The New York Times reported January 22nd that, surprisingly it seems, new Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is in favor of strong military power. As the Times says, “Less than a month after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates took office, his imprint on American military strategy is beginning to show. Mr. Gates, it turns out, is a hawk.”
As the report says, Mr. Gates has endorsed increasing the American military presence in Iraq, has shown an inclination to surging troops to Afghanistan, has deployed another aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf, and has said that negotiations with Iran at this point would be meaningless.
According to the article, though, Gates “…seems to be hoping that a short-term application of military might can shift the balance of power in the region sufficiently to make eventual political settlements-between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and even with the ayatollahs in Iran-more plausible for the United States than they appear right now.”
It is too early to know whether this approach will work or not, the Times says, “But there is no mistaking the course change at the Pentagon.” According to the report, visible signs have already appeared that Mr. Gates is taking a new direction, including the discarding of the Rumsfeld philosophy that American military forces should be deployed in as small a number as possible to accomplish the mission.
Although the Times says the surge of over 20,000 troops to Iraq was not the idea of the new Defense Secretary, it reports that Secretary Gates quickly jumped on board after taking up his new post. Mr. Gates has, according to the report, “…insisted that the additional forces are a source of leverage over the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.”
As the Times says, “He has emphasized repeatedly that the American troop buildup, which is happening over a period of months, could be halted if Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government does not deliver on promises to send its own troops to Baghdad and not to interfere with operations against Shiite death squads in Baghdad.”
Following up Mr. Gates’ theme of using force as leverage, the Times writes, “Mr. Gates also seems to think there might be a way to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its meddling in Iraq, short of going to war against Iran. He mused publicly last week that negotiations between the United States and Iran might one day make sense, if the United States could regain ‘leverage’ over the Iranians.”
Information for this article was obtained from “Hawkish Gates Sees More Force as Leverage,” by David S. Cloud, published January 22, 2007 in the New York Times.