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Robert Gates — a scorecard

Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times looks at some of Robert Gates’ public pronouncements on key issues over the past decade. I don’t know for sure that his sample is representative, but let’s consider how the calls of the Secretary of Defense to-be look now:
1997 – Gates advocates military action against Saddam Hussein
It’s not clear from Scarborough’s article what military action Gates advocated, but it’s hard to argue with Gates’ assessment that “we have known since 1990 that faintheartedness disguised as reasonableness in dealing with [Saddam] is an invitation to further depredations.” Let’s hope that the instinct that produced these words is still alive. GOOD CALL
1998 – Gates warns against transforming the CIA
Gates’ claim that “Americans can take pride in already existing CIA and FBI counterterrorism capabilities” must be considered a BAD CALL.
1998 – Gates says other nations will be soft on terrorism
Gates overstated his case when he predicted that “no other power will join us in a crusade against terrorism.” But he wasn’t far wrong, and he was on-the-money when he said “some ‘friendly’ governments protect their countries against terrorism by cutting deals with the groups.” GOOD CALL
2001 – Gates wants no budget for homeland security office
Before the push for a separate, massive homeland security bureaucracy, Gates did not even want the much smaller operation under consideration to have its own budget. One suspects that this view was based on loyalty to a faction in a turf war. However, the sentiment was probably sound. GOOD CALL
2006 – Gates wants less military involvement in intelligence
Gates criticized Donald Rumsfeld’s initiatives to get the military more involved in intelligence. This looks like pure institutional loyalty to the CIA and strikes me as a BAD CALL.
On the whole, one might surmise that Gates has good instincts and judgment except when the CIA’s interests are at stake.

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