I’m not feeling very well and it would appear I’ve taken too much cold medication, so I’ve not been reading the leaked QDR like I should. Robert Farley, however, doesn’t have my problems, and he zeroes in on a really important point in the document:

References to the “Long War” in 2006 QDR: 31, not counting the 10 pages in the chapter titled “Fighting the Long War”
References to the “Long War” in 2010 QDR: 0

This is all the more important because Defense Secretary Gates views this as — you may have read — a “wartime QDR.” I’ve been hoping for a long time that the Obama administration will abandon a concept of unending war against al-Qaeda. The master blueprint for the Pentagon? It does that. Farley has two great posts on why this stuff matters.

And why the hell not? It makes sense to defend against capabilities, not enemies, because if you identify what capabilities threaten you, you have a defense against whoever uses them. Someone might object that such a construct neglects the broader struggle against those enemies. But it does no such thing. It just recognizes that those missions aren’t military ones.

I know this is a weird thing for a journalist to write, because it’s better as a default position to be oppositional — better for the country, I mean — but I’m starting to think Robert Gates is the best defense secretary this country has ever had. I’ll think about this for awhile, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a challenge since he arrived in 2007 that he didn’t rise to meet. Granted, the top Pentagon job is a meat grinder, but that just makes Gates’ achievements all the more significant. You can say I’m just greasing sources, but — trust me on this, OK? — I’m never going to have access to Gates and I actually don’t want any, because I don’t want to conduct a sycophantic interview. (Maybe that’s appropriate for a post-retirement review, but not while the dude is in office.)

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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