Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Gates: Time is not on Qaddafi’s side, and I’ll quit before putting troops in

Those are the two things that struck me about Defense Secretary Gates’ testimony about the Libyan squirmish before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday. Which side has more time is a subject American military theorists tend to neglect, I suspect in part because it generally works against us. But in this case, Gates says it ...

Jim Legans, Jr/Flickr
Jim Legans, Jr/Flickr
Jim Legans, Jr/Flickr

Those are the two things that struck me about Defense Secretary Gates' testimony about the Libyan squirmish before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.

Which side has more time is a subject American military theorists tend to neglect, I suspect in part because it generally works against us. But in this case, Gates says it favors the Libyan rebels: "I think that the degradation of Gadhafi's military over time does create the circumstances that makes it easier for these people. I mean, we're blowing up his ammunition supplies. He can't resupply from abroad any of the things that have been lost, so it will be difficult for him to recuperate or to restore his military capabilities. And over time, that will -- that should work to the advantage of those in opposition." (Proven provider John McCreary appears to agree, saying in his daily intelligence report that, "The non-family members or the double agents in the Qadhafi regime are leaving." But he also says that support for the rebellion outside eastern Libya is weak.)

Asked by Rep. Hanabusa of Hawaii if American troops are going to be put on the ground in Libya, Gates replied unambiguously: "Not as long as I'm in this job."

Those are the two things that struck me about Defense Secretary Gates’ testimony about the Libyan squirmish before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.

Which side has more time is a subject American military theorists tend to neglect, I suspect in part because it generally works against us. But in this case, Gates says it favors the Libyan rebels: "I think that the degradation of Gadhafi’s military over time does create the circumstances that makes it easier for these people. I mean, we’re blowing up his ammunition supplies. He can’t resupply from abroad any of the things that have been lost, so it will be difficult for him to recuperate or to restore his military capabilities. And over time, that will — that should work to the advantage of those in opposition." (Proven provider John McCreary appears to agree, saying in his daily intelligence report that, "The non-family members or the double agents in the Qadhafi regime are leaving." But he also says that support for the rebellion outside eastern Libya is weak.)

Asked by Rep. Hanabusa of Hawaii if American troops are going to be put on the ground in Libya, Gates replied unambiguously: "Not as long as I’m in this job."

The SASC testimony was kind of boring except for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Pluto) getting confused and asking why the "AC-10" was not being kept in theater. (He was mixing up the AC-130 and the A-10.)

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

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