Just read a shocking story broken by the Associated Press. Seems that President-elect Barack Obama has asked current Defense Secretary (and former Central Intelligence Agency Director) Dr. Robert M. Gates to stay on at least another year. And like you, my first thought was simple and obvious: Why not me? I mean, it’s like I haven’t asked for a big cabinet job, and running the Pentagon would be sweet. Given Gates’ predecessor, the job can’t be that hard…
Anyway, my second thought was that this was merely another example of Obama acknowledging that he believes the U.S. is an empire that requires a militarized foreign policy, further demolishing Senator John McCain’s campaign rhetoric that Obama will push a socialist agenda once in office. But then I remembered that Secretary Gates is not so easily explained.
Thumbing through New York Times reporter Tim Weiner’s superb 2007 Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, I came across this passage on a key CIA shortcoming that contributed to the failure to identify the 9/11 terror plots and has never really been properly addressed:
“Over the years, the CIA had become less and less willing to hire ‘people that are a little different, people who are eccentric, people who don’t look good in a suit and tie, people who don’t play well in the sandbox with others,’ Bob Gates said. ‘The kinds of tests that we make people pass, psychological, and everything else, make it very hard for somebody who may be brilliant or have extraordinary talents and unique capabilities to get into the agency.'”
For an agency that thrives on secrecy and paranoia, that’s an unusually harsh and thoughtful critique, especially for a former director. Of course, we must also remember that Gates has always tended to tell Congress and the press what they wanted to hear, which probably at least partially explains why there’s never been much call to examine his role in the 1987 Iran-Contra Scandal.
Is it possible Gates might actually be an honest broker in the Obama Administration? Or is he simply a master spymaster, able to read anyone, regardless of ideology and position, and adapt accordingly to keep himself in power?
Then again, the AP story cited above is based on a single unnamed source, which means I may be theorizing for nothing. I don’t know about you, but that somehow reassures me.