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Thread: Keeping Secretary of Defense Gates in the next administration

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default Keeping Secretary of Defense Gates in the next administration

    Every time I'm ready to write off Ralph Peters, he brilliantly captures and articulates something that keeps me reading.

    In today's New York Post, he argues that the next administration should keep SecDef Gates on, because he's just that damn good. He positively gushes over him.

    Couldn't agree more with him this time.

    MIRACLES do happen: A Bush Cabinet officer has proven not only competent, but wise, honest, independent and courageous.

    That man is Defense Secretary Robert Gates - who just may be the best SecDef this country has ever had.

    If only he could stay on into the next administration, he might rival our greatest Secretary of War, Elihu Root, the crucial military reformer of the early 20th century.
    That said, Gates respects his generals just as he values the privates. He just won't tolerate substandard performers. His motto could well be "Never imperious, always curious."

    In other words, he's the anti-Rumsfeld. As SecDef, Donald Rumsfeld surrounded himself with yes-men. Gates seeks out the best men.

    Rumsfeld assumed he knew everything. Gates understands that learning never stops.

    The Rumsfeld Pentagon ran a propaganda organization that amounted to a self-licking ice-cream cone. Gates disdains self-promotion.

    When the going got tough, Rummy sent his underlings out to take the hits. When Gates makes tough decisions, he stands in the line of fire himself - as he did last week in front of those Air Force audiences.

    While the Rumsfeld Pentagon was subservient to the defense industry, from Boeing to Blackwater (to say nothing of Halliburton and the like), Gates insists on giving our troops - and taxpayers - the best value for our defense dollars. (The contractors hope to wait him out.)

    Rumsfeld was a bully. Gates is a warrior.

    Few Americans will miss the Bush administration. But the men and women in uniform will miss Bob Gates. He's the model of what a public servant should be.
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    I've been on this bandwagon for some time as well. Sadly I don't think it's likely, but the incoming administration would show its foolish colors if it were to give Gates his walking papers.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default The Hon. Robert Gates - Speech At The Shangri-La Conference

    From The International Institute for Strategic Studies Website:

    "The 7th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue was successfully concluded on 1 June 2008.

    The Shangri-La Dialogue is recognised as a key event for defence and security diplomacy for the region. Since its inaugural meeting in 2002, the Dialogue has become an integral part of the architecture of Asian defence diplomacy and is seen as the region's premier and most inclusive security institution. The Shangri-La Dialogue continues to serve as the best available vehicle in the Asia-Pacific region for developing and channelling astute and effective public policy on defence and security.

    The 27 invited countries are represented by delegations comprising defence ministers, chiefs of staff and other senior security policy-makers."

    A very articulate speech by Robert Gates in Singapore. Also speeches by the Defence Minister from Japan, the PLA Deputy Chief of Staff from China, and ministers from Korea, Australia, India, France, UK and other countries in the region. Some good Q & A as well. Gates comes across as an accomplished diplomat and appears to wear power well. Thought some might find it interesting, if not already familiar with the speech. Thanks.

    Direct Link To Gates Speech: http://www.iiss.org/conferences/the-...-robert-gates/
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 06-16-2008 at 02:31 PM.

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    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
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    I'm not sure that it would be fair to judge any incoming administration because of its desire to put together its own cabinet. There are plenty of qualified candidates for defense secretary, and while Gates has done a fine job (especially in relation to Rumsfeld), it seems that this thread is just setting up for a problem that simply does not need to exist. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any cases in recent history where a SecDef has been retained from the previous administration, and that has never been a basis for criticism.

    Furthermore, I would suggest that if Obama wins the election, it would in large part be based on the desire for change, in which case it would not make any sense for a member of the Bush administration's cabinet to be retained, skills notwithstanding. Perhaps a bit irrational, but the electorate ought to be respected. And even if McCain's the winner, he too may desire to have his own people. It's just the way these things work.

    Bottom line, I don't see what is served by creating a problem out of this issue by setting up a desire that is very likely not to be fulfilled.

    Regards,
    Jill

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    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
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    Oh and another thing: if Obama wins the election, who's to say that Gates would even want to stay on? I mean, he's a Republican for a reason. I'm sure we'd all like to believe that he is a selfless civil servant, but for the most part folks are not frequently keen to cross the aisle and serve the other side -- it just complicates their future, as it tends to strand them in a political no man's land, being not particularly trusted by either side.

    Cheers,
    Jill

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sargent View Post
    I'm not sure that it would be fair to judge any incoming administration because of its desire to put together its own cabinet. There are plenty of qualified candidates for defense secretary, and while Gates has done a fine job (especially in relation to Rumsfeld), it seems that this thread is just setting up for a problem that simply does not need to exist. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any cases in recent history where a SecDef has been retained from the previous administration, and that has never been a basis for criticism.

    Furthermore, I would suggest that if Obama wins the election, it would in large part be based on the desire for change, in which case it would not make any sense for a member of the Bush administration's cabinet to be retained, skills notwithstanding. Perhaps a bit irrational, but the electorate ought to be respected. And even if McCain's the winner, he too may desire to have his own people. It's just the way these things work.

