When I Swing My Swords, They’re All Choppable

Robert Farley writes:

 This is why Bob Gates is still secretary of defense; Obama didn’t believe that such cuts would be possible under a Democratic secretary.

Not withstanding all the trouble with using the counterfactual conditional, but, really,how can you disagree with that statement? Look, these cuts may not be possible with Gates at the helm. Remember that 44 senators of both parties wrote to Obama in January (!) telling him to buy more F-22s. Instead, Gates killed the program like fricking George Aiken telling LBJ to declare victory in Vietnam and get out: he told reporters that "we have fulfilled the program. I mean, it’s not like we’re killing the F-22." Not only is that untrue, it’s untrue in the most gangster way possible. Gen. Norton Schwartz, the chief of the Air Force, wanted something like 60 more F-22s. Gates basically dared Schwartz to reach for his gun. And you know what? He might actually get his planes, precisely because the F-22 has a massive Capitol Hill constituency.

The point, though, is that if Gates were a Democratic defense wonk, I think it’s fair to say, this budget submission would be pretty much inconceivable. A Democrat would have to build up a lot of credibility within the Pentagon; would have to work with Petraeus and Odierno on Afghanistan and Iraq; would have to build a relationship on the Hill; and would probably end up running out the clock on all of that before getting around to a massive apple-cart-overturning about the most entrenched issues in the Pentagon budget. By keeping Gates, Obama’s got a plan for withdrawal from Iraq that has attracted no significant Pentagon or uniformed acrimony; a refocus on Afghanistan with same; and a sprawling, huge, massive, ginormous, Herculean effort at getting rid of Pentagon bloat in the third month of his presidency. Gates is like the Abdul Sattar abu Risha of the GOP foreign-policy establishment.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman