12 February 2008

Secretary Gates: Just an Average Schmoe Like the Rest of Us

Recently, the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, dropped by Iraq to give some not-so-awesome news for the US Military:

Gates previously had expressed hopes that conditions in Iraq would permit withdrawals to continue through the end of 2008, until there were about 100,000 forces in the country, but two hours of talks with Petraeus apparently changed his mind. Speaking about Petraeus's desire for a pause, Gates said it "probably does make sense" for a "brief period."

This does not address how badly stretched-thin the military has become, which even the biggest of Bush apologists would find hard to argue. It also gives indications that this war will continue to go on for quite some time But before embittered Americans start taking out their rage on the SECDEF, I would like to remind everyone that he is indeed a public servant, and criticism should probably be levied at the elected leaders that got us into this mess. The current mission in Iraq is to provide stability, security, and capacity building for the Iraqis, and if we need 130K or 15 Brigade Combat Teams, then that's what we need. Where they are going to come from, I'm not really sure.

I'm defending the Secretary because I recently read a ThinkProgress post that indicates he's a regular Joe Six-Pack just like the rest of us (h/t Rock Richard):

A friend recently gave him an electronic key chain, inscribed “The Gates Countdown,” with a small screen reading out how many days remain till the end of the term. He carries it everywhere, in part as a joke but not entirely.

These types of countdowns to the end of your tour are common among all commands in the military. What I've generally seen is an Excel spreadsheet with a picture of a babe on a motorcycle that countdown until the time you're supposed to be leaving to the exact second. I've seen these called "The Countdown to Happiness" or "Never Again!" or simply "FTN" (note: the TN is for "the Navy" and F is for a word ending in "uck" that isn't firetruck) that are replete with pie charts and graphs charting your exodus. So I applaud the Secretary for "keeping it real", and I'm glad he's not the only one a little bitter about his job in the colossal undertaking of our current defense policy.

Another Schmuck in the Suck, Just Like Us!