These are not auspicious days for defense secretaries new and old. Incoming Pentagon boss Robert Gates must negotiate the gap between the Iraq Study Group's position and his boss's obdurate refusal to see the implausibility of current strategy for that war. While Iraq must loom large on the Pentagon's agenda for the foreseeable future, there is much more unfinished business from the era of Donald Rumsfeld.
In a federal court of appeals in Washington, DC today, a case has been filed that casts troubling light on the apparent willingness of the United States government to detain innocent men as "enemy combatants" in order to secure international support for its 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Since 9/11, the Bush administration has conjured many enemies for the United States: Brutal dictators ensconced in the desert with their Weapons of Mass Destruction, airplane passengers who carry on baby-food and mascara to their flights. And now salivating hordes of foreign lawyers and judges.
The general understanding -if not the universal practice-is that those on Capitol Hill answer to today's voters, but not tomorrow's. On matters such as global climate change, the consequences are evident. Today's leaders face too small a reckoning for their disregard of ethical obligations to our planet and future generations. Pushing back today's problems, they store up crises for our children.
Oversight is the rallying cry of the new Democrat Class of '06. But there's a danger that the policy area most obviously in need of real accountability- our domestic national security agenda - will get short shrift in the rush to address the Iraq debacle.