The National Intelligence Estimate that was released a couple weeks ago has halted the Bush Administration's agenda to implement a military strike on Iran. It has basically refuted Bush's intelligence reports that Iran has been developing nuclear weapons and it is a threat to U.S. national security - beating the drums of war as Joe Bidden would say. But cooking intelligence has been a mainstay of this administration since 9/11. What happened that all of a sudden truth is beginning to seep out?
Introducing Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense. I was personally very apprehensive of his appointment because of his appointment either meant one of two things; he could have become a puppet for the administration allowing Cheney to be at the helm of the D.O.D. (as was the case when Rumsfeld was there) or Gates would actually assert that he's got a spine and would use his influence by asserting his rational, judicious character he displayed when he was the Director of the C.I.A. back in 1987, although this assessment comes with caution because of his complicit role in the Iran-Contra affair.
Nonetheless, if you recall his confirmation process, many senators had a consensus belief that he would bring change. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post encompassed this belief in his article that he wrote just over a year ago:
And so it came to pass, in the 12th month of the sixth year of the reign of Bush, that a prophet came forth to deliver us from the war in Babylon.
Actually, it was only Bob Gates at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but the rapturous senators seemed to regard the president's second defense secretary as a harbinger of the Second Coming.
The crux of the article is when Milbank points out Ted Kennedy's acquiescence.
The room went quiet as Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who had been questioning Gates, smiled and nodded in agreement. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) joined the nodding, and the smiles spread down both sides of the dais as Gates vowed independence. "I can assure you that I don't owe anybody anything," the nominee promised.
And in November he didn't break from his word emphasizing diplomacy:
This is from a speech he gave in November at Kansas State University which he ironically pledged for more money for the State Department. This coming from the Secretary of the D.O.D.
But, my message today is not about the defense budget or military power. My message is that if we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad. In short, based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former Director of CIA and now as Secretary of Defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use “soft” power and for better integrating it with “hard” power.
Funding for non-military foreign-affairs programs has increased since 2001, but it remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities. Consider that this year’s budget for the Department of Defense – not counting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – is nearly half a trillion dollars. The total foreign affairs budget request for the State Department is $36 billion – less than what the Pentagon spends on health care alone. Secretary Rice has asked for a budget increase for the State Department and an expansion of the Foreign Service. The need is real.
Now over the past year he maintained the same philosophy. In July he issued a letter proclaiming his accordance to Senator Clinton's general contingency for troop reduction, "Such planning is indeed taking place with my active involvement as well as that of senior military and civilian officials and our commanders in the field." Such preparation for a troop reduction, he said, "is not only appropriate, but essential."
And Time has reported that Gates' role as Secretary of Defense has led the Department of Defense to stress the importance of non-military measures to curb Iran's nuclear plan.
However, Gates left no doubt where he stands on how to proceed, saying that the revised NIE shows that non-military measures are the best way to curb Iran's nuclear program. "If anything," he said in Kabul, "the new national estimate validates the Administration's strategy of bringing diplomatic and economic pressures to bear on the Iranian government to change its policies."
Time will only tell if Gates has enough strength to not only curb Iran's nuclear power but do the same to Cheney's.... err I mean Bush's contingency in attacking Iran in Bush's last year in office.