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Robert Gates on War & Peace

Secretary of Defense-Designee


Clinton-Gates combo won push for Afghan surge

Just as the Obama administration was beginning to hold meetings to decide [whether to send a troop surge to] Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal's report leaked out.

Robert Gates gradually came around to supporting the McChrystal request, and Hillary Clinton did, too. During that period, the two often sided with each other in administration debates; they were happy to show that the secretaries of state and defense could work smoothly together, unlike their immediate predecessors, Donald Rumsfeld with Colin Powell & Condi Rice. The Clinton-Gates combine helped to win over the president to sending more troops, despite the skepticism of other senior administration officials such as Biden; the president was not prepared to override the recommendations of the two departments primarily responsible for foreign affairs. Obama approved the deployment of 30,000 more American troops for Afghanistan, bringing the total to about 100,000, and also called on NATO allies to provide another 5,000 or more of their own.

Source: The Obamians, by James Mann, p.134-136 , Jun 14, 2012

OpEd: armed both sides in the 1990s Iran-Iraq War

Gates came in to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary under Bush-II, late in 2006, and Obama decided to keep him there. If truth be known, Gates has a shady history as a career intel guy. In 1991, there were accusations he brushed aside that he'd had a secret role in arming both sides in the Iran-Iraq War. Witnesses in the Middle East said this had included Saddam Hussein getting hold of cluster bombs and material for chemical weapons. Later, a sworn affidavit by one of Reagan's National Security Council guys said that when Iran was gaining the upper hand in the spring of 1982: "The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, & assisted in the sale of non U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq." It was also in 1982 when the U.S. kindly removed Iraq from its list of terrorist states.
Source: American Conspiracies, by Jesse Ventura, p.107 , Mar 8, 2010

We’re in Afghanistan now because end-game failed in 1980s

We made a strategic mistake in the end game of that war. If we get the end game wrong in Iraq, I told the Congress, the consequences will be far worse.

It is a hard sell to say we must sustain the fight in Iraq right now, and continue to absorb the high financial and human costs of this struggle, in order to avoid an even uglier fight or even greater danger to our country in the future. But we have Afghanistan to remind us that those are not just hypothetical risks.

Source: Speech at West Point U.S. Military Academy , Apr 21, 2008

War with Iran would be disastrous, but keep option on table

The axiom “never fight unless you have to” looms over policy discussions on Iran, that is a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East and, in my judgment, is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need and, in fact, I believe it would be disastrous on a number of levels. But the military option must be kept on the table given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat.
Source: Speech at West Point U.S. Military Academy , Apr 21, 2008

Iraq has re-positioned US from short war to long haul

In World War II, the American people had already begun to lose patience by the fall of 1944, when the lightning dash across the plains of France following D-Day gave way to a soggy, bloody stalemate along Germany’s western border. And that was only two-and-a-half years after Pearl Harbor.

Eisenhower no doubt had this in mind when he became president during the 3rd year of the Korean War. Eisenhower was even willing to threaten the nuclear option to bring that conflict to a close

We just marked the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. For America, this has been the second longest war since the Revolutionary War, and the first since then to be fought throughout with an all-volunteer force.

At the turn of the 21st century, the U.S. armed forces were still organized, trained, and equipped to fight short, large-scale conventional wars. And so we’ve had to scramble to position ourselves for success over the long haul, which I believe we are doing.

Source: Speech at West Point U.S. Military Academy , Apr 21, 2008

Withdraw US support if Iraqi gov’t fails at milestones

RECOMMENDATION 20: If the Iraqi government makes substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, & governance, the US should continue support. As Iraq becomes more capable of governing & defending itself, the US presence in Iraq can be reduced.

RECOMMENDATION 21: If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of those milestones, the US should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

No permanent US bases in Iraq, and no US control of oil

RECOMMENDATION 22: The President should state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. If the Iraqi government were to request a temporary base or bases, then the U.S. government could consider that request as it would in the case of any other government.

RECOMMENDATION 23: The President should restate that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil.

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

Support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq

RECOMMENDATION 2: The goals of the new diplomatic offensive should be to:
Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

Comprehensive New Diplomatic Offensive before 2007

RECOMMENDATION 1: The US, working with the Iraqi government, should launch a comprehensive New Diplomatic Offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region, before December 31, 2006.

RECOMMENDATION 5: An Iraq International Support Group should consist of Iraq and all the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria; the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States; the five permanent members of the UN Security Council; the European Union; and, of course, Iraq itself.

RECOMMENDATION 7: The Support Group should call on the participation of the office of the UN Secretary- General in its work.

RECOMMENDATION 8: The Support Group, as part of the New Diplomatic Offensive, should develop specific approaches to neighboring countries that take into account the interests, perspectives, and potential contributions as suggested above.

