• When to Speak? Gates Chooses the Coward’s Path

    June 21, 2011

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Military

    Despite their direct connection to our Constitution and our freedoms, particularly the freedom to speak, Federal employees are often the least likely to exercise those rights.

    Enter Robert Gates, or rather, exit Robert Gates. Gates, first as head of the CIA and then as SecDef, played a significant role in America’s naughty actions over the past years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, Horn of Africa… well, the list goes on and it is likely that the list Gates can make is a lot longer than what we know.

    Yet it is only now, as he leaves office, that Gates is willing to speak up. The story in the New York Times is headlined Looking Back, Gates Says He’s Grown Wary of ‘Wars of Choice’.

    Gates has murmurered that war in Libya might not have been such as good idea. NATO sort of sucks these days, too.

    The AP has Gates saying out loud what a lot of people already knew, that the violence in Iraq is fueled by Iran.

    In a summation statement, Gates said:

    “When I took this job, the United States was fighting two very difficult, very costly wars. And it has seemed to me: Let’s get this business wrapped up before we go looking for more opportunities.

    “If we were about to be attacked or had been attacked or something happened that threatened a vital US national interest, I would be the first in line to say, ‘Let’s go.’ I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice.”


    (Insert the sound of one person clapping slowly here, ironic applause.)

    It is easy, standing at the door, to suddenly reveal that all these years have been a mistake, that hey, behind the scenes you were wary of the very wars you publicly led. Gates wants it both ways, to be remembered as a loyal Federal wage slave while at the same time wanting history to record him as having known right from wrong. No doubt he has a book deal in the works where he’ll beat that theme to death for more money.

    That is the easy way out. We will be unlikely to ever know what Gates said in private with any accuracy, and so only have his constant stream of public support to assess him by. Like his predecessor in this kind of thing, Robert McNamara, Gates is a coward. McNamara defended publicly and indeed enlarged the war in Vietnam, killing thousands, while privately holding significant reservations about his own actions. He tried to atone for his sins at the World Bank and through a weepy memoir, but one hopes he died a bitter old man as real penance.

    If Gates had even a modicum of guts he would have spoken up long ago, and been willing to pay the price for it, instead of overseeing so many wars of choice he now says he was wary of. So forgive us if we are unmoved by Robert Gates’ recent statements. We’re sure he meant well.

    And happy belated Father’s Day, Bob.

    (Editor’s note: the title of Van Buren’s book, We Meant Well, is intended to be ironic. No need to write in to complain, citizens.)



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