Archive for the ‘Robert Gates’ Category

Afghanistan: Greatest Challenge, Modest Goals, But More Troops; Obama With Joint Chiefs Wednesday

January 27, 2009

Amid preparations for a major troop build up in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Tuesday that the United States cannot become bogged down in the unrealistic goal of turning the country into an economically prosperous nation.

Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates waits to testify at the ... 
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates waits to testify at the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, January 27, 2009.REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)

Instead, the U.S. must limit its focus to what it can achieve within five years, he said. The focus should be trying to ensure terrorists don’t regain control of the region and use it to coordinate attacks, Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He also indicated that military strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan are likely to continue, despite Islamabad’s view that they are unhelpful.

“If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhallah over there, we will lose because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience or money to be honest,” said Gates, referring to the mythic haven of purity.

Gates testified as President Barack Obama considers options for drawing down operations in Iraq and doubling the force size in Afghanistan. Obama planned to meet Wednesday with the service chiefs.

Read the rest:


Obama: Move Toward the Center is Smart

December 27, 2008

Barack Obama is an annoying guy.

As of last week the U. S. President-elect had announced 20 cabinet appointments. Of these, only five are women. Granted, these women will hold some of the most powerful positions in the government; head of homeland security, secretary of state, labor secretary, ambassador to the UN, environmental protection agency boss.

Even so, CNN reports, some women’s groups are displeased. “There need to be a lot more women’s voices in this administration,” says Kim Gandy, of the National Organization for Women.

Gays and lesbians are irked at Obama too. During the primaries and in the presidential campaign he promised to be a strong advocate for them. But now he’s up and invited a conservative preacher, Rick Warren, to lead the invocation at his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren delivers a speech during the ... 
Rick Warren

Warren is strongly pro-life and staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage.

Zounds, say the liberals: How could our guy do such a thing? Aren’t there plenty of good liberal preachers around, people who actually backed Obama for the Presidency?

Others are upset, reportedly, because of Obama’s decision to leave Robert Gates in charge at the Pentagon. Gates is a holdover from the hated Bush administration and an implementer of the illegal war in Iraq. How could he possibly have a seat at Obama’s table?

You can hear the chatter percolating in the coffee houses and on the university campuses: He’s not even president yet, and already he’s walking away from some of our most deeply held positions. How could he?

Obama is doing precisely the right thing. In walking away from the leftist fringe and hewing to the centre, he is creating the much larger coalition that he absolutely needs if he is to succeed as president.

For this presidency will not be about business as usual. The United States faces a staggering trillion-dollar deficit next year.

Its military is at war on two fronts and struggling on one, in Afghanistan. It faces unfunded pension obligations that threaten national bankruptcy well into the future.

The Sun Times
Ontario, Canada

China’s Growing Naval Reach May Cause Worries

December 26, 2008

China’s Pacific neighbors worry that the superpower’s growing naval power could cause regional tensions to rise and fester…

The first deployment of three Chinese ships to the coast of Africa in hundreds of years means China is becoming more involved in world and international matters.  The pirates in Somalia are causing insurance prices to rise for everyone.  So China’s committment and involvement causes many to applaud.

But not everyone is applauding China’s naval moves.  Many worry.

Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, to name just a few nations, worry that China’s growing naval strength means China will eventually want something in Asia and have the power to take it without too much discussion.

Even Pacific Ocean nations like Australia worry that China will become too dominant in the region.

Here at Peace and Freedom, readers from Vietnam, Japan and South Korea have swamped us with questions about China’s actual strength at sea — and China’s intent.

And why does China need a large navy?  What is China’s “Grand Strategy”?

“I think the objective of the grand strategy is to squeeze out, very slowly and very gradually, the influence of the United States in East Asia, without war, with economy and culture,” said Chong-pin, Professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan.

The “Grand Strategy” will ultimately include aircraft carriers.

China will “seriously consider” building aircraft carriers to protect its vast maritime territory, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense said on just last week as the anti-piracy mission was being prepared.

