Mike Kueber's Blog

May 17, 2011

The gutsy call

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is arguably the most respected American in public service, and he is preparing to resign next month after five years on the job of directing two wars.  Last night on “60 Minutes,” he had a quasi-exit interview by Katie Couric, the scourge of Sarah Palin.  Katie wasn’t as tough on SecDef Gates, whom she introduced by saying, “You are the ultimate soldier’s secretary.  

During the interview, Gates showed himself to be thoughtful and self-effacing, quite unlike his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld.  Everything Gates said made sense except his homage to President Obama for the assault on bin Laden.  In previous posts, I have suggested that the assault was a no-brainer, and blog readers responded that I was a rank partisan who refused to give credit where credit is due.  Add SecDef Gates to that camp of critics.

Gates, who has 30 years of public service and has worked for seven presidents, called the bin Laden mission one of the most courageous calls by a president.  He explained by noting that they weren’t even sure that bin Laden was in the compound – i.e., they had no direct evidence, only circumstantial evidence.  He also noted that there were consequences if the mission went badly.  And finally, there was the risk of lives.  Gates summed this up by saying, “It was a very gutsy call.”

If I had been Katie Couric, I would have followed up by asking, “If the call were so gutsy, so courageous, what alternative did you or anyone else suggest?  You have already said that, ‘Everybody agreed we needed to act and act pretty promptly.’  So if you needed to act, and the three options were to (1) send in SEAL Team Six, (2) bomb the hell out of the compound, and (3) get the Pakistanis to help with an assault, and you weren’t as gutsy and courageous as President Obama, which were you recommending?”

From the position of a Monday Morning Quarterback, it would be completely irresponsible to involve the Pakistanis, and bombing the hell out of the compound might risk those pilots and would leave an ambiguous inconclusive result.  The guts and courage belong to the SEALS.

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