Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
A few days ago, the New York Times sketched out who would likely be in an Obama cabinet.
His Secretary of Defense was predicted to be none other than Robert Gates, who currently holds that post under Bush.
Obama should think again.
On Tuesday, Gates expanded the infamous Bush doctrine, saying, “The United States will hold any state, terrorist group, or other nonstate actor or individual fully accountable” for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction.” And the definition of “supporting or enabling” was very broad: “whether by facilitating, financing, or providing expertise or safe haven for such efforts.”
Under this doctrine, the United States should have bombed Pakistan because it gave a safe haven to A.Q. Khan, who was running a nuclear Wal-Mart there.
Under this doctrine, the United States should have bombed Saudi Arabia, because it was financing bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Under this doctrine, Bush could bomb Iran today because Congress has already identified the Quds Force as a terrorist organization, and Iran has chemical and biological weapons.
Maybe that’s the point.
Gates also said the U.S. should “modernize” our nuclear weapons arsenal, while Obama himself talked about the need for nuclear disarmament at least once or twice on the campaign trail.
Many people are voting for Obama because they believe he marks a clean break—“turn the page”—from the reckless and lawless unilateralism of the dismal Bush Age.
Keeping Gates on would be to betray those voters.