Article : Un système irrémédiablement bloqué

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Enter the Grown-Up : Robert Gates ...

Francis Lambrechts


... Sen. Robert Byrd ... asked if he favored attacking Iran ... Gates plunged right in and said, basically, no. “We have seen in Iraq,” Gates replied, “that once war is unleashed, it becomes unpredictable.” The Iranians couldn’t retaliate with a direct attack on the United States, he said, but they could close off the Persian Gulf to oil exports, send much more aid to anti-American insurgents in Iraq, and step up terrorist attacks worldwide.

Byrd then asked about attacking Syria. “The Syrians’ capacity to do harm to us is far more limited,” Gates said, but an attack on Syria “would give rise to a significantly greater anti-Americanism” and “increasingly complicate our relationship with every country in the region.”

... When he was asked if invading Iraq was a good idea in retrospect, he paused, then said, “That’s a judgment the historians are going to have to make.”

When Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the panel’s senior Democrat, asked if the United States was winning the war in Iraq, he said, “No, sir.” Later, when James Inhofe, R-Okla., asked if he agreed that we weren’t losing the war either, Gates replied, “Yes,” but added, “at this point.”

... In short, Gates may well be that entity that Washington has not seen for many years: a truly independent secretary of defense.
“I don’t owe anybody anything,” Gates told Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat, when asked whether he’d be loyal to truth or to power.

... Gates noted that 2,889 Americans had died in Iraq “as of yesterday morning”—a sharp contrast (and, no doubt, an intentional one) to the time when then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz ... did not know how many of his fellow citizens had been killed in the war that he helped put in motion.

... In other words, he was telling the panel: “Anoint me, for I am the anti-Rumsfeld.”

...But the main question, at this point, isn’t about Gates; it’s about Bush. For the past six years, there has been a tendency to blame this administration’s colossal mistakes on Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney, but several former officials have told me that, on many occasions, Bush really has been “the decider.” Soon, Rumsfeld will be gone. Cheney will be isolated. We may find out what George W. Bush really thinks… ( Fred Kaplan, )