Frank Gaffney
In this space a few weeks ago, we discussed the peculiar case of outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He has spent the past month warning about where the U.S. security posture is headed if President Obama has his way on further budget cuts, if forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan prematurely and if many of the NATO allies continue to shirk their responsibilities towards the common defense. "Headed south" would be a charitable characterization of his assessment of that direction.

Mr. Gates could not be more right, of course. It is deeply regrettable that all those in the executive branch, the Congress and the press who have, over the years, professed such admiration for him now seem so indifferent to his alarms. That is especially true of the Washington hands who so heartily welcomed the retention of the Bush administration's secretary of defense on the grounds that he was a "centrist," "non-partisan" and technocrat-turned-statesman. Bob Gates, we were assured, would serve as a brake on an untested new president with a record of problematic leftist proclivities. His own words now suggest that the brake was insufficient to the task.

Indeed, like the legendary Dutch boy - whose digits were insufficient for the leaks sprouting in the dike upon which his homeland's survival depended, Bob Gates is clearly frustrated by the lack to date of positive responses to his appeals for corrective action. His anger in a NATO ministerial and subsequent public remarks was palpable, a stark contrast to the stoical, if not flaccid, demeanor that has been his trademark.

Under present circumstances, however, there is not much the lame duck in the Pentagon E-Ring can do. Except that is in one area, one that just happens to bear directly on the future readiness of the U.S. military to fight the nation's wars. It may even prove decisive to the viability of the All Volunteer Force. That viability may, in turn, determine our ability to avoid in the years ahead, as we have for the past four decades, a return to conscription to meet our requirements for warriors in those conflicts.

The issue has arisen thanks to a shameful abuse of power perpetrated in the lame duck session late last year. President Obama rammed through a Congress repudiated at the polls legislation repealing the law that had since 1993 prohibited avowed homosexuals from serving in the armed services. Robert Gates and the also-soon-to-depart Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, played decisive roles in allaying concerns about and otherwise justifying this step. The repeal was conditioned, however, on the defense secretary, the JCS chairman and the president all certifying to Congress that the military was prepared for this change.

Frank Gaffney

Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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