January 1, 2007  

Change of guard

Donald Rumsfeld’s greatest strengths — his self-confidence, insistence on efficiency, faith in technology and problem-solving practicality — were equally his weaknesses. These are also the strengths and weaknesses of the American way of war. His successor — Robert Gates’ confirmation was pending as this issue went to press — is a Washington insider in a way that Rumsfeld never aspired to be. But a change of face in Washington does not change the facts of Iraq. Gates faces the same tough choices, constraints and challenges.

In this four-part assessment of what new thinking Gates might bring to Iraq and the war on terrorism, Tom Donnelly details those facts of war that are now Gates’ responsibility and looks at the implications of a Democratic leadership in Congress. Andrew Bacevich is pessimistic on Iraq, given that Gates receives from his predecessor "some very lousy cards," but more optimistic that the new secretary can make his mark on the larger war if he focuses on rethinking overall U.S. strategy.

Seth Cropsey argues that Gates has the eminent ability to achieve the nigh-impossible — but not the time. And Ralph Peters concludes the quartet with a letter to the new SecDef that offers seven won’t-wait priorities to be addressed.