Huang Xueping made the remarks at a news conference called to announce details of a Chinese flotilla that departed for Somali waters on Friday to protect Chinese ships from pirates.

Asked whether the Chinese navy’s first deployment abroad is a good opportunity to build a carrier, Huang said the government would seriously consider the issue.

“Aircraft carriers are a symbol of a country’s overall national strength as well as the competitiveness of its naval force,” Huang said.

“China has a long coastline and the sacred duty of China’s armed forces is to safeguard the country’s marine safety and sovereignty over coastal areas and territorial seas,” he said.

Above: Near the Republic of Korea (Oct. 7, 2008). The ROKS Gangkamchan (DDH 979) steams by a line of  warships during the International Fleet Review “Pass and Review.”

China has many mineral rights and oil disagreements at sea with Japan, Vietnam and other nations — and a poweful navy means to these countries that China will, before long, lay down the law from Beijing on other regional neighbors.

According to Japan’s Navy Retired vice admiral Fumio Ota, currently director of the Center for Security and Crisis Management Education of the National Defense Academy, “One reason is China wants to make advances in the sea to secure energy resources. The other is to survey and expand the area of its operational waters in preparation for a war with Taiwan ….. China’s State Oceanic Administration has said: ‘The one who controls the sea will survive and grow. China will build a powerful and modern maritime state.'”

Most worriesome to the United States and those neighbors of China is this: no one really knows how big and capable China’s navy has become or how much China is spending on naval programs.

Beijing’s rapidly growing military spending, estimated at $85 billion to $125 billion last year, is still dwarfed by the United States, where a half-trillion dollars is shelled out for defense spending each year, not counting money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last year said the U.S. Navy needs to spend about $21 billion annually on new ship construction over 30 years to meet its goal of a 313-ship fleet. That is far above the Pentagon’s average spending between 2000 and 2005, and about $6 billion more than President Bush requested for this year.

But it is China’s secrecy on military spending and programs that causes so many to worry in Asia — and that is why U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates frequently speaks about the need for “transparency” in both China’s military investments and their intentions.

China’s military spending and intentions are hidden behind a fog of state controlled media and government secrecy.

On the aircraft carrier issue,  China’s Maj. Gen. Quan Lihua said:

“The question is not whether you have an aircraft carrier, but what you do with your aircraft carrier.  Even if one day we have an aircraft carrier, unlike another country we will not use it to pursue global deployment or global reach.”

Of course: we can all trust China.


Piracy draws China back to the ranks of maritime giants
China’s “Grand Strategy”: U.S. Out Of Asia?
China Launching First Long-Range Naval Mission Since 15th Century

General Hints China’s Navy May Add Carrier

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, seen here on December 2008, ... 
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, seen here in December 2008.(AFP/Getty Images/File/Scott Olson)


From the Associated Press

China’s willingness to send ships so far from home is also the latest example of the growing power and confidence of the country’s navy. In recent years, the military has been loading up on warships, planes, missiles and other weapons — a beef-up that has worried its neighbors and the U.S.

Those most concerned include the Japanese and South Koreans, who have long-standing disputes about territorial waters that occasionally flare up. China has also been locked in an uneasy stand off with the Philippines, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations over the ownership of the potentially oil-rich Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii, said countries in the region will view China’s mission off Somalia differently.

“For Japan and some in South Korea, this is another step in the unwelcome growth of the Chinese navy as a capable blue-water force, which has only downsides for Tokyo and Seoul,” said Roy, an expert on China’s military.

“I think the objective of the grand strategy is to squeeze out, very slowly and very gradually, the influence of the United States in East Asia, without war, with economy and culture,” said Chong-pin, Professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan at Princeton.

But he said most Southeast Asian countries may see China’s involvement in the anti-piracy campaign as a positive thing. It would mean that China was using its greater military might for constructive purposes, rather than challenging the current international order.

