In his Congressional testimony today, Secretary of Defense Gates overstepped his authority and undermined the president’s role as Commander in Chief.
According to the New York Times, Gates first said “What the opposition needs as much as anything right now is some training, some command and control and some organization. It’s pretty much a pick-up ballgame at this point.” But, he continued, providing training and weapons is “not a unique capability for the United States, and as far as I’m concerned, somebody else can do that.”
“As far as I am concerned” is an interesting phrase. Was the secretary speaking for himself, for the Pentagon, or for the president? What if the president determines later that the United States should in fact supply arms to the opposition? Why is Gates speaking out now to foreclose the president’s options? On March 3 he called discussions of a no-fly zone “loose talk,” but it seems that experience has made him more rather than less aggressive in ruling options in and out.
Far worse was Gates’s answer when asked if there would be American “boots on the ground.” According to the Times Mr. Gates replied “Not as long as I’m in this job.”