The Gates appointment to replace Don Rumsfeld is important: I think it might signal a shift in George Bush’s thinking (I know, that’s an oxymoron) re Israel/Palestine.
Consider a few facts:
Former Sec’y of State James Baker is now of course prominent in Iraq policy. Baker is famous for showing contempt for the Israel lobby in the U.S. and for trying and failing to slow Israel’s illegal settlements during Bush I’s administration. Indeed, fear about Baker’s influence is the motivator for The New Republic’s latest cover story, which slams Baker as a vain and sinister shadowy figure. Baker’s good friend George H.W. Bush blamed his defeat in 1992 in part on the Israel lobby, something I reported months ago, quoting Michael Desch (from his superb paper on the impact of the Holocaust on policy-making).
Desch’s evidence for Bush’s thinking was “informal comments” by the former President himself, in a 2005 visit to the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M—a visit at which Bush decried the power of AIPAC. The new defense secretary Robert Gates is of course the president of Texas A&M. The holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-making at the Bush School is Desch, a realist who has been highly critical of the neocons re the Middle East (but who emerged himself out of the Strauss fen at the University of Chicago; Desch says Strauss would have been against the Iraq invasion, as it lacked Straussian requirements: prudence and a respect for the “habits, mores, and customs of a society,” one whose lack of formal institutions left it unready for democracy). Desch has also written favorably of Walt and Mearsheimer’s findings.
Gates is friends with fellow Texan academic and spook Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, like him a top CIA official in a Republican administration. Now at UT in Austin, Inman has a pronounced belief, shared by realists Walt and Mearsheimer, that concern for Israel’s security played a large role in the (disastrous) decision to invade Iraq (as reported by Peter Voskamp , editor of the Block Island Times, who once saw Gates and Inman and their wives dining together at a little Mexican restaurant in Austin).
Add this all up and what do you get?
Well, it’s a different gang. The Gates appointment may well signal a shift in U.S. policy re Israel/Palestine, and a tougher American line on our militarized quasi-democratic client-state. Having first delegated his thinking on this part of the world to Dick Cheney and the neocons, thereby nullifying the existing braintrust in the State Department, President Bush is turning now to his father’s circle, a circle that includes men whose ideas will be highly concerning to those who would insulate Israel from criticism. Myself, I think it’s a great thing; these guys are wiser and far more balanced than the visionaries of the American Enterprise Institute. Maybe they can give our statecraft balance
The shift would also seem to reflect badly on George Bush’s aforementioned intellect. Does he think? He lacks the confidence required to have a hypothesis. There’s no deduction or addition, no dialectic, no synthesis. The mind behaves like a slot machine. Yesterday it was lemons, today it’s cherries.
Having run away from his father, psychically, Bush is now running back at him. (Any therapist would say, that doesn’t resolve the conflict.)