However, the analyst added, “The Chinese deployment gets at a question the U.S. and other governments have been asking: ‘Why the big Chinese military buildup when no country threatens China?’ Or more bluntly, ‘Why do the Chinese need a blue-water navy when the U.S. Navy already polices the world’s oceans?”‘

Roy said the answer is that China is unwilling to rely on the U.S. to protect China’s increasingly global interests. Beijing still believes it needs to enter the field, Roy said, and that leaves open the possibility of a China-U.S. naval rivalry in the future.

China has said the mission’s purpose was to protect Chinese ships and crews that have come under attack from pirates. The vessels would also be willing to share intelligence and conduct humanitarian rescue operations with other countries involved in the anti-piracy efforts, Senior Col. Huang Xueping, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, said Tuesday.

Read the entire article:,2933,473044,00.html

Signals To Obama: Back Off

December 13, 2008

People like Russian leaders Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seem to be sending a message to President-elect Barack Obama.

The message might be interpreted as this: America has been too pushy and it’s time to back off.

Testing O's spine in Europe.
Medvedev: Testing O’s spine in Europe?

Today, Russia recaptured the village of Perevi near South Ossetia in Georgia. 

“The Russians deployed a battalion of special forces with helicopters and armor and told the Georgian policemen to get out immediately,” said Shota Utiashvili, a Georgian ministry spokesman.

Russian troops had previously stopped EU ambassadors from visiting Perevi.  The European Union is monitoring the cease-fire in the region.

The Russian action seems to have been a signal to Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili and President-elect Barack Obama.  The U.S., Russians say, has been unfairly siding with the Georgians in the dispute with Russia.

Paul Haven of the Associated Press wrote, “Russian President Dmitry Medvedev chose the day after Barack Obama’s election victory to brandish a threat of ballistic missiles.”

Russia's "Iskander" missile system on display ... 
Russia’s “Iskander” missile system on display at a military exhibition in the Siberian town of Nizhny Tagil in 2005. Just hours after Barack Obama’s election, President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would place short-range missile systems on the EU’s eastern border to counter planned US missile defence installations in Eastern Europe.  Medvedev later backed away from the threat. (AFP/VEDOMOSTI/File/Evgeny Stetsko)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also seems to be speaking directly to Obama.

“The crimes being committed by the Zionist regime [Israel] are happening because it is aware that it has reached the end of the line and will soon fade away from the earth,“ Mehr news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during an anti-Israeli rally in Tehran.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

A senior Iranian cleric described President-elect Barack Obama on Friday as a novice who was adopting old U.S. tactics of “deception and fraud,” underscoring Iran’s skepticism about prospects for change in U.S. policy.

President-elect Obama has a lot of good instinct, intelligence and information.  His advisors like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and nominated Bational Security Advisor James Jones are first rate.

The new President Obama is likely to be tested, and not just challenged, in the months after he is sworn into office….

Russia Retakes Georgian Village Near South Ossetia, Georgia In New Provocation

Iran’s Ahmadinejad is at it again; predicts Israel’s end

Foes ready to test Obama overseas

Foes warned off ‘testing’ Obama

The “Real” Obama: How Centrist?

December 12, 2008

Barack Obama has garnered praise from center to right — and has highly irritated the left — with the centrism of his major appointments. Because Obama’s own beliefs remain largely opaque, his appointments have led to the conclusion that he intends to govern from the center.

Obama the centrist? I’m not so sure. Take the foreign policy team: Hillary Clinton, James Jones and Bush holdover Robert Gates. As centrist as you can get. But the choice was far less ideological than practical. Obama has no intention of being a foreign policy president. Unlike, say, Nixon or Reagan, he does not have aspirations abroad. He simply wants quiet on his eastern and western fronts so that he can proceed with what he really cares about — his domestic agenda.

 Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, December 12, 2008; Page A27

Similarly his senior economic team, the brilliant trio of Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Paul Volcker: centrist, experienced and mainstream. But their principal task is to stabilize the financial system, a highly pragmatic task in which Obama has no particular ideological stake.
A functioning financial system is a necessary condition for a successful Obama presidency. As in foreign policy, Obama wants experts and veterans to manage and pacify universes in which he has little experience and less personal commitment. Their job is to keep credit flowing and the world at bay so that Obama can address his real ambition: to effect a domestic transformation as grand and ambitious as Franklin Roosevelt’s.

As Obama revealingly said just last week, “This painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people.” Transformation is his mission. Crisis provides the opportunity. The election provides him the power.

Read the rest:

Iran, Missiles, Nuclear Efforts: China, Russia on One Side; U.S. Israel On the Other

December 9, 2008

U.S. Secretary of State Robert Gates says he will continue to work to put UN sanctions on Iran to stop its nuclear program.  China and Russia are resisting, with Russia saying Tuesday that Iran’s has no nuclear weapon capability. 

Israel disagrees and worries over a build-up of President Ahmadinejad’s missiles and nuclear advances….

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, seen here in October 2008, ... 
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, seen here in October 2008, spoke on Saturday to incoming US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, asking them to cooperate in facing up to Iran.(AFP/File/Gali Tibbon)


In  a  sign  that  Iran  is taking military measures to ward off the  threat  of an attack on its nuclear facilities, the country has tripled the  number of long-range rockets in its arsenal, Channel 10 reported on Monday.
According  to  the  report,  Iran  possessed  30  Shihab-3  missiles at the beginning   of   2008.   Currently,   the   country  claims  to  have  over 100…long-range missiles capable of hitting Israel. While the ability of the Islamic  Republic  to  strike any point in Israel has long been known, this latest  build-up  potentially  points  to  an  Iranian  intent  to launch a protracted  counter-strike  against  those  who seek to destroy its nuclear program….

A missile said to be a Shahab-3 being tested in 2006
The Shahab-3 is Iran’s most advanced and longest-range missile

From the Jerusalem Post
Hans Blix, the former head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, said he expects the new US administration to take a fresh approach to the deadlocked international talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“I hope that the Obama administration in the United States will be more imaginative” on the issue than its predecessors, Blix said after a session of the Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe. The forum, which includes former top officials and leading academics, focuses on challenges to the global security.

Hans Blix
Hans Blix

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent congratulations to Obama, the first time an Iranian leader has offered good wishes to a US president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Igor Ivanov, a former Russian foreign minister who served as secretary of the presidential Security Council, also said he expects the change of administration in Washington to play a positive role in the Iranian nuclear dispute.

“The new administration coming to power in the United States could breathe a new life into the negotiation process,” Ivanov told reporters.

The US, Britain and many other Western countries accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover for weapons development.

Former US Defense Secretary William Perry said Tuesday that strong cooperation between Moscow and Washington will be essential for settling the dispute over the Iranian nuclear program and other international crises.

Russia-US relations have degraded steadily amid US plans to deploy missile defense sites in Europe and other disputes. They further worsened after Russia’s war with Western-allied Georgia in August.

“With a new administration in the United States coming into office, there is an opportunity to break that downward spiral,” Perry said. “If that can happen, then we can start working together cooperatively on a whole set of problems,” including the Iranian nuclear issue.

Russia has maintained close ties with Iran and is building its first nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr, which is expected to go on line next year. Russia has backed limited UN sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program, but has staunchly opposed the US push for harsher measures.

Moscow has also sold air-defense missiles and other weapons to Teheran, contracts that have drawn a strong US and Israeli criticism.


Russian media report Russian officials believe Iran does not currently have the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

The reports quote the director of the Foreign Ministry’s department of European cooperation, Vladimir Voronkov, as saying Iran cannot create or deliver a nuclear weapon.

From the Voice of America


Robert Gates, making his first visit to China as defense secretary, is expected to press the Chinese to do more to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities.

Before he left Saturday for the trip, Gates made it clear that he is pursuing a closer alliance with China, and said he doesn’t see the communist giant as a military threat.

