Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gates Hearing and Iraq

I dislike unqualified responses like this:

Robert M. Gates, nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, acknowledged the U.S. is not winning the war in Iraq and he warned lawmakers that leaving the country in "chaos'' risks a ``regional conflagration.''

Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, if confirmed, he would consider "a wide range of ideas and proposals'' for stabilizing Iraq that would ultimately lead to a reduction in U.S. forces there.

"Do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?'' Michigan Democrat Carl Levin asked Gates as the panel opened its hearing on Gates' nomination.

"No sir,'' Gates replied. U.S. forces must have "some presence'' in Iraq for "a long time,'' he said later. Supporting and training the Iraqi military "could take quite some time,'' he said. ``But it could be with a dramatically smaller number'' of U.S. troops.
Bold open statements as Gates provides strike me as being far too political. A more detailed response with context on the complete theater would have impressed me. This just reads like more politics as usual. Most of the Iraqi provinces are stable. The Baghdad region is unstable, and there is little doubt in my mind that if we don't succeed there the majority of the country will fall into chaos. That doesn't make it an unequivocal failure.
Levin, who will chair the armed services panel when the new Congress convenes next month, called Gates' acknowledgement of the U.S. military's situation "a necessary fresh breath of reality that is so needed'' to devise a successful strategy.
Yeah, fresh breath as long as it sings the his tune.
Virginia Senator John Warner, the outgoing Republican chairman of the panel, said Bush and the new Democrat-controlled Congress have a "moral obligation'' to "the brave men and women of the armed forces'' to "formulate a bipartisan consensus on the way forward'' in Iraq.
What? Bipartisan consensus isn't how you fight wars. You may want to draw a political agreement on the strategy, but how the fighting is done shouldn't be left to politicians. Another lesson from Vietnam that appears to be being ignored.
Massachusetts Democrat Edward M. Kennedy, voiced skepticism that Bush would accept Gates' advice about changing the course in Iraq, quoting the president as saying a month go the U.S. had a "strategy for victory that will work.''

"Should we believe you or the president on the critical issue whether the administration is really willing to make a change in its policy?'' Kennedy asked.

"I'm willing to commit that, if I'm confirmed, I will be independent, that I will consider all of the options,'' Gates said. He added: "There is still only one president'' and "he will make the final decision.''
Appears Teddy doesn't understand who the C-in-C is and who makes the final decisions in war. What difference does it make if the President accepts them or not? The issue is will the Secretary of Defense be capable of putting forward a realistic plan for success that the President will then accept? The decisions of the President are essentially irrelevant to the purpose of the hearing.

I guess there will be a lot to read this evening in the blogsphere.

Don't you love when the MSM minimizes or just out right leaves certain information out.
Asked point-blank by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., whether the U.S. is winning in Iraq, Gates replied, "No, sir." He later said he believes the United States is neither winning nor losing, "at this point."

At the outset of an afternoon session of questions about Iraq and other subjects, Gates began by telling the committee he wanted to amplify on his remark about not winning in Iraq. He did not withdraw the remark but said, "I want to make clear that that pertains to the situation in Iraq as a whole."

He said he did not want U.S. troops to think he believes they are being unsuccessful in their assigned missions.

"Our military wins the battles that we fight," Gates said. "Where we're having our challenges, frankly, are in the areas of stabilization and political developments and so on."
You have to search around to get the real answer. Even the AP article doesn't give a direct quote. To look at the headlines you'd think his statement was an all out condemnation when in fact it wasn't. Looks like the actual "not losing" line came after the first reports as a political dodge for making it sound bad in his first response. Again, looks like he's playing politics. What a shock.

If the tactics and parts of the present running strategy doesn't change, we will no doubt fail, but it's not over until the fat lady sings. Take a good look at historical insurgencies and you'll see that most, if not all of them, showed periods of chaos and uncertainty. The successful ones changed their methods in various ways and strived to succeed. The question I have is does the US public have the fortitude to get this right?

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