Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged military leaders to focus on current needs rather than speculating about possible future scenarios. “I have noticed too much of a tendency towards what might be called Next-War-itis– the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in future conflict.” He wants expensive futuristic weapons put on the shelf in order to focus on wars in Iraq and Afghansitan. He was particularly concerned about comments regarding over-extending American armed forces to such an extent the nation would not be able to handle future conflicts. “The risk of overextending the army is real. But I believe the risk is far greater–to that institution as well as to our country– if we were to fail in Iraq. That is the war we are in. That is the war we must win.”
In a sense, Secretary Gates raises important issues, but he continues the mistake of discussing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of “winning” and “losing” as though the United States is involved in a war with a recognized government. At present, the Bush administration does not have any concept as to what would constitute “victory.” These wars will not be “won” by military action, they will resolved through political and diplomatic actions. Gates discussed problems stemming from Iran supplying weapons to militants even though Iran has excellent relations with the current Iraq government. Engaging Iran on a diplomatic level is part of the solution, not the problem.