TPM's Josh Marshall asks "Why Gates?" Tuesday. Gareth Porter at IPS has been talking to (anonymous, as ever) Obama transition team folks who tell him
November 12, 2008

TPM's Josh Marshall asks "Why Gates?" Tuesday.

Gareth Porter at IPS has been talking to (anonymous, as ever) Obama transition team folks who tell him that the chances of Robert Gates staying on as SecDef "are now about 10 percent".

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that two unnamed Obama advisers had said Obama was "leaning toward" asking Gates stay on, although the report added that other candidates were also in the running. The Journal said Gates was strongly opposed to any timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, and it speculated that a Gates appointment "could mean that Mr. Obama was effectively shelving his campaign promise to remove most troops from Iraq by mid-2010."

Some Obama advisers have been manoeuvering for a Gates nomination for months. Former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig publicly raised the idea of a Gates reprise in June and again in early October. Danzig told reporters Oct. 1, however, that he had not discussed the possibility with Obama.

Obama advisers who support his Iraq withdrawal plan, however, have opposed a Gates appointment. Having a defence secretary who is not fully supportive of the 16-month timetable would make it very difficult, if not impossible for Obama to enforce it on the military.

A source close to the Obama transition team told IPS Tuesday that the chances that Gates would be nominated by Obama "are now about 10 percent".

The source said that Obama is going to stick with his 16-month withdrawal timeline, despite the pressures now being brought to bear on him. "There is no doubt about it," said the source, who refused to elaborate because of the sensitivity of the matter.

As Gareth points out, mainstream opposition to a set timetable has been widespread, with a constant narrative saying that Mullen, Petraeus and Odierno all oppose a fixed timetable and that Obama would wiggle on a fixed timetable to stave of an inevitable conflict with the Pentagon.

But that Pentagon opposition seems to ignoring, or setting aside as beneath their notice, Iraqi statements that there must be a complete U.S. withdrawal by the end of 2011 and the revised "status of forces agreement" which seems to have removed any "wiggle room" without trampling all over iraqi sovereignty in a way that would announce High Noon for insurgents there. Obama, however, is reported to be ready to stand by his campaign promises and the wishes of the Iraqi people.

Obama's website makes no such pledge to "adjust" the timetable. Instead it says the "removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government." It defends the rate of withdrawal of one or two brigades per month and offers to leave a "residual force" in Iraq to "train and support the Iraqi forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism."

When Obama met with Petraeus in Baghdad in July, Petraeus presented a detailed case for a "conditions-based" withdrawal rather than Obama's timetable and ended with a plea for "maximum flexibility" on a withdrawal schedule, according to Joe Klein's account in Time Oct. 22.

But Obama refused to back down, according to Klein's account. He told Petraeus, "Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favourable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential commander in chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security." Obama defended his policy of a fixed date for withdrawal in light of the situation in Afghanistan, the costs of continued U.S. occupation and the stress on U.S. military forces.

Let's hope that Porter's sources are correct, and that the Big Media narrative saying Obama is about to turn away from his promise is just an attempt to "create reality" by the military and neo-whatever establishment.

Crossposted from Newshoggers, video added.

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