Robert Gates effectively endorses Obama

Robert Gates, the American Defense Secretary, approved a new national defense plan last month. From the Washington Post:

Gates embraces the “Long War” term that his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, invoked to equate the fight against terrorism with struggles against Soviet communism and Nazi fascism. His strategy, however, departs from Rumsfeld’s focus on preemptive military action and instead encourages current and future U.S. leaders to work with other countries to eliminate the conditions that foster extremism.

In other words, Gates thinks the use of “soft” power is a key to fighting terrorism.

Last week, Barack Obama drew 200,000 admirers to hear him speak in Germany. John McCain is mocking him as a Paris Hilton wannabe for that speech. But take note:  it’s a striking example of the soft power Obama would bring to the White House.

It’s a lot easier for foreign governments to collaborate with the U.S. government when their citizenry is enthusiastic about the U.S. President. And the election of a black President could help the USA mount an appeal to moderate Muslims to take a stand against extremists.

Gates says that the USA should build “collaborative and cooperative relationships” with China and Russia. Contrast this with McCain’s hawkish posture:

[McCain] has also taken a rather exotic line on Russia, which he wants to drum out of the G-8 organization of major industrial powers (a foolish proposal, since none of the other G-8 members would abide by it). His notion of a “League of Democracies” seems a transparent attempt to draw a with-us-or-against-us line in the sand against Russia and China. But that’s the point: McCain would place a higher priority on finding new enemies than on cultivating new friends.

Let’s go out of our way to offend Russia; let’s go out of our way to offend China. That’s the very opposite of deploying soft power.

Gates doesn’t explicitly endorse Obama, of course. But it’s clear that Obama is the better candidate to effect the strategy that Gates thinks is required in the “Long War” against the threat posed by terrorism.


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. fredshelm
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 02:30:34

    The difference between “soft power” and “hard power” people is this: Soft power people think soft power works 100% of the time. It doesn’t. It works 99% of the time, and in that 1%, we must not be afraid to fall back on hard power.

    That Gates says we should prefer soft power is in line with everything everyone has thus far been saying. No one believes soft power isn’t preferable. It’s just not always an option. I’m not sure how you inferred this universal principle to be some sort of endorsement of Obama.

    Besides, after Obama’s comments endorsing a preemptive strike against Pakistan, well, it’s a pretty long stretch to assume a soft power presidency from Obama.


  2. MT from CC
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 04:39:19

    You refer to “Obama’s comments endorsing a preemptive strike against Pakistan” but the reality is that Obama’s comments did not endorse a strike against Pakistan as now constituted, he was not ruling out a strike against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda within Western Pakistan if they are there and/or acting in a destabilizing manner. What is much more interesting and disturbing, it the otherwise bellicose McCain’s pronouncements that reserving the right to launch a strike against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda within Western Pakistan if they are there and/or acting in a destabilizing manner is a bad idea that he is opposed to. I think the only reason he is opposed to it is because Obama is in favor of it.

    Apart from this issue of keeping Gates on, which I think is far from clear with Chuck Hagel available in January, don’t you agree that McCain is looking more and more obstinate and grumpy by the minute — like the grandfather figure he has become — more so even than before, which is saying a lot. He is temprtmentally unsuited for the job. The immediate impact in polls may seem to suggest it this is a good strategy for him, but the long term effect of Obama’s international success juxtaposed against McCain’s juvenile and deceitful attacks will be to tarnish what little independent image McCain has left — he is now fully a Rovian politician — and to elevate Obama even more by comparison. I see a landslide a comin’


  3. Stephen
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 06:15:50

    • fredshelm:
    You’re right, soft power doesn’t work 100% of the time. Gates understands that, and Obama understands it too.

    The prime evidence of that is the evidence you dismiss: Obama’s statements about going after bin Laden in Pakistan, if there’s an opportunity to nail him. That’s good policy — you ought to be cheering him on at that point.

    What you have in Obama is a candidate who wields considerable soft power, but who is prepared to use hard power when it fits the strategic calculation. That’s precisely what America needs in a President.

    Meanwhile, McCain is mocking Obama both for his soft power strengths, and for his hard power stance on Pakistan. I think it’s evident that Robert Gates would agree with Obama, and disagree with McCain, on both points.


  4. mmmmeghan
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 13:56:33

    I love alienating the two biggest countries in the world, the only ones who actually have a chance to dominate us. It’s like the Cold War all over again. Ugh. Anyway, I like this idea of soft power. It’s a new and different direction for us.


  5. commentspage
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 14:30:03

    So now, when, as Obama thinks, he doesn’t need more delegates to be a nominee, he says that the MI & FL delegations should be seated in full and with full voting rights. So he acknowledges that the popular vote is clearly on Hillary’s side – better later than never.

    It’s easy to tell now why is this rush – the polls show clearly that Florida is leaning towards McCain more and more, and Michigan is again a on a table. And in this heat I believe Clinton should use the situation without much hesitation and urge for a roll call during the convention. Let’s see who will get more delegates at the finish.


  6. poliology
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 15:18:16

    The polls aren’t leaning towards McCain in Florida. If you know your stuff, you know that Florida has a popular republican governor, went red the last two elections. According to Pollster, Obama is within .3 % of McCain there. Just wait til McCain keeps talking off-shore drilling too, then it’ll be all Obama. Obama has Michigan by a comfortable 6 points. McCain has nothing for Michigan, once Obama picks his running mate, it won’t even be a conversation.

    The Popular vote never mattered, but I guess since caucuses didn’t matter in the minds of the Hillary people, I guess I can see why the Hills thought the popular vote would.

    If Hillary “called for a roll call” she would cease to matter to the Democratic party in any way, shape or form.


  7. aftonkoren
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 23:36:34

    I didn’t know it was ever possible for a person to “cease to matter in any way shape or form”.


  8. Kim Greenblatt
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 00:08:13

    Hmm, in reference to the previous comments on soft power, consider this:
    It is a lot easier to meet people half way in conversations and let them save face and/or keep their lives. I submit that a lot of world leaders in other nations are just as hamstrung as the American President can be. Sometimes a leader of a foreign nation can’t take a position of compromise because the person behind him is waiting to put a knife in his back. If a President can approach the foreign leader and give them some wiggle room (which is a huge difference from handing them the keys to the kingdom), the leader can start to hopefully be a moderate. If things go nuts you can always excercise the 1% option as mentioned above.


  9. Mike O
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 00:15:26

    When Gates stands up an publicly and specifically endorses Obama, then its an endorsement. Especially since there is no position that Obama won’t change for political convenience; the use of the Strategic Oil Reverve just today, for instance.


  10. Stephen
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 06:24:06

    Whereas McCain is such a pillar of consistency:

    • doesn’t or does support the repeal of Roe v. Wade;
    • doesn’t or does support the Bush tax cuts;
    • sponsored campaign finance legislation and then turned against his own legislation;
    • opposed torture and then supported exceptions for the CIA;
    • anti-ethanol / pro-ethanol;
    • and then there are the various right-wing nutjobs that McCain has repudiated or cozied up to depending on political circumstances (e.g. the good folks at Bob Jones U.).

    Sometimes McCain is so inconsistent from one day to the next that it’s impossible to figure out what his position actually is. For example, on the 16th-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq: he opposed it and then he supported it and then … well, it isn’t clear what his position is now.


  11. Stefan Fobes
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 09:39:16

    I think that Gates, the Iran shiller, is slowly backing off Iran. However, i wrote a debunking the myths about Iran article. A must read.


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