Sat, 15 September 2012
The address on Wednesday was the second keynote address of ASIS 2012, a gathering of up to 25,000 security professionals organized by ASIS International, which was formerly known as the American Society for Industrial Security, founded in 1955.
On Wednesday, Robert Gates provided insight and analysis of threats to American interests around the world - in relation to Afghanistan, Iran, and China - and also detailed how he expanded the role of the Secretary of Defense in to domestic politics, and how, with Janet Napolitano, as Secretary of Homeland Security, he authorized the NSA to assume jurisdiction over domestic surveillance.
As someone who has dedicated his career to the covert operations of the CIA, Gates expressed continued commitment to the necessity of unofficial and nonmilitary operatives in the service of American military and intelligence. This position is evidenced by the current US strategy in Afghanistan, which Gates drafted and began implementing two and a half years ago, to train an Afghan security force of 100,000 soldiers by 2014 in addition to private security, and a Mining Protection Unit. On Wednesday, Gates said that with this program, he believes that “we finally got the strategy right” in Afghanistan.
Gates provided insight into the possibility of a war with Iran. First, Gates described his meeting in 1979 with then-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Iranian officials in Algiers, in which, following the Iranian revolution, he and Brzezinski refused to give the Shah to the Iranians, as he was being treated in the United States.
Then Gates testified as to why the Iranians may want a nuclear weapon, saying that they “see themselves surrounded by nuclear-armed countries,” and have witnessed the way in which the US military has removed Saddam Hussein, in Iraq, and Muammar Gaddafi, in Libya, from power. By contrast, the US “has been far more cautious dealing with the North Korean regime.”
Further, Gates said the Israelis “feel themselves on a shorter timeline than the US with respect to military action” because of the “geography and history” of Israel, and the rhetoric of the Iranian regime. He stated that, “some elements of the Israeli government.. have been making noises about a potential military strike.. possibly before the US presidential election in an effort to box US President Obama in to supporting it,” naming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barack in particular. Yet, “the Israeli military, however formidable, does not have the capacity to destroy all of the buried nuclear facilities at such a long range,” as “the Iranians have dispersed their nuclear program to multiple sites, many of them in urban areas, many of them deep underground.” Then Gates said, “let there be no doubt - an Israeli attack would be seen in the region and in the Muslim world more broadly as being sanctioned and underwritten by the United States, with the same consequences that would attach to a direct American attack.”
If Israel and the United States do not attack Iran, Gates said, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten Israel and Europe, and “ignite a nuclear arms race” in the Middle East. He did not mention the nuclear weapons program of Israel.
Gates said that the current set of sanctions imposed by the United Nations are “our best chance going forward” to pressure the Iranian leadership to abandon any aspirations for a nuclear weapons program, and that “we must make it clear to the.. Israeli government that they do not have a blank check to take actions which could do grave harm to American vital interests and security in that region.”
In relation to China, Gates said, “The only source of legitimacy for the governing elite [of China] is a steadily improving standard of living that requires nine to ten percent annual GDP growth, and the creation of at least twenty million new jobs every year,” and that “the credibility of the Chinese government and the quiescence of the Chinese people depends on sustaining an economic performance that is fundamentally unsustainable.”
In light of these conditions, Gates said, there is growing nationalism and xenophobia in China, and “[t]hey’re becoming more and more aggressive in pursuing China’s interests and defending exaggerated territorial claims.”
Further, “[w]e can expect more belligerence over the months to come as China looks to an immensely important generational transfer of power,” as “no aspiring leader would want to look weak when it comes to defending China’s interests.” Gates notes that China is investing trillions of dollars in foreign cash reserves in new military capabilities and technologies - “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, anti-satellite weapons, electronic warfare assets” - “which could alter the balance of military power in the Pacific, which has for all practical purposes been an American lake for our navy since the end of World War II.”
On cyber security and NSA expansion
An integral part of the ASIS 2012 conference was (ISC)2 - a concurrent seminar focusing on cyber security. Noting the capabilities of computer viruses such as STUXNET and the “Love bug” to have drastic consequences, Gates stressed the importance of cyber security. He goes on, “One of the keys to any military success going forward is ensuring that information crucial to operations reaches the widest appropriate audience. I know this is one of the challenges [which] the military and industry face working together, namely how to provide the maximum possible protections and information assurance without undermining one of the traditional strengths of the American way of war - just to push data and decision-making down to the lowest possible level of authority - and to do so without a repeat of the Wikileaks fiasco.”
Then Gates described the decision for the NSA - “a military support agency” - to have jurisdiction over surveillance programs in the United States. Citing “very limited assets, capability, and experience” at the Department of Homeland Security,” Gates said that it “isn’t plausible” “to fashion a brand new, ACLU-approved homeland version of the NSA for domestic surveillance and cyber security;” thus, through a memorandum of understanding drafted by Gates and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in the summer of 2010, the NSA support for DHS was approved by President Obama.
As an integral part of the passage and implementation of this surveillance program, Gates noted that, as Secretary of Defense, he established a “good rapport between [himself] and first Secretary Rice and Secretary Clinton,” whereas for most of his public life and career the two positions - Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State - neither spoke with one another nor collaborated.
Category:general -- posted at: 6:40 PM