View Full Version : White House Hopes to Close Rift Between State and Defense

11-12-2006, 07:19 AM
12 November New York Times - In Gates Selection, White House Hopes to Close Rift Between State and Defense (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/12/washington/12gates.html) by David Sanger and Scott Shane.

President Bush selected Robert M. Gates as his new defense secretary in part to close a long-running rift between the Defense Department and the State Department that has hobbled progress on Iraq, keeping the two agencies at odds on issues ranging from reconstruction to detaining terrorism suspects, according to White House officials and members of Mr. Gates’s inner circle.

While Mr. Gates, a former director of central intelligence, had long been considered for a variety of roles, over the past two months Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, quietly steered the White House toward replacing Donald H. Rumsfeld with Mr. Gates, who had worked closely with Ms. Rice under the first President Bush. One senior participant in those discussions, who declined to be identified by name while talking about internal deliberations, said, “everyone realizes that we don’t have much time to get this right” and the first step is to get “everyone driving on the same track.”

White House officials said that goal may be difficult to accomplish in the seventh year of an administration. Ms. Rice and Mr. Rumsfeld never managed to resolve their differences, especially after their arguments over the handling of the occupation came into public view in late summer 2003. As national security adviser during Mr. Bush’s first term, Ms. Rice was unable to halt a war between the State Department and the Pentagon that put senior officials in the departments in a state of constant conflict.

The question now is whether it is simply too late to achieve President Bush’s goal of a stable and democratic Iraq, even if Mr. Gates and Ms. Rice are able to work together as smoothly in altering policy as they did 15 years ago on a very different kind of problem, managing the American response to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

A few members of the Iraq Study Group — the commission created in March at the urging of members of Congress and led by James A. Baker III, from which Mr. Gates stepped down on Friday — have wondered aloud in recent days whether the insurgency and sectarian conflict in Iraq may be too far advanced to reverse. The group will consult with the British prime minister, Tony Blair, by video on Tuesday and is due to present recommendations to the White House and Congress in December...