Journal: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s Preemptive Damage Control [Manipulation of Anticipated Negative Information]
By Robert Haddick August 2009
After appointing Gen. Stanley McChrystal the new commander in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave him two months to write an analysis of the situation there in yet another review of U.S. strategy. But after rumors leaked out that McChrystal would ask for another increase in U.S. troops, it appears that Gates decided he would not wait for McChrystal’s finished report. On Aug. 2, he summoned McChrystal and his deputy, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, to a hastily arranged meeting in Belgium which also included Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, NATO commander Admiral James Stavridis, McChrystal’s direct boss Gen. David Petraeus, and under secretary of defense for policy Michele Flournoy.
On Aug. 5, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell briefed reporters on the results of the unusual Sunday meeting. According to Morrell, Gates instructed McChrystal to consider a few additional, and unspecified, issues in his report. Gates also instructed McChrystal to take more time, likely postponing the delivery of the report into September.
Finally, Morrell explained that McChrystal’s report will not include any discussion or request for additional “resources” (meaning U.S. troops and money) for Afghanistan. If McChrystal wants to make such a request, Morrell said, he will do so separately and at a later time.
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+++++++Phi Beta Iota Editorial Comment+++++++
Secretaries of Defense, however well-intentioned they might be, tend to give precedence to political manipulation of public perception rather than unbiased appreciation of ground truth, which is what commanders are supposed to do and what Secretary Gates asked General McCrystal to do. The reality is that Afghanistan is a mess and will remain a mess because Congress ignored Congressman Charlie Wilson’s requests for peace funding in the aftermath of the war funding that so successfully helped Afghanistan defeat the Russian invasion. Now the Republic is bankrupt, and the dollar will be devalued by 50% in the near term.
It is at this point in the strategic dialog that Secretary Gates must be reminded of his oath to the Constititution and his obligation to the public as well as the President. Manipulating the timing and the content of General McCrystal’s report is an impeachable offense, in our view. It is a repeat of Henry Kissinger’s blatant undermining of the Paris Peace Talks and his heavy-handed manipulation, with General Westmoreland, of the true nature of the opposition being faced in Viet-Nam–an opposition both nationalist and populist, not communist and most assuredly not Chinese.
Below are two illustrations. The first is from our new briefing that includes a segment on information pathologies, the second is the cover of of Michael Hiam’s book,Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars,a real complement to George Allen’s book NONE SO BLIND: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam. To quote Sam Adam’ as recounted in Hiam’s book: “Here we are fighting a guerrilla war, and no one is counting the guerrillas.”
Secretary Gates has lost sight of tthe value of truth to the public good. We pray he will recover his professional intelligence instincts, and get the truth back into the decision process. We would remind him of Ellsberg’s warning to Kissinger:
The danger is, you’ll become like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours” [because of your blind faith in the value of your narrow and often incorrect secret information].
Daniel Ellsberg, SECRETS: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (Viking, 2002). This is his recollection of his words to Henry Kissinger, then National Security Advisor to President Richard Nixon. The three pages on the pathological effects of falling prey to the cult of secrecy, on pages 237-239, should be forced rote memorization for all who receive clearances.