(The following is an article I wrote in late 2008 in an effort to sound really impressive...)
I love how the right wing commetariat, all around the world, just can't seem to cope with the fact that their neo-conservative demagogues are no longer in power in Washington. In the vacuum that has been created for them these cheer leaders for the now defunct PNAC posse (a.k.a. The Bush Administration) have desperately sought to recast the new order in their own desired image.
Let me give you an example.
Here in Australia, we have a number of columnists who have attended the Bill O'Reilly School of Conservative Charm and Deportment in recent times. One of whom is Greg Sheridan. Now Sheridan, who writes for Uncle Rupert's News Limited (Australian) stable, is a canny journo - one whose articles I read regularly for a single notion that my grandfather once taught me - 'know your enemy'. I don't believe Sheridan is my enemy per se - I mean the guy wouldn't know me from a bar of soap. But on an ideological level...yes I guess I would indeed consider him my opponent.
The Australian's foreign editor Greg Sheridan - A man I respect even though I rarely agree with his opinion.
This week President-elect Barrack Obama announced key appointments to his team that will form the new Administration come January 2009. While just about everyone else in the mainstream and online press were throwing in their own two cents about the Clinton appointment and its significance, I have to say I was less interested in Hilary as I was in the appointment - or reappointment - of Robert Gates as the Secretary of Defense.
Recognizing - belatedly - the disaster that Donald Rumsfeld had increasingly become, George W. Bush in 2006 made, perhaps, the only wise decision he has probably ever made and cut this village idiot loose. Robert Gates was appointed with little fanfare, though much of Washington seemed relieved with the news that a man was appointed who was, quite literally, a world away from the inarticulate rantings of his predecessor.
Robert Gates - The U.S. Secretary of Defense. I have never had a beer with this man.
Robert Gates brought much needed pragmatism to Defense and surprised many with his forthright and infinitely more considered approach to the twin debacles of Afghanistan and Iraq. A nation thoroughly sick and tired of the war saw, for the first time in a long time, hope in a steady, more pragmatic pair of hands in those of Robert Gates.
Gates stamped his own brand on the position of Sec-Def and he wasn't afraid to 'butt uglies' with the Bush Administration over their handling of the war effort either. In 2007 Gates curled the toe nails of many in the Bush White House when he began giving a series of speeches highlighting the limits of military power in conflicts where no military victory is possible.
This week, in the New York Times, David E. Sanger observed that Robert Gates made popular the statistic, quoted by Barrack Obama, that the United States has more members of military marching bands than Foreign Service officers. Sanger elaborated that Gates 'also denounced 'the gutting of America's ability to engage, assist and communicate with other parts of the world''
That Gates seems to favor diplomacy over 'shock and awe campaigns' is significant if for nothing else that it signals the potential for a seismic shift in the relationship between the defense and state departments in the United States.
These are themes that have come to characterize Robert Gates. He is an evolved thinker rather than a testosterone (read Viagra) fueled cowboy with a hard-on who sees lives as chess pieces on a board. One suspects that he has looked deep into his own conscience to realize that the wars both in Iraq and in Afghanistan are failing. That is why Obama wanted him to continue in the job. Obama sees within Robert Gates a man who is above the kind of political partisanship that is an art form of the conservative side in America. He is a thinker, he identifies problems - even those that might be his own and works to solve them.
Now back to Greg Sheridan.
In the Australian this week, Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan had published an article which can only be described as dripping with embittered sarcasm. 'How to control a pack of alpha dogs', it crowed from the sidelines, and continued with by-line that, 'US president-elect Barrack Obama is going to be a terrific disappointment to his left wing supporters, certainly if his national security team is anything to go by'
Sheridan proceeds to give the reader a rundown of the key appointments - through Clinton as secretary of state, General James Jones as national security adviser, Susan Rice as US ambassador to the UN and of course Robert Gates as secretary of defense.
As though he were attempting to re-cast this new national security team as simply more of the same, Sheridan deludes himself into thinking thata) these appointments are the as far to the right as leftist appointments get - therefore he tries to see some sort of legitimacy in them and b) that Obama is going to have a difficult time keeping this - quote 'testosterone charged, super A-list, alpha dog cabinet' in check.
