The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Reva Patwardhan
(office) 510-849-2272, ext. 112   
(Cell) 510-681-7075

Peace Movement Raises Concerns About Possible Obama Defense Secretary


The Obama transition team is considering Robert Gates as their
Secretary of Defense, and as the idea gains traction, peace groups grow
more concerned.

One of the most salient arguments in favor of a
Gates appointment has been its significance as a gesture of
bipartisanship. Jon Rainwater, Peace Action West's Executive Director,
responds saying that, " Obama's commitment to bi-partisanship and a
desire to have diverse viewpoints in your cabinet is refreshing. But as
smart and soft-spoken as Gates is, Gates is by no means a moderate or a

In addition, Rainwater argued that the most important signal to
send right now is that Obama will deliver on his promise of change on
foreign policy. "No one argues that Gates has not been an improvement
over Rumsfeld. But we are hoping that President-Elect Obama sets the
bar higher than that, and chooses a team that will get behind his
agenda for change, to project a clear new vision on foreign policy.
Keeping Gates on as Defense Secretary would send a very different, and
disappointing, message to the world."

Rainwater continued, stating that, "Gates has been an outspoken
opponent to Obama's withdrawal plan. He famously accused congressional
opponents of the Bush Iraq strategy of 'emboldening the enemy'. It
takes a vivid imagination to picture Gates implementing and
successfully defending a timeline for troop withdrawal."

Mr. Rainwater also expressed concerns regarding Mr. Gates's views
on nuclear weapons. "At a time when former cold warriors like Henry
Kissinger and George Shultz are calling for steps towards a nuclear
weapons free world, Gates has been calling for a new generation of
nuclear weapons."
"What's remarkable about this is that for the last five years, there
has been enough bipartisan opposition to new nuclear weapons programs
that Congress has consistently refused to fund them," stated Rainwater.
"There is a powerful and emerging consensus -- that has included
Senator Obama -- that the US will best serve its security interests by
leading the world towards multilateral reductions in the world's
nuclear arsenals. Gates is instead advocating to essentially continue
the Bush doctrine on nuclear weapons, which thus far has only proven
its potential for revving up a new arms race."
In a clear effort to influence the next administration, Gates has spent
a lot of political capital this fall promoting an aggressive nuclear
weapons policy.

October, Gates released a policy paper co-authored with Energy
Secretary Samuel Bodman that resurrected arguments in favor of a new
generation of nuclear weapons. Gates also gave a bellicose speech
spurning the vision of a nuclear weapons free world that Obama has
embraced. Gates said: "Try as we might, and hope as we will, the power
of nuclear weapons and their strategic impact is a genie that cannot be
put back in the bottle - at least for a very long time."

Rainwater argues: "Gates's approach to nuclear weapons is based on
painting a bleak, fearful picture of threats from China, Russia, Iran
and North Korea. The solution Gates promotes is a revamped U.S. nuclear
arsenal, and he fails to articulate creative arms control solutions to
the nuclear weapons problem."

Peace Action West has been campaigning to urge the President-Elect
to appoint a Secretary of Defense who supports his agenda for change.
In a letter to supporters, Rainwater underscored the need to act
quickly, saying, "We can be sure that right now the Obama team is under
pressure to dial back plans to withdraw from Iraq."

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Peace Action is the United States' largest peace and disarmament organization with over 100,000 members and nearly 100 chapters in 34 states, works to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs and encourage real security through international cooperation and human rights.