Monday, November 27, 2006

Defense Secretary-designate Robert M. Gates in the past decade opposed big changes at the CIA in the face of terror attacks and expressed doubt that Washington could assemble an alliance of nations against al Qaeda.

His writings, mostly in the op-ed pages of the New York Times, also revealed a former CIA director who was protective of the agency and opposed to intelligence inroads by the Pentagon at the behest of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. He opposed creating a budget line for the White House Office of Homeland Defense after al Qaeda’s September 11 attacks on the United States.

The writings show Mr. Gates to be more cautious and pragmatic than his predecessor, Mr. Rumsfeld, who has transformed the military and aggressively hunted al Qaeda members.

The Senate Armed Services Committee convenes confirmation hearings on Mr. Gates next week. The central questioning promises to focus on how Mr. Gates will change policy in Iraq. The bogged-down war is the reason President Bush nudged Mr. Rumsfeld aside after six years and turned to the Texas A&M University president for a “fresh perspective.”

A sample of Mr. Gates’ views after leaving Washington in 1993:

• He advocated military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 1997 after his regime continued to block U.N. inspectors.

“Surely, we know now that force is the only thing Mr. Hussein understands,” Mr. Gates wrote in the New York Times, a frequent venue for his opinions. “We have known since 1990 that faintheartedness disguised as reasonableness in dealing with him is an invitation to further depredations.” The next year, President Clinton ordered five days of bombings against suspected weapons sites.

• After al Qaeda bombed two American embassies in East Africa in 1998, Mr. Gates warned against a transformation of counterterror agencies, including the CIA.

“The great deficiency in American counterterrorism efforts in the summer of 1998 is not strictures against assassination, nor inadequacies in intelligence and law enforcement,” he wrote in the New York Times. “The deficiency is political and strategic.”

He added, “In truth, Americans can take pride in already existing C.I.A. and F.B.I. counterterrorism capabilities.”

After the September 11 attacks, congressional and independent inquiries found widespread inadequacies in intelligence collection and analysis.

• In the same 1998 New York Times piece, Mr. Gates doubted other nations would join the U.S. in a violent retaliation against terrorists.

“Another unacknowledged and unpleasant reality is that a more militant approach toward terrorism would, in virtually all cases, require us to act violently and alone,” he wrote. “No other power will join us in a crusade against terrorism — in fact, some ‘friendly’ governments protect their countries against terrorism by cutting deals with the groups, allowing them operational freedom.”

The Bush administration contends it has arrayed a long list of allies for fighting al Qaeda, including most European nations as well as predominantly Muslim countries, such as Pakistan.

• A month after the September 11 attacks, he wrote in the New York Times that he opposed giving the homeland security office its own budget. Congress went a lot further, creating a new Cabinet post, with a budget and thousands of employees.

“Some in the executive branch suggest that the office be given its own special budget line,” Mr. Gates wrote. “As a veteran of interagency warfare under six presidents, I believe this wouldn’t work.”

• In May 2006, he wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in which he criticized Mr. Rumsfeld’s initiatives to get the military more involved in intelligence. “More than a few CIA veterans — including me — are unhappy about the dominance of the Defense Department in the intelligence arena and the decline in the CIA’s central role,” Mr. Gates wrote.

Mr. Gates, a career CIA analyst who rose to be its director under the administration of the first President Bush, was so protective of the agency that he opposed Congress’ decision to create a director for national intelligence, who now oversees the CIA.

“I publicly opposed the establishment of the DNI position,” he wrote. “But the change has been made, and we who were in the CIA during its halcyon days must adjust to a new world.”

New perspectives on Iraq are already coming from what could be competing ideas on Iraq. The Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, is due to meet this week to discuss the first draft of a report on Iraq options. But at the same time, the Pentagon is doing its own separate review culminating in Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs chairman, making proposals to the president.

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