How To Deal With Iran

Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has a few pointers on handling the Iranians, among them:

Washington should refrain from making any grand overtures to Tehran that could redeem Ahmadinejad’s leadership and increase his popularity ahead of the country’s June 2009 presidential elections. Since assuming office in August 2005, Ahmadinejad has used his influence to amplify objectionable Iranian foreign practices while curtailing domestic political and social freedoms and flagrantly disregarding human rights; his continued presence could serve as an insurmountable obstacle to confidence building with the United States.

He also counsels avoiding heavy-handed rhetoric and focusing on dealing with Khamenei. Read the whole thing.

Gates Stays

It’s all but official now that Robert Gates will be staying on as secretary of defense after Obama takes office.:

[Senior adviser David] Axelrod said Obama enjoys and invites strong opinions and there will be no “potted plants” in his Cabinet. 

Gates has been negotiating with Obama emissaries over his deputies — some will be retained, and some new — and how the Pentagon will be run.

It’s obvious that Richard Danzig will be getting an understudy’s job somewhere in the mix.

I like the move because Gates hasn’t hesitated to crack down on incompetence, particularly in the Air Force. As for those lefties saying that the new national security team looks too hawkish for their taste, they must not have been paying attention. Obama told anyone who would listen that he intends to pivot attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Cabinet Reaction

Tom Barnett likes what he sees so far of Obama’s appointments:

Obama is trying to satisfy in a lot of different directions, and I think it’s a good mix to date. They reflect a true CEO mindset that wants very strong subordinates, and I like a cabinet for America right now that reflects too much agenda and too much leadership rather than too little in either category. I don’t want an America that simply accommodates or surrenders to presumed trends. I want an America that leads as it always has, but does so in a smarter fashion. 

Obama-Gates Courtship

It begins:

A senior adviser to Sen. Barack Obama said Thursday that the Democrat might see Defense Secretary Robert Gates as a candidate to remain at the Pentagon if Obama wins the White House.

We don’t hear any Shermanesque statements coming from Gates:

Earlier this week, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates has not changed his view on retiring.

”The circumstances under which he will stay on are inconceivable to him,” Morrell said. ”But he learned long ago never to say never. And I think that’s still operative today.”

I think this is a good idea for the same reasons Thomas Barnett does:

[Gates] has done a magnificent job of trying to set the Defense Department on the best and most logical path going forward, and if the next SECDEF doesn’t keep up that course, I will be sorely disappointed.

Reply to Lindgren

In reviewing Jim Lindgren’s response to my criticism of his post on a “civilian national security force,” one thing stands out: He never addressed my suspicion that he was unaware of the debate, led by our current secretary of defense, that’s been going on about the need to beef up the civilian, non-military infrastructure for counterinsurgency. 

Jim is right that I came late to his half of the discussion. I read Volokh Conspiracy two or three times a week, and it so happened that July 19, when Jim first posted on the issue, was not one of those days. The lead item for the day happened to be a post on the exclusionary rule that I caught a day or so later, but Jim’s post I missed until he called it to my attention. Nor did I see any of the blog commentary he references.

That said, I’m not late to the discussion Robert Gates has been spearheading. I read both of his key speeches on the issue within a week of their delivery, and had been following the issue via Thomas Barnett’s books and blog well before that.

Reading Jim’s original post, it’s clear he just didn’t have any of that background. He’s genuinely puzzled as to what Obama might’ve meant. 

Now, I can understand why reviewing Obama’s speech might not have cleared things up for him. Watching the video, the line in question is a throw-in, awkwardly delivered over the applause still coming in for the line before it. 

But in context, it made sense. Obama started by calling for an expansion of the Army. He followed by talking about Americorps for a minute or so, and then came back to the national security angle:

And we’re going to grow our Foreign Service, open consulates that have been shuttered, and double the size of Peace Corps by 2011 to renew our diplomacy.

Now have a gander at something Robert Gates said last Nov. 26, in the first of his two key speeches on the issue:

Funding for non-military foreign-affairs programs has increased since 2001, but it remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities. … The total foreign affairs budget request for the State Department is $36 billion – less than what the Pentagon spends on health care alone. Secretary Rice has asked for a budget increase for the State Department and an expansion of the Foreign Service. The need is real.

Despite new hires, there are only about 6,600 professional Foreign Service officers – less than the manning for one aircraft carrier strike group. And personnel challenges loom on the horizon. By one estimate, 30 percent of USAID’s Foreign Service officers are eligible for retirement this year –- valuable experience that cannot be contracted out.

As for the Peace Corps, Obama in essence said he thinks we need about 16,000 volunteers, twice what we have now. So, at one point, did our current president

WASHINGTON — The Peace Corps, the popular service program that President Bush once promised to double in size, is preparing to cut back on new volunteers and consolidate recruiting offices as it pares other costs amid an increasingly tight budget, according to agency officials.

Obama no sooner uttered the phrase “renew our diplomacy” than the crowd started clapping. Over the noise, he said:

We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.

I quoted sections from Gates’ two speeches in my first post on this point, so I won’t bother repeating them. But for fun, and to show that people didn’t just start thinking about this last Thanksgiving, here’s former Bush administration defense Under Secretary for Policy Douglas Feith, from page 158 of his book “War and Decision”:

There was a gross imbalance between the funds Defense had for the war on terrorism and those appropriated to State to fight the ideological battle. The Secretary of Defense made more noise about this gap than the Secretary of State. It was Rumsfeld who time and again commented that it was far more expensive to capture or kill terrorists than to prevent young people from becoming murderous enemies to begin with. 

Again, when you read Jim’s original post you get no clue about any of this background. Instead, he conflates Obama’s “civilian national security force” into a overbearing mandatory service program that would consume the exact same budget as the Pentagon, $585B, “carve another large slice out of the private sector and assign it to the government,” and be “strangely lacking in proportion and simple common sense.”

Now, I make certain allowances for political hyperbole, on both sides, but this is just over the top. You see Bush administration officials call for beefing up civilian contributions to the national defense. You see Obama do the same. I don’t think Gates (or Feith, or Rumsfeld) believes that would take $585B or threaten the very fabric of our society. I don’t think Barack Obama does either.

Rule, Britannia

The Telegraph reports that UK forces won a major battle in Afghanistan to deliver material to a hydro project. Interesting sidelight:

The Chinese-made turbine will be installed as part of a project funded by the American development agency USAID to increase the output of the Kajaki power plant.

Chinese engineers already on the ground will install the equipment, which will boost the capacity of the plant, built in 1975, to three turbines with an output of 51 MegaWatts. Around 1.8 million Afghans are expected to benefit from the project.

Civil-Military Cooperation

The Navy is in the midst of running a sea-borne aid mission to several Central and South American countries. One facet underscores a point Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been trying to make:

While “Joint ops” is all the rage in military circles these days, Continuing Promise takes the concept one step further, embedding civilians from Operation Hope and Project Smile among the multinational stable of military surgeons, dentists, nurses, optometrists, veterinarians, engineers and Seabees from Canada, Brazil, the Netherlands, and the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.