As Long as Gates is SecDef
White House spokesman Jay Carney said yesterday that the defection of Libya’s former foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, to England on Wednesday was a major sign that Qaddafi’s inner circle is falling apart. And Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman, said that Koussa could give allies “critical intelligence about Gaddafi's current state of mind and military plans.”
And that intel could help a great deal, since as Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress, Qaddafi’s military isn’t even close to breaking. Even though allied airstrikes have taken out many targets, the Libyan leader still has ten times more power than the rebels. As Mullen put it: “We have actually fairly seriously degraded his military capabilities. That does not mean he's about to break, from a military standpoint, because that's not the case.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates meanwhile again maintained that Washington did not intend to send ground forces to Libya. In fact, Gates said “as long as I’m in this job,” no boots would be on the ground. He stressed that the rebels needed support, and that the United States is by no means the only country capable of providing it: “What the opposition needs as much as anything right now is some training, some command and control and some organization.” NATO took over full command of the campaign yesterday.
Also in front of Congress yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell said that Washington is quite worried about human rights in China. As he put it, “Recent events in China, including the forced disappearances of rights lawyers and crackdowns on Chinese and foreign journalists, have only further increased our concerns about human rights.” And acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner noted concerns the U.S. has about rights in Iran. He said that Washington “remains concerned with the Iranian Government’s continued persecution of Baha’is and other religious minority communities.”
It seems Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can do very little wrong. According to a recent Gallup poll, a whopping 66 percent of Americans view her favorably. President Obama is down at 54 percent, and VP Joe Biden is at 46. She also outpolled Defense Secretary Gates.
Princeton Lyman will be the new U.S. special envoy to Sudan. Obama cited Lyman’s “lifetime of experience working on some of Africa's most pressing challenges” when making the announcement yesterday. The seasoned diplomat will replace Scott Gration, who will become the U.S. ambassador to Kenya. A pretty natural choice for the post, Lyman worked alongside Gration in the lead-up to the recent Sudan referendum on southern secession.