The nomination of Robert Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense strikes me as either a strange choice or a strangely timed one. Gates is a close associate of former Secretary of State James Baker and, in fact, is a member of Baker’s commission. That commission is expected soon to recommend a new course in Iraq. Some say that course will involve the phased withdrawal of our troops and the enlistment of Syria and Iran to help fill the void (not that Iran would need to be enlisted).
Whatever the contours of the actual Baker plan, turning the Defense Department over to someone so closely associated with a commission that seems poised to recommend the overhaul of U.S. policy on Iraq strikes me as sensible only if (a) the president knows what the commission is going to recommend and (b) the president is prepared to follow the recommendations. But if the president wants to overhaul our policy on Iraq in a particular way, why didn’t he do so earlier in the year when it might have saved his party from a major electoral defeat and perhaps saved the lives of American troops?
There’s much to speculate about here, I think.
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