    Bottom line, I don't see what is served by creating a problem out of this issue by setting up a desire that is very likely not to be fulfilled.

    Regards,
    Jill
    But you can't blame us if occasionally we actually hope to see our leaders actually as concerned as we are about having the job done right rather than in their own image

    Theres probably a reason that we don't get a vote on filling some jobs. But it might be nice to actually have some say in what right looks like.
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

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    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    But you can't blame us if occasionally we actually hope to see our leaders actually as concerned as we are about having the job done right rather than in their own image.
    But don't you see that such a narrow requirement is just setting yourself up for disappointment needlessly? And again, who's to say Gates would want to work for Obama, if he wins.

    How about this: wait to see who gets tapped for the job, and if the choice sucks mightily, I'll join the chorus of critics. I think I've pretty much established my street cred as a loudmouth. And believe me, I've been tame here.

    Theres probably a reason that we don't get a vote on filling some jobs. But it might be nice to actually have some say in what right looks like.
    The point is, you vote for the President/VP, and in that choice, you are relying upon that person's judgment to select the cabinet. That is the say you have. But at the end of the day, the idea is that the President needs to be able to select the people upon whom he'll have to rely and work with, and craft the personality of the cabinet that will suit his executive style. After all, you want the President to be successful.

    It would be interesting if candidates for President were required to put together the slate for their cabinet prior to the election -- say, by a month before the election.

    Cheers,
    Jill

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Hi Jill,

    You bring up some interesting points, one of which is how has the criteria assigned by the military and their families to those civilian leaders whose decisions most affect them been altered by war? I've noticed my own wife and children very interested in politics, perhaps partly because we live on post. I have to help my children get past what they hear and challenge themselves to think about what they hear means. War has certainly changed (for the better I believe) our level of candor. Even the Secretary himself has encouraged it, although I think it was probably going to happen anyway - our tolerance for bad leadership and its consequences has grown thin - we now know the stakes very well.

    I think that is one reason we respect and admire the Secretary and those like him. He seems to understand that not only does a leader have responsibilities to those who appointed or promoted them (responsible to), but that his or her responsibility must be balanced with those he/she leads (responsibility for). A good leader knows how to walk that line - its what separates leadership from management.

    I'd argue that a good executive should not appoint their cabinet based on who will work best for them, or work best under them, but who will rise to the range of possible challenges to which that appointment calls, and who will listen well to the voices they lead, and when called to, tell the leader both the possible consequences of their choices and be either literate enough on the issues or wise enough to know when their not and propose alternative approaches. It is a question of who works best for the nation they both serve. There is something to be said about the personal strength required to assemble a team of rivals - as long as said team are mature enough to check their ambitions and personalities in the interest of the nation.

    When I consider the two presidential candidates I do wonder as to what type of cabinet and advisors they will appoint or listen to. I wonder how their presidency will affect our military. We know that all men and women are not equals when it comes to their ability to lead - when you get a good one, be it a BN CDR, GO or civilian, you know that the chances of getting another one like them are subject to many variables. While with the uniformed leadership you at least have an idea of where that person has been and what their formative experiences have been, with an appointee its a different ball game. So yes we're all a bit concerned.

    Whatever happens, SEC Gates has lived up to many expectations about what "right looks like". His successor will have big shoes to fill, and could do worse then to consider this a model of a slightly unequal CIV-MIL dailog - the man's patience is astounding, but when called to do so he has unequivocally imposed his will in the interest of those he serves. His successor will have the full measure of respect and support the office is due, but as many leaders of all stripes have found out, esteem and trust must be earned.

    Best Regards, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 06-17-2008 at 12:08 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I'd argue that a good executive should not appoint their cabinet based on who will work best for them, or work best under them, but who will rise to the range of possible challenges to which that appointment calls, and who will listen well to the voices they lead, and when called to, tell the leader both the possible consequences of their choices and be either literate enough on the issues or wise enough to know when their not and propose alternative approaches. It is a question of who works best for the nation they both serve. There is something to be said about the personal strength required to assemble a team of rivals - as long as said team are mature enough to check their ambitions and personalities in the interest of the nation.
    Rob,

    It has come up before on this forum, but a good example of the cabinet crossing party lines is the book "Team of Rivals" describing Lincoln's cabinet (I am certain many here have read it). Lincoln incorporated his political enemies into his cabinet, and then used a combination of leadership, friendship, cajoling, and appealing to patriotism to get them to function effectively. It would sure be nice to have the consensus such a cabinet would (hopefully!) bring. It would definitely require a lot of maturity and leadership, though... otherwise you just end up helping a bunch of folks get juicy tell-all book deals down the road.

    Which brings up an interesting question - who would better be able to form/balance/lead such a cabinet - McCain or Obama? Both appeal to centrists in some ways... both brag about crossing party lines. But could they actually pull it off?

