Reprinted from Jerusalem Post.
Outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is worried about the shape of things to come in US foreign policy. In an interview with Newsweek over the weekend, Gates sounded the warning bells.
In Gates’ words, “I’ve spent my entire adult life with the United States as a superpower, and one that had no compunction about spending what it took to sustain that position. It didn’t have to look over its shoulder because our economy was so strong. This is a different time.
“To tell you the truth, that’s one of the many reasons it’s time for me to retire, because frankly I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a government… that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world.”
What Gates is effectively saying is not that economic forecasts are gloomy. US defense spending comprises less than five percent of the federal budget. If US President Barack Obama wanted to maintain that level of spending, the Republican-controlled Congress would probably pass his defense budget. What Gates is saying is that he doesn’t trust his commander in chief to allocate the resources to preserve America’s superpower status. He is saying that he believes that Obama is willing to surrender the US’s status as a superpower.
This would be a stunning statement for any defense secretary to make about the policies of a US President. It is especially stunning coming from Gates. Gates began his tenure at the Pentagon under Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush immediately after the Republican defeat in the 2006 mid-term Congressional elections.
Many conservatives hailed Obama’s decision to retain Gates as defense secretary as a belated admission that Bush’s aggressive counter-terror policies were correct. These claims ignored the fact that in his last two years in office, with the exception of the surge of troops in Iraq, under the guidance of Gates and then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s foreign policies veered very far to the Left.
Gates’s role in shaping this radical shift was evidenced by the positions he took on the issues of the day in the two years leading up to his replacement of Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. In 2004, Gates co-authored a study for the Council on Foreign Relations with Israel foe Zbigniew Brzezinski calling for the US to draw closer to Iran at Israel’s expense.
Immediately before his appointment, Gates was a member of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. The group’s final report, released just as his appointment was announced, blamed Israel for the instability in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Its only clear policy recommendations involved pressuring Israel to surrender the Golan Heights to Syria and Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria to a Hamas-Fatah “national unity government.”
In office, Gates openly opposed the option of the US or Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear installations. He rejected Israel’s repeated requests to purchase weapons systems required to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. He openly signaled that the US would deny Israel access to Iraqi airspace. He supported American appeasement of the Iranian regime. And he divulged information about Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal and Israeli Air Force rehearsals of assaults on Iran.
A month before Russia’s August 2008 invasion of US ally Georgia, Gates released his National Defense Strategy which he bragged was a “blueprint for success” for the next administration. Ignoring indications of growing Russian hostility to US strategic interests – most clearly evidenced in Russia’s opposition to the deployment of US anti-missile batteries in the Czech Republic and Poland and in Russia’s strategic relations with Iran and Syria – Gates advocated building “collaborative and cooperative relations” with the Russian military.
After Russia invaded Georgia, Gates opposed US action of any kind against Russia.
Given this track record, it was understandable that Obama chose to retain Gates at the Pentagon. To date, Obama’s only foreign policy that is distinct from Bush’s final years is his Israel policy. Whereas Bush viewed Israel as a key US ally and friend, from the first days of his administration, Obama has sought to “put daylight” between the US and Israel. He has repeatedly humiliated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He has abandoned the US’s quiet defense of Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal. He has continuously threatened to abandon US support for Israel at the UN.
Not only has Obama adopted the Palestinians’ increasingly hostile policies towards Israel. He has led them to those policies. It was Obama, not Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas, who first demanded that Israel cease respecting Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. It was Obama, not Abbas, who first called for the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2011. It was Obama, not Abbas, who first stipulated that future “peace” negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians must be predicated on Israel’s prior acceptance of the indefensible 1949 armistice lines as a starting point for talks.
All of these positions, in addition to Obama’s refusal to state outright that he rejects the Palestinian demand to destroy Israel through unlimited Arab immigration to its indefensible “peace” borders, mark an extreme departure from the Israel policies adopted by his predecessor.
Aside from its basic irrationality, Obama’s policy of favoring the Palestinians against the US’s most dependable ally in the Middle East is notable for its uniqueness. In every other area, his policies are aligned with those adopted by his predecessor.
His decision to surge the number of US forces in Afghanistan was a natural progression from the strategy Bush implemented in Iraq and was moving towards in Afghanistan.
His use of drones to conduct targeted killings of terrorists in Yemen and Pakistan is an escalation not a departure from Bush’s tactics.
Obama’s decision to gradually withdraw US combat forces from Iraq was fully consonant with Bush’s policy.
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