Advertise on OnMilwaukee.com

Readers Blog: Art's Milwaukee

Guantanamo, Obama - and Gates

While the presidential campaign and President Barak Obama’s initial post-election formal statements have focused heavily on the economy, national security arguably is where the new administration has the greatest independent authority – and faces the most significant challenges, directly involving life and death decisions. Obama has addressed that dimension right away by issuing executive orders closing the very controversial Guantanamo base prison and banning use of torture. The detention of suspected al Qaeda fighters at the base since the 9/11 attacks has brought sustained intense criticism both abroad and at home. Torture is denounced by critics for being ineffective as well as immoral. However, now that Guantanamo will be closed and torture banned, rest assured the future will bring Republican attacks on the new administration for alleged ‘softness’ on terror. In this situation, the importance of maintaining Bush administration Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in office implicitly is confirmed. The conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and in more global terms with al Qaeda provide a vexing, complex challenge which encompasses both conventional and unconventional warfare. Gates’ career spans engagement with the uniformed military and also the shadow world of espionage and covert action. So far at least, he has shown himself to be a man for all seasons politically, while proving an exceptionally able executive over a now lengthy career. In a very partisan time, with intense rancor between Democrats and Republicans, he has been adept at bridging that great divide. Indeed, Gates is the first Pentagon head in history to continue in the position from one administration to the next. Gates is not a political partisan but did achieve his greatest professional success in government during years when the Republicans were in charge. In notably candid memoirs, “From the Shadows”, he is very blunt in criticism of the Carter administration for hostility to the intelligence agencies and general ineffectiveness. Tenure as deputy to Carter’s CIA chief, Admiral Stansfield Turner, was clearly one of the most painful experiences of Gates’ career. Clearly the new Democratic administration is constructing continuity with the more generally conservative and Republican sectors within Washington and among the wider American population, and that is smart politics as well as good policy. While Democrats have just won a sweeping national election victory, and now hold both Houses of Congress as well as the White House, national security remains an area of perceived weakness on the part of the public. A representative ABC-Washington Post poll just before the November presidential election showed that by 49% to 43% Republican presidential nominee John McCain was viewed as more likely than Democratic nominee Obama to protect national security. In the case of Bob Gates, demonstrated top professional competence clearly reinforces political calculation. He is one of very few CIA career professionals to rise to the top of the agency. He was both Director of Central Intelligence and Deputy National Security Adviser to his principal mentor, former Pres. G. H.W. Bush. One of the most important of many recent books on United States national intelligence is “Legacy of Ashes” by Tim Weiner. The book’s title derives from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, expressing frustration near the end of his administration. Weiner is harshly critical of the CIA overall, but notably positive about Director Robert Gates. Likewise, he provides persuasive evidence the CIA was providing strident warnings about impending terrorist attack to an indifferent Bush White House just before 9/11. Pres. Obama’s initial dramatic executive orders underscore the wisdom of keeping Bob Gates in place. Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College in Wisconsin and author of ‘After the Cold War’. He can be reached at acyr@carthage.edu

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this and other user-submitted content do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of OnMilwaukee.com, its staff, its advertisers and/or its partners. This user-submitted content has not been checked for factual accuracy, and any photos uploaded have not be verified to be copyright-free. It is the user's responsibility to post text and/or photos that belong to that user and do not violate any copyright or intellectual property laws. If you feel this content is abusive, offensive or otherwise inappropriate, click to report and we will review this blog entry.

Rate this:
  • Average rating: 0.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Talkbacks

burbanite27 | Jan. 25, 2009 at 1:45 a.m. (report)

Thanks alot for this, well said and informative.

Rate this:
  • Average rating: 0.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Post your comment/review now 1 comment about this blog.
Post your comment/review now

Facebook comments

Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.