November 27, 2006

" and the U.S. government was on 'autopilot'..."

Those who think the appointment of Robert Gates as SecDef means a sellout to the "realists," might want to read this column by Michael Barone. (Thanks to Dafydd.) He took the trouble to actually read Gates' book, and found a lot to think about, and a lot that doesn't jibe with all the speculation..

...Yet Gates also discusses times in which policy had to change course sharply in response to rapid changes in the world, notably during the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. Interestingly, this career government bureaucrat did not find the government bureaucracies of much use in coming up with new ideas. Instead, his impulse was to create small committees of political appointees. In July 1989, he sent Bush a memo citing developments in the Soviet Union and concluding that "we should not be confident of Gorbachev remaining in power."

As Gates recounts in his book: "Bush agreed to the contingency planning I had first considered in the spring, and in September 1989, I asked Condi Rice to gather a group of people and in very great secrecy begin this work. When I met with her to explain the task, I told her that I thought the planning was very important because the situation in the Soviet Union could go bad in a hurry, and the U.S. government was on 'autopilot' when it came to thinking about such dramatic developments. Her group included Dennis Ross at State; Fritz Ermarth and Bob Blackwell from CIA; and Paul Wolfowitz and Eric Edelman from Defense. This group commissioned a number of studies by CIA and used them in reviewing and planning U.S. options. While no such effort can prescribe in detail policies based on specific future events, this work served us to great advantage in dealing with events over the next two years, and especially as the Soviet Union imploded in 1991."...

There's a lot more in the column. It makes me want to read the book, though I kind of doubt I will find the time. Too many books, too few years...

Posted by John Weidner at November 27, 2006 6:45 AM
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