Reappointing Robert Gates as secretary of defense was probably the smartest personnel decision of Barack Obama’s political career, the mirror-image opposite of George Bush’s disastrous selection of Dick Cheney as his vice president.
In fact, if Gates had been SecDef instead of Rumsfeld from the beginning, I suspect the whole course of the Bush presidency would have been altered for the better. Alas, we shall never know.
American public support for the Afghan war will dissipate in less than a year unless the Obama administration achieves “a perceptible shift in momentum,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview.
Mr. Gates said the momentum in Afghanistan is with the Taliban, who are inflicting heavy U.S. casualties and hold de facto control of swaths of the country.
The defense chief has been moving aggressively to salvage the war in Afghanistan, signing off on the deployments of 21,000 American military personnel and recently taking the unprecedented step of firing the four-star general who commanded all U.S. forces there. Mr. Gates, speaking in his cabin on an Air Force plane, said the administration is rapidly running out of time to turn around the war.
“People are willing to stay in the fight, I believe, if they think we’re making headway,” he said. “If they think we’re stalemated and having our young men and women get killed, then patience is going to run out pretty fast.”
Mr. Gates, a Bush administration holdover, also waded into the debate over the Guantanamo Bay prison and Bush-era antiterror tactics. He said critics of the Obama administration’s plans to close Guantanamo and move some prisoners to the U.S. were guilty of “fear-mongering.”
“If people begin to absorb the fact that we’ve got several dozen very dangerous terrorists in our jails right now…maybe a little greater perspective would be brought to the issue,” he said.