20 Nov '15     home | more politics

Jeb Bush versus Robert Gates

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush this week joined those in the United States who favor sending US ground forces against ISIS. Speaking to a crowd of over 600 cadets, veterans, and faculty members at The Citadel, the military college in South Carolina, he said:

Militarily, we need to intensify our efforts in the air –- and on the ground.

The New York Times describes him as wanting to take out the Islamic State 'with overwhelming force.'

Robert Gates doesn't agree with Jeb. Gates was Director of Central Intelligence under President George Bush Senior and Secretary of Defense under his son from 2006 and under President Obama to 2011. Gates was interviewed by Charley Rose on PBS, broadcast yesterday, November 19th.

Gates doesn't minimize the danger from ISIS, but he told Rose that "The idea of American troops on the ground is probably not a good idea." Rather than ISIS forces marching out of cities like Raqqa and Mosul to do battle, he said, they were likely to blend themselves with inhabitants of the cities and scatter elsewhere. "There is no indication," Gates told Rose, "that the Iraqis would welcome these [US or allied] forces." Apparently thinking of his experience under Bush in 2003 he said that an invasion could turn "people on the ground against us."

"Especially if urgency is what is on your mind," Gates added, there is a problem. He said, "It may take months of organization to get there."

And Gates spoke of the political problem that follows the taking of territory. "Who,' he asked, "is going to provide political follow up?" He was suggesting that those we would think of as having been "liberated" from ISIS rule would not be able to establish a stable government. It wouldn't be like the liberation of France near the end of World War II.

Gates told Rose that "essentially", President Obama's "strategy is right," that gains have been made but that within this context the war "needs to be intensified." Gates has been described as a Republican, but his words run counter to the desire among fervent Republican leaders and presidential candidates to find what opportunity they can to denounce the president and his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

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