New Secretary of Defense?

There was something very scary in the rumor mill this last week. Columnist Bill Kristol has speculated that the Obama administration is going to cut and run in Afghanistan. These are not his words, but it is the bottom line of his predictions.

When Robert Gates was selected to continue as SECDEF for the new administration a lot of folks were surprised, myself included. I am not aware of one cabinet officer of a previous administration being held over to the next, new party administration. This says a lot for the capability and, presumably, apolitical stance held by Gates. From outward appearances, the Secretary enjoys the support of his senior military officers. At any rate, he certainly seems to be intent on winning in Afghanistan, despite the ruling party’s penchant to cut-and-run. However, this may be his undoing.

Mr. Kristol has speculated that the OWH is going to reject General McChrystal’s request for additional troops and ask Secretary Gates to resign. The OWH obviously has no experience dealing with professionals. The Secretary and the General are part of a team with a common goal in mind. This does not seem to be the same goal as the OWH.

The first question to come to mind is, why doesn’t he just tell the Secretary to draw down troop levels until they have to pull out? That way the goal is accomplished. But I have a feeling that the Secretary and the General may not go “quietly into the night.” No, these two have too much integrity to dishonor all those brave fighting men and women who have given so much to help the Afghan people. So, what has to happen?

The first thing that has to happen is for Secretary Gates to go away. In his place, needs to be someone who would have no shame in losing a war and a people in the process. This is where not-to-soon-to-cut-and-run former senator Chuck Hagel comes into the picture. Krystal speculates that the OWH will pick Hagel as the new SECDEF. Let’s take a brief look at Hagel’s history. He voted in favor of using troops in Iraq in 2002. However, in 2007, he was one of three Republicans who supported starting the troops home within 120 days of a Senate vote.

Senator Hagel was a decorated E-5 Army sergeant during Viet Nam. One can only speculate on the effect this experience may have had on his feelings toward the Iraq war. But this support for withdrawal certainly brings into question what actions he would take as SECDEF, should he be chosen and confirmed.

Just yesterday (05 Oct), the OWH said, through his press secretary, that he is not anticipating pulling out of Afghanistan. Does that include going against the experts in the field, implementing disastrous tactics, and causing many more casualties? The result of this strategy will be to declare that he is getting us out of Afghanistan to prevent more American lives from being lost.

Chuck Hagel is the perfect fall-guy to implement this strategy. He is a Republican for the liberals to point to, thereby somewhat shielding the OWH from criticism. With Senator Hagel’s demonstrated proclivity for giving up the fight, the blame will flow off the OWH’s back.

But what would be the consequences? The Taliban, al Qaida, and their affiliates only respect strength. It could be argued that US interests really became a target after the Beirut bombing in 1983. The Iranian “students” tested the waters in 1979 but seemed to be unwilling to face newly inaugurated Ronald Reagan. Hezbollah tested the waters again in Beirut and when President Reagan withdrew US forces from Lebanon they knew where our national resolve lay.

Withdrawing from Afghanistan will be no different. Once the Taliban, al Qaida and the rest of the gang sees that our national resolve is just as rubber-spined as always, they will be emboldened to take action where ever they please. This action will not be limited to outside our borders. In just the last two weeks, two plots to create massive craters in two of our cities have been foiled. How many other plots are in the works at this time, just waiting for final arrangements or for the word to come from some coordinator?

I sincerely hope Mr. Kristol is wrong. The consequences of this sequence of events could be devastating.

As always, I welcome your comments/discussion.

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