The Gates Debate

The Gates debate is over, but Barack Obama’s decision to keep Secretary of Defense Robert Gates upset many of the president-elect’s progressive supporters — including Chris Bowers of Open Left, usually a very astute analyst, and my friend Greg Sargent at TPM. But their objections seem to be based on a misunderstanding of both Gates himself and of the Defense Secretary’s likely role in an Obama administration. As I noted earlier, Gates represents anything but a reprise of the awful neoconservative policies of the Bush years and his reappointment doesn’t signify Bush’s third term. On questions of military action and defense spending, he will carry out the wishes of the commander in chief — on issues that they have presumably discussed already as well as others yet to arise — or else he will resign. Their views are in sufficient alignment to make this relationship possible — just as Obama’s views on foreign policy are sufficiently congruent with those of Hillary Clinton for her to serve as Secretary of State (a topic explored here almost two years ago).

As for reforming the Pentagon, a blogger at TPM known as FlyOnTheWall makes a powerful argument that Gates has proved himself an enemy of waste and corruption in procurement — and that the defense industries would have been quite happy to see him depart. Too bad for them.