Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Gates in trouble with GOP?

Until now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been Washington’s bipartisan heartthrob. But as he settles in with the new administration, suspicion is growing among his old Republican buddies. There is growing belief on the right that President Obama will use him for political cover to slash weapons programs and the defense budget. Push may come ...

587136_090403_GATESB2.jpg
587136_090403_GATESB2.jpg

Until now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been Washington's bipartisan heartthrob. But as he settles in with the new administration, suspicion is growing among his old Republican buddies. There is growing belief on the right that President Obama will use him for political cover to slash weapons programs and the defense budget. Push may come to shove next week if Gates rolls out his tough choices, which likely will cause great pain in parts of the Navy and Air Force -- and in congressional districts that bend metal for warships and fighter planes.

Here is how my old friend (and uber-hawk) Tom Donnelly of the militarily promiscuous AEI puts it:

Until now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been Washington’s bipartisan heartthrob. But as he settles in with the new administration, suspicion is growing among his old Republican buddies. There is growing belief on the right that President Obama will use him for political cover to slash weapons programs and the defense budget. Push may come to shove next week if Gates rolls out his tough choices, which likely will cause great pain in parts of the Navy and Air Force — and in congressional districts that bend metal for warships and fighter planes.

Here is how my old friend (and uber-hawk) Tom Donnelly of the militarily promiscuous AEI puts it:

Obama is going to be cutting defense budgets (and we shall see what happens in Iraq and Afghanistan) and Gates gives him top cover that no Dem can give. Obama needs Gates through this year’s budget, the QDR process and the 2011 budget-build, and these are difficult defense issues that matter a lot more than gays or satisfying any of the party constituencies, because they could jeopardize Obama’s domestic priorities. Gates, for reasons that I cannot quite figure out, has agreed to this Faustian bargain.” 

My bet is that Gates will stay on until about this time next year, and leave when the QDR (Quadrennial Defense Review) is done. By then, I predict, Republicans will be crying, “Bobby, we hardly knew ye.”

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

U.S. President Joe Biden listens to remarks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on May 19.
U.S. President Joe Biden listens to remarks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on May 19.

Russia’s Defeat Would Be America’s Problem

Victory in Ukraine could easily mean hubris in Washington.

Russian and Belarusian troops take part in joint military exercises.
Russian and Belarusian troops take part in joint military exercises.

Russia’s Stripped Its Western Borders to Feed the Fight in Ukraine

But Finland and the Baltic states are still leery of Moscow’s long-term designs.

Electricity pylons are shown under cloudy skies during rainfall near Romanel-sur-Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sept. 15.
Electricity pylons are shown under cloudy skies during rainfall near Romanel-sur-Lausanne, Switzerland, on Sept. 15.

Europe’s Energy Crisis Is Destroying the Multipolar World

The EU and Russia are losing their competitive edge. That leaves the United States and China to duke it out.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announces new European Union energy policies at the bloc’s headquarters in Brussels, on Sept. 7.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announces new European Union energy policies at the bloc’s headquarters in Brussels, on Sept. 7.

With Winter Coming, Europe Is Walking Off a Cliff

Europeans won’t escape their energy crisis as long as ideology trumps basic math.