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Tuesday, 05 December 2006 06:52

Robert Gates Hearing for Defense Secretary is Much Ado about Nothing: Policy Change Still in Bush's Hands

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Secretary of Defense nominee Robert Gates looked pretty slick in his Senate confirmation hearing today. He readily agreed we are not winning in Iraq, "what we are now doing is not satisfactory," and that we need a new plan that should eventually involve "a dramatically smaller number of U.S. forces than are there today." At times, Gates almost sounds like a Democrat from two years ago.

But don't get your hopes up for any real change resulting from a Secretary Gates. At the end of the day, he will still be subservient to the decisions of Bush, Rove, and Cheney. Already his testimony has shown little substantial departure from the status quo: he thinks timetables would appease the enemy, has no opinion as to when and how to withdraw troops, and has no interest in doing anything proactive to catch bin Laden ("The way we'll catch bin Laden eventually, in my view, is that just as in the case of Saddam Hussein, one of his people will turn him in").

Gates may bring a fresh face to the Bush Administration, but he will hardly present anything original during the very short time he will be in power. Gates himself said today, "frankly there are no new ideas on Iraq. The list of tactics, the list of strategies, the list of approaches is pretty much out there" in the public debate. Gates was actually a member of James Baker's blue-ribbon Iraq commission until his nomination.

Donald Rumsfeld's firing was long overdue; he will not be missed. Gates will probably not be a total clone, but his addition will do little to get our troops home. That decision, at the end of the day, lies with George Bush. The symbolic changing of the guard at the Pentagon is not enough. We need real change now, and we must not be distracted by this red herring.