When asked during his confirmation hearing today whether the United States was winning the war in Iraq, Robert Gates said simply, “No, sir.” The nominee for defense secretary, who later went on to soften his position, is expected to receive a speedy confirmation.
Update: The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted unanimously to recommend approval of Gates’ confirmation.
At a Senate confirmation hearing that was long on praise for Gates and short on criticism, the man President Bush chose to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld said he is open to new ideas about correcting the U.S. course in Iraq. He said the war would be his highest priority if confirmed as expected.
Gates, 63, said he believes Bush wants to see Iraq improve to the point where it can govern and defend itself, while seeking a new approach. “What we are now doing is not satisfactory,” Gates said.
“In my view, all options are on the table, in terms of how we address this problem in Iraq,” he added. He did not commit to favoring any specific new course, saying he would consult first with commanders and others.
Asked point-blank by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., whether the U.S. is winning in Iraq, Gates replied, “No, sir.” He later said he believes the United States is neither winning nor losing, “at this point.”