So, Rumsfeld is out. Robert Gates is in.
I have a few quick thoughts, just for starters.
Notwithstanding some interesting and complicated questions about his relationship to the mysterious William Casey, CIA director during the Reagan Administration, Gates is mostly known as a “pure and simple” Right Arabist. (Of course, the same might once have been said about Rumsfeld and Cheney).
As a member of the Baker Iraq Study Group, Gates has already come under fire from Right Zionists like Michael Rubin for favoring engagement with–rather than regime change in–Iran.
[Update: for a sense of Gates on Iran, see his work as co-chair (with Zbigniew Brzezinski) of a Council on Foreign Relations task force, including a July 2004 report entitled “Iran: Time for a New Approach.” Perhaps the best place to start reading is the section on “Additional and Dissenting Views” toward the end of the report. If Gates is a “moderate” on Iran, it is because the report disappoints Iran hawks and doves. A figure like Shaul Bakhash fears that the call for engagement may be perceived as a betrayal of the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. For an old Chevron executive like Richard Matzke–always eager to do business with the Iranian regime–the report is overly alarmist in its depiction of the incumbent regime.]
When he was nominated by Bush Sr. to be Director of Central Intelligence in 1991, the Guardian had the following profile of him (Simon Tisdall, “The CIA’s New Chameleon,” May 16, 1991):
[H]is nomination is not without paradox, and certainly not without controversy. According to a former, senior CIA agent who maintains close links with the organisation, the selection has caused nothing short of “gloom” in the operations branch… “He is viewed by people as a bureaucratic back-stabber, a Casey man. He rose through the ranks by staying in Washington and playing games.”
His more public image is indeed that of the consummate Washington insider. After 25 years with the CIA and the National Security Council, Gates, now 47, rose to become deputy national security adviser, Gen Brent Scowcroft’s right-hand man…
According to Washington sources, Gates owes much to Casey, who elevated him to deputy director in 1986. Subsequently he is said to have become the protege of General Scowcroft, who strongly supported his nomination.
In Iraq, Scowcroft and the Right Arabists are hardly sympathetic to the idea of Shiite rule. Does the Gates nomination mark a restoration for Right Arabist policies in Iraq? A harsh crackdown on Sadr? An anti-Shiite coup?
I was far from certain that Bush’s flirtation’s with James Baker’s Iraq Study Group were genuine. I would say that the Gates nomination tends to suggest that these overtures to the Right Arabists were genuine.
Game over for the Bush administration Neocons.
So, where does all this leave Cheney? I can think of three different pathways for the Vice President in all this:
1, Cheney is about to resign. He will find a reason (health, etc.) and make way for a Vice President (McCain?) who will then use the next to years to prepare for a 2008 run for the White House.
2. Cheney continues to support the Right Zionist position in Iraq, Iran, etc. and will now function as an extremely powerful dissident, sniping at the President for betraying the “freedom agenda,” etc. I find this highly unlikely.
3. Cheney has returned to his former life as a Right Arabist. Rumsfeld was “allowed” to resign in order to pave the way for a decisive policy shift toward re-Baathification, “stability” in Iraq, a government of national salvation, etc. The former policies will forever be linked to Rumsfeld who will take the fall, providing cover for his “young” Padawan, Richard B. Cheney.
I think the third pathway is the one upon which we have now embarked.
On the Democrats
Prior to the election, I emphasized the likely continuities between Bush administration Right Zionist policies in Iraq and Dem Zionist inclinations.
If, however, the Bush administration is returning to the policies of the administration of George H.W. Bush, then Dem Zionists may actually play the role of a true “opposition” movement, much as they did when they battled Right Arabists at the end of Operation Desert Storm.
At this point, many on the Left will feel compelled to decide between backing the Bush administration and rediscovering their own affinities with the Right Zionists.
Better to stay clear of what remains an intra-imperialist factional battle.
Bring the troops home. Now.