Robert Gates was sworn in as the new Defense Secretary today -- and David Martin has some thoughts on the changing of the guard at the Pentagon. -- Ed.
Rumsfeld was a revolutionary; Gates is a super bureaucrat. Whether or not that produces changes on the battlefied, it will almost certainly be felt in the Pentagon. At his last Town Hall meeting with Pentagon employees, Rumsfeld was asked what advice he might have for Gates. The chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Pete Pace, whispered just loud enough to be heard, "Listen to the Chairman." Pace was joking, but one of the themes of Rumsfeld's tenure was the sceptical eye he cast on military advice. It wasn't that he ignored military advice; just that he never accepted it without a fight. If ever there was civilian control of the Pentagon, it was during the six years of Donald Rumsfeld. As soon as he became a lame duck, you could see the military start to throw off its chains. The Army chief of staff, who had been arguing for years in private that the active duty Army could not stand the pace of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan without more help from the Guard and Reserves, went public with his disagreement. The new Commandant of the Marine Corps suddenly became much more vocal about the need to expand the size of the Corps.
In his speech just after he was sworn in as the new Secretary of Defense, Gates said "to all the uniformed military here today, I value your professionalism and your experience. And I will rely on your clear-eyed advice in weeks and months ahead." It's hard to tell whether that was just a pro forma nod to the people who do the heavy lifting or whether it was a deliberate signal to the military that its advice will be heeded. It's even harder to tell whether it will make a difference in Iraq.