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

Iraq diverted attention from Afghanistan; more support there

US efforts in Afghanistan have been complicated by the overriding focus of US attention & resources on Iraq. And the longer that US political and military resources are tied down in Iraq, the more the chances for American failure in Afghanistan increase. Increased deployments to Iraq would necessarily hamper our ability to provide adequate resources for our efforts in Afghanistan or respond to crises around the world. If the Taliban were to control more of Afghanistan, it could provide al Qaeda the political space to conduct terrorist operations. The huge focus of US political, military, and economic support on Iraq has necessarily diverted attention from Afghanistan.

RECOMMENDATION 18: It is critical for the US to provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved from Iraq.

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

Iraq needs de-Baathification; oil sharing; & local elections

Steps for Iraq to Take on Behalf of National Reconciliation:

RECOMMENDATION 27: De-Baathification. Political reconciliation requires the reintegration of Baathists and Arab nationalists into national life, with the leading figures of Saddam Hussein’s regime excluded. The United States should encourage the return of qualified Iraqi professionals--Sunni or Shia, nationalist or ex-Baathist, Kurd or Turkmen or Christian or Arab--into the government.

RECOMMENDATION 28: Oil revenue sharing. Oil revenues should accrue to the central government and be shared on the basis of population. No formula that gives control over revenues from future fields to the regions or gives control of oil fields to the regions is compatible with national reconciliation.

RECOMMENDATION 29: Provincial elections should be held at the earliest possible date. Under the constitution, new provincial elections should have been held already. They are necessary to restore representative government.

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

No military action alone can bring about success in Iraq

There is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq. But there are actions that the US and Iraqi governments, working together, can and should take to increase the probability of avoiding disaster there, and increase the chance of success.

RECOMMENDATION 40: The US should not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 41: The US must make it clear to the Iraqi government that the US could carry out its plans, including planned redeployments, even if Iraq does not implement its planned changes.

RECOMMENDATION 42: We should seek to complete the training and equipping mission by the first quarter of 2008.

RECOMMENDATION 43: Military priorities in Iraq must change, with the highest priority given to the training, equipping, advising, and support mission and to counterterrorism operations.

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

Totally reform the Iraqi local police and border police

The problems in the Iraqi police and criminal justice system are profound. The ethos and training of Iraqi police forces must support the mission to “protect and serve” all Iraqis. Today, far too many Iraqi police do not embrace that mission, in part because of problems in how reforms were organized and implemented by the Iraqi and US governments.

RECOMMENDATION 50: The entire Iraqi National Police should be transferred to the Ministry of Defense, where the police commando units will become part of the new Iraqi Army.

RECOMMENDATION 51: The entire Iraqi Border Police should be transferred to the Ministry of Defense, which would have total responsibility for border control and external security.

RECOMMENDATION 53: The Iraqi Ministry of Interior should undergo a process of organizational transformation to exert more authority over local police forces. The sole authority to pay police salaries and disburse financial support to local police should be transferred to the Ministry of the Interior.

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

Imbed US troops in Iraqi army; the rest leave by 2008

[The US military should] imbed substantially more personnel in all Iraqi Army battalions and brigades. US personnel would provide advice, combat assistance, and staff assistance.

As additional Iraqi brigades are being deployed, US combat brigades could begin to move out of Iraq. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq. At that time, US combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams, and in training, equipping, advising, force protection, and search and rescue.

An open-ended commitment of American forces would not provide the Iraqi government the incentive it needs to take the political actions that give Iraq the best chance of quelling sectarian violence. In the absence of such an incentive, the Iraqi government might continue to delay taking those difficult actions.

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

No large increase of US troops, but no immediate withdrawal

We considered proposals to make a substantial increase (100,000 to 200,000) in the number of US troops in Iraq. We rejected this course because we do not believe that the needed levels are available for a sustained deployment. Further, adding more American troops could conceivably worsen those aspects of the security problem that are fed by the view that the US presence is intended to be a long-term “occupation.” We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces.

We also rejected the immediate withdrawal of our troops, because we believe that so much is at stake.

Approximately 141,000 U.S. military personnel are serving in Iraq, together with approximately 16,500 military personnel from twenty-seven coalition partners, There are roughly 5,000 civilian contractors in the country. A mission [of all aspects of training Iraqi troops] could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role.

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

3,000 Iraqi civilians killed monthly; Mahdi army now 60,000

Assessment of the Current Situation in Iraq: Attacks against US, Coalition, and Iraqi security forces are persistent and growing. October 2006 was the deadliest month for US forces since January 2005, with 102 Americans killed. Total attacks in October 2006 averaged 180 per day, up from 70 per day in January 2006. Daily attacks against Iraqi security forces in October were more than double the level in January. Attacks against civilians in October were four times higher than in January. Some 3,000 Iraqi civilians are killed every month.

Violence is increasing in scope, complexity, and lethality. There are multiple sources of violence in Iraq: the Sunni Arab insurgency, al Qaeda and affiliated jihadist groups, Shiite militias and death squads, and organized criminality. Sectarian violence --particularly in and around Baghdad--has become the principal challenge to stability. [The largest militia], the Mahdi Army, led by Moqtada al-Sadr, may number as many as 60,000 fighters.

Source: Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report , Dec 6, 2006

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Page last updated: Mar 14, 2014