Robert Gates

But at the same time, senior defense officials said the Pentagon is still frustrated by China’s failure to be more open about its military ambitions. And Gates will probably push China to better explain its anti-satellite test early this year.

In January, a Chinese missile shattered a defunct Chinese weather satellite, drawing immediate criticism from the U.S. and other countries, who questioned China’s commitment to peaceful development in space. Since then, U.S. officials have struggled to get better answers from the Chinese about it.

The Washington Post & The Associated Press

Read the rest:

Obama’ Disappointment Appointments: Not the Change We Thought You Said

December 7, 2008

The more things change, the more they stay . . . well, you know. And looking at President-elect Barack Obama‘s top appointments, it’s easy to wonder whether convention has triumphed over change — and centrists over progressives.

By David Corn, Washington Post

A quick run-down: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who supported the Iraq war until she initiated her presidential bid, has been handed the Cabinet’s big plum: secretary of state. And Bush’s second defense secretary, Robert Gates, will become Obama’s first defense secretary. The Obama foreign policy adviser regarded as the most liberal in his inner circle, Susan E. Rice, has been picked for the U.N. ambassador slot. Obama is elevating this job to Cabinet rank, but he’s still sending Rice to New York — and in politics and policy, proximity to power matters. For national security adviser, Obama has picked James L. Jones. The retired four-star general was not hawkish on the Iraq war and seems to be a non-ideologue who possesses the right experience for the job. But he probably would have ended up in a McCain administration, and his selection has not heartened progressives.

President-elect Barack Obama takes questions from reporters ...

Above: Hardly a new model roll out.  President-elect Barack Obama takes questions from reporters during a news conference in Chicago, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, with, from left to right: Attorney General-designate Eric Holder; Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Vice President-elect Joe Biden; Secretary of State-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; National Security Adviser-designate Ret. Marine Gen. James Jones; and United Nations Ambassador-designate Susan Rice.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Obama’s economic team isn’t particularly liberal, either. Lawrence H. Summers, who as President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary opposed regulating the new-fangled financial instruments that greased the way to the subprime meltdown, will chair Obama’s National Economic Council. To head Treasury, Obama has tapped Timothy F. Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve, who helped oversee the financial system as it collapsed. Each is close to Robert Rubin, another former Clinton Treasury secretary, a director of bailed-out Citigroup and a poster boy for both the corporate wing of the Democratic Party and discredited Big Finance. Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board will be guided by Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman whose controversial tight-money policies ended the stagflation crisis of the 1970s but led to a nasty recession. (A genuinely progressive economist, Jared Bernstein, will receive a less prominent White House job: chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.)
Read the rest:


Sec Defense Gates: US military must retool to fight terrorism

December 5, 2008

In a sign of reforms to come at President-elect Barack Obama’s Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates writes in a new article that he believes the military-industrial complex remains too infatuated with conventional weapon systems and must give greater emphasis to tools better suited to defeating violent extremism and guerrilla insurgencies.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2nd L) shakes hands ... 
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2nd L) shakes hands with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama after Obama announced that he has chosen Gates to continue as Secretary of Defense in his administration, as Vice President-elect Joe Biden (L) and Secretary of State nominee Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) look on during a news conference in Chicago December 1, 2008.(John Gress/Reuters)

“What is dubbed the war on terror is, in grim reality, a prolonged, worldwide irregular campaign – a struggle between the forces of violent extremism and those of moderation,” Gates, the first defense chief to be asked to stay on by a new president from the other political party, writes in the upcoming issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. “Direct military force will continue to play a role in the long-term effort against terrorists and other extremists. But over the long term, the United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory.”

Gates, an outspoken supporter of beefing up American diplomatic might since becoming President Bush’s Pentagon boss in 2006, takes on the entrenched forces in the Defense Department, the Congress, and the nation’s largest arms makers….

By  Bryan Bender
The Boston Globe

Read the rest: