


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