The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Gates to bring negative change

With the Senate’s confirmation of Robert Gates’ nomination for secretary of defense, it looks as though the year will conclude as the administration will embark on a fresh, new – minus Donald Rumsfeld – journey with a new course of action in Iraq.

Or will it?

The former director of the Central Intelligence Agency has employed a rhetorical tactic that speaks of reform regarding the war in Iraq, in which the U.S. has been involved for more than three and a half years.

Deeming the situation in Iraq unacceptable, proposing a change of tactics and overall declaring the U.S.-led effort abroad a failure has managed to convince some people that, perhaps, a less hard-line and neoconservative military and diplomatic approach will be established once Gates has officially assumed the role of secretary of defense.

There are also a number of others, including myself, who see it exactly as I mentioned above: simply a rhetorical tactic.

Rumsfeld left office amid burgeoning criticism of his handling of the situation in Iraq. It would only be a politically savvy move for his potential replacement to garner support for his own military agenda by introducing (or at least appearing to introduce) some new objectives radically different from those of his predecessor. The American public craved a breath of fresh air after Rumsfeld and Gates was ready to give it to them shortly after the defense secretary’s resignation.

With a number of blunders that dot his political career, it is hard for me to imagine Gates working toward a collectively desirable situation in the Middle East, or even on anything radically different from what the current administration has already undertaken.

One particularly prominent diplomatic failure was Gates’ involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, during which proceeds of secret arms sales to Iran were funding the Nicaraguan contras who were out to overthrow the democratically-elected government of their country. In a memo to then-Director of Intelligence William Casey, Gates advocated the bombing of military targets in Nicaragua. It was later revealed that Gates had knowledge of the details of Iran-Contra, which Congress was completely in the dark about, and thus had enough knowledge to be able to intervene. Intervene, Gates did not.

Gates was a significant part and parcel of the Reagan administration, which was known to use the Soviet threat as a means to justify extensive military growth as well as full scale interventions in third world countries. Known to exaggerate the Soviet threat, even during a time when Soviet power was declining, it is difficult to envision Gates taking an entirely different, perhaps more idealist, approach to the U.S.’s current challenges overseas, especially when he himself is of the school of hard-line realism.

Gates still voiced his advocacy of continued military presence in Iraq for a long time to come and it is clear that he is not committed to anything radically deviant from the prevailing dominant strategies. Even if Gates has devised a new plan of action and tactics, the president, after all, is not obliged to implement them. As Gates also acknowledges, all actions are executed with the knowledge and approval of the president.

While it may be premature to make any conjecture on Gates’ performance, my prediction does not bode anything substantially different from all current business and exchanges in the White House and beyond.

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