He singles out Robert Gates in particular, painting the incumbent Sec-Def as a Rumsfeld-ish war horse who spearheaded the US troop surge and wants continue in the Iraqi quagmire indefinitely which is just plain wrong. 'Gates has...opposed a precipitate withdrawal from Iraq, wants more troops in Afghanistan and sensibly wants to modernize the US nuclear arsenal' Sheridan writes. Robert Gates has made his position on both Iraq and Afghanistan quite clear - the strategy is not working. Both Obama and Gates are in synergy with one another on that score. There will be a troop withdrawal from Iraq within the first term of the Obama Administration and a refocusing of effort on the real and perhaps only legitimate campaign - Afghanistan.
Gates has made no secret of his opinion regarding where America has gone wrong with respect to both the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts, laying blame at blame at the feet of both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Gates has even been quoted as saying that 'it is almost like we forgot everything we learned in Vietnam'.
I've observed amongst many of those on the right of the commetariat - a curious phenomenon; a kind of inability to function beyond the blinkered prism of left and right. It has been particularly exaggerated in the past year and a half where we have seen the throwing out of office, down here in Australia, one of the most conservative regimes on the planet. And also in America back on November 4th where Obama prevailed to see off the most incompetent Administrations in living memory.
Obama's National Security Team. I have never had a beer with any of these people either.
Right wing commentators have experienced a kind of psychological amputation, where the phantom sensation of having the neo-cons still in power won't leave them. In their inability to rationalize, they project a right wing persona on those ideological opponents, perpetuating a kind of ideological schizophrenia - where these people must be (of the) Right...they've just simply gotta be!
The fact is what has emerged from these appointments, this past week, is that the US will enter 2009 with one of the most centrally balanced national security teams ever assembled. Putting Hilary to one side for a moment (oh how I do wish she had never resurfaced!), the infamous divisions between defense and state look like they will finally be assigned to the dust bin as Obama has put together a team that, potentially, will see an unprecedented level of cooperation between these two most prominent of instrumentalities.
Gates, a former Director of the CIA, himself has become renowned for making the case for increased funding to other departments rather than his own. David E. Sanger, in his New York Times article, observed that Gates acknowledged during the 2007 Landon Lecture at Kansas State University, that 'for many in the Pentagon it was 'blasphemy' for 'a sitting secretary of defense to travel halfway across the country to make a pitch to increase the budget of other agencies.' Sanger writes 'He noted that when Adm. Mike Mullen was chief of naval operations, 'he once said he'd hand a part of his budget to the State Department 'in a heartbeat' assuming it was spent in the right place.'
I fail to see where the charged testosterone is here - the alpha dog mentality. I fail to see it because it does not exist.
It is exactly this kind of gesture from these kinds of people that president-elect Barrack Obama has recognized as being the essential ingredients for a successful administration. For too long the world has endured PNAC influenced, extreme-right focused collective - where it was trendy to have vicious pissing competitions between departments (read defense and state). This collective has steered the United States through a maelstrom of chaos.
A centrist administration, populated by individuals who may be a little to the left or a little to the right will work infinitely more effectively than the Kentucky fried lunacy that has preceded it. These new members of the Obama national security team are aligned more closely to one another on various points of view that will allow for greatly enhanced co-operation and an ability to work through points of difference towards successful outcomes. The more visible example of this - Hilary and Obama - is proof positive of what can happen despite coming from diametrically opposed positions.
The right wing commetariat, whose membership includes the likes of Greg Sheridan, Jan Albrechtson and Piers Akerman down here in Australia, Bill O'Reilly, Brian Maloney and Dennis Prager in America will become irrelevant so long as they continue to trot out their delusions about the right/left divide and attempt to wedge their audience with erroneous character studies that include hormones, personality typologies and canines.
I mean, really...Hilary is not that much of a dog...Dean from Australia is the CEO of the independent think tank Banister's Mind and can be heard sprouting garbage on Red Bar Radio .com (www.redbarradio.com)