The Case for Gates

My colleague Brian Katulis made the case for keeping Robert Gates on as SecDef a while back along with his coauthor Nancy Soderberg. An excerpt:

In several speeches that haven’t received the attention they deserve, Gates has argued that, as he put it on Sept. 29 at the National Defense University, “direct military force will continue to have a role” in the “prolonged, world-wide irregular campaign” against al-Qaeda and other violent extremists. But here’s the important part: Gates understands “that over the long term, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory.”

Instead, he calls for beefed up U.S. diplomatic and development capabilities. Unlike Cheney and Rumsfeld, who were obsessed with potential great-power competitors such as China, Gates bluntly admits that the “most likely catastrophic threats to our homeland — for example, an American city poisoned or reduced to rubble by a terrorist attack — are more likely to emanate from failing states than from aggressor states.” His solution to failing states? Help patch them up. Shortly after he took office, Gates argued that the lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan is that “economic development, . . . good governance, providing basic services to the people, training and equipping indigenous military and police forces, strategic communications, and more — these, along with security, are essential ingredients for long-term success.”

Personally, I have somewhat equivocal feelings about this course of action, but I’m hoping Gates will prove Brian right.