Gates Provides Continuity as Nation Fights Two Wars, Obama Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2008 President-elect Barack Obama today cited the need for continuity as the United States fights two wars in announcing that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will remain at the Pentagon when his administration takes over next month.
“At a time when we face an unprecedented transition amidst two wars, I have asked Robert Gates to continue as secretary of defense, and I'm pleased that he's accepted,” Obama said at a news conference in Chicago.
“He restored accountability. He won the confidence of military commanders, and the trust of our brave men and women in uniform and their families,” he said. “He earned the respect of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle for his pragmatism and competence. He knows that we need a sustainable national security strategy, and that includes a bipartisan consensus at home.”
The president-elect said he will tell the secretary to end the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control.
“We will also ensure that we have the strategy -- and resources -- to succeed against al-Qaida and the Taliban,” he said. “As Bob said not too long ago, Afghanistan is where the war on terror began, and it is where it must end.”
Gates thanked the president-elect for his confidence.
“I am deeply honored that the president-elect has asked me to continue as secretary of defense,” Gates said in Chicago. “Mindful that we are engaged in two wars and face other serious challenges at home and around the world, and with a profound sense of personal responsibility to and for our men and women in uniform and their families, I must do my duty as they do theirs. How could I do otherwise?
“Serving in this position for nearly two years, and especially the opportunity to lead our brave and dedicated soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Defense civilians, has been the most gratifying experience of my life,” the secretary continued. “I am honored to continue to serve them and our country, and I will be honored to serve President-elect Obama.”
Obama said the national security challenges facing the country are as grave and urgent as the economic crisis.
“We are fighting two wars,” he said. “Old conflicts remain unresolved, and newly assertive powers have put strains on the international system. The spread of nuclear weapons raises the peril that the world's deadliest technology could fall into dangerous hands. Our dependence on foreign oil empowers authoritarian governments and endangers our planet.”
The United States must be as strong at home as it is overseas, and American economic power must sustain military strength, diplomatic leverage and global leadership, he said.
“The common thread linking these challenges is the fundamental reality that in the 21st century, our destiny is shared with the world’s,” Obama said. “From our markets to our security; from our public health to our climate - we must act with the understanding that, now more than ever, we have a stake in what happens across the globe.
“And as we learned so painfully on 9/11, terror cannot be contained by borders, nor safety provided by oceans alone,” he said.
Obama called for a new dawn of American leadership to face and master the challenges of the 21st century.
“We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends,” he said. “We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships. We will show the world once more that America is relentless in defense of our people, steady in advancing our interests and committed to the ideals that shine as a beacon to the world -- democracy and justice, opportunity and unyielding hope -- because American values are America's greatest export to the world.”
The president-elect also announced his choices for other posts: New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state, Eric Holder as attorney general, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as secretary of homeland security, retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr. as national security advisor and Susan Rice as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.