    V/R,

    Cliff

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    It has come up before on this forum, but a good example of the cabinet crossing party lines is the book "Team of Rivals" describing Lincoln's cabinet (I am certain many here have read it). Lincoln incorporated his political enemies into his cabinet, and then used a combination of leadership, friendship, cajoling, and appealing to patriotism to get them to function effectively. It would sure be nice to have the consensus such a cabinet would (hopefully!) bring. It would definitely require a lot of maturity and leadership, though... otherwise you just end up helping a bunch of folks get juicy tell-all book deals down the road.
    Another example would be FDR's recruitment of Frank Knox as
    Secretary of the Navy 1940-1944 as in:

    A Politician is Born
    In the fall of 1934, Knox found himself raising money for the Republican Party and was such a success that he was invited to speak at meetings throughout the Midwest. Before long, so many people were saying Knox would make a good Republican presidential candidate that it seemed a likely possibility. When the delegates assembled at the 1936 Republican National Convention, however, it was clear that Governor Alfred Landon of Kansas was the overwhelming favorite for the presidential nomination. Rather than foster a split in the party, Knox ordered his name withdrawn from the race. The next day he became the governor’s unanimously approved running mate.

    The Navy Years
    Although FDR swept the 1936 election, at the end of that term he defied partisan biases and appointed Knox Secretary of the Navy. The appointment was a testament to Knox’s impressive capabilities and reputation, especially given his previously outspoken opposition to the New Deal. Yet for all his antagonism toward Roosevelt’s domestic reforms, Knox was an enthusiastic supporter of the president’s foreign policy. Since 1936, he had been watching with increasing alarm the political developments around the world. After Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Knox pressed for approval of the president’s billion-dollar naval expansion plan. When war finally erupted in Europe in 1939, Knox wrote front-page editorials calling for widespread support of Roosevelt’s foreign policy decisions, the repeal of the neutrality laws, and a bipartisan cabinet.

    Impressed by Knox’s opinions and aware of the leveraging potential of a bipartisan cabinet, Roosevelt offered Knox the position of secretary twice before he finally accepted. In response to those who questioned her husband’s motives, Mrs. Knox explained that for him, “patriotism was a living fire of unquestioned belief and purpose.”

    The other example would be Donovan as CIO and head of the OSS, at the recommendation of Frank Knox.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    But you can't blame us if occasionally we actually hope to see our leaders actually as concerned as we are about having the job done right
    I think that's one of the reason people think there's a need for change.

    We need more competent people no matter who wins. Loyalty can - and should - have limits.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    I think what is so refreshing about Gates stems at least in part to the fact he has always viewed this as a temporary assignment. He reluctantly came out of a posh job and apparrently wants to go back to it and so has no further political ambitions. As a result, I think he's more inclined to do what he thinks is the right thing to do more than another secretary might be.

    So I think his chances of staying on, even if asked, are slim, but I think his temporary stint shows what a competent individual with no political ambitions or axes to grind can do.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    I think what is so refreshing about Gates stems at least in part to the fact he has always viewed this as a temporary assignment. He reluctantly came out of a posh job and apparrently wants to go back to it and so has no further political ambitions. As a result, I think he's more inclined to do what he thinks is the right thing to do more than another secretary might be.

    So I think his chances of staying on, even if asked, are slim, but I think his temporary stint shows what a competent individual with no political ambitions or axes to grind can do.
    Which, sadly, makes me think that he's the last of his kind we'll see for some time.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Default Transition in Time of War

    Transition in Time of War
    by SWJ Editors

    Gordon Lubold has an informative article in today’s Christian Science Monitor titled Pentagon Ponders Transition in Time of War.

    The Pentagon is making a pointed effort to ensure that the transition to a new administration in January 2009 – the first time in 40 years that a handover of power will take place during wartime – goes smoothly, minimizing the risk of disruptions or attacks on military operations during the changeover….
    Well worth reading in its entirety - and we even get a plug.

    Meanwhile, Gates's reputation for demanding accountability without trumpeting his own personality is popular across the department and in Congress, too. "I think he may be the best secretary of defense we ever had," says one active-duty Army officer in high-level circles.

    Now, some would like him to stay on. One respected website devoted to irregular warfare called the Small Wars Journal contains an open letter to the new administration asking that whoever wins to consider keeping Gates.
    Shortest, but Most Important SWJ Post to Date - Small Wars Journal, 13 June 2008

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    Secretary Gates' testimony on the challenges facing the Department of Defense to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 27 Jan 09:
    Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain, members of the committee:

    Thank you for the opportunity to provide an overview of challenges facing the
    Department of Defense and some of my priorities for the coming year. In doing so, I am mindful that the new administration has only been in place for a few days and new or changing policies will likely arise in coming months. Later this spring, I will present President Obama’s defense budget, and, at that time, will be better equipped to discuss the details of his vision for the Department.

    On a personal note, I want to thank many of you for your very kind farewell remarks at my last hearing. I assure you that you are no more surprised to see me back than I am. In the months ahead, I may need to re-read some of those kind comments to remind myself of the warm atmosphere up here as I was departing. Seriously, I am humbled by President Obama’s faith in me, and deeply honored to continue leading the United States military. I thank the committee for your confidence in my leadership and your enduring, steadfast support of the military.

    I’d like to start by discussing our current operations before moving on to my ongoing institutional initiatives......

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