How Refreshing: A Secretary of Defense with Common Sense and a Grasp on Reality

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Let’s see what we were missing by being too cheap to pay for (the now extinct) TimesSelect…

Oh, here’s a David Brooks column revealing that the Secretary of Defense rejects several of the main tenets of George W. Bush’s foreign policy. Nice. From a recent Robert Gates speech:

Throughout the messy years that followed, Gates explained, we have made deals with tyrants to defeat other tyrants. We’ve championed human rights while doing business with some of the worst violators of human rights….

Two themes ran through his speech. First, the tragic ironies of history — the need to compromise with evil in order to do good. And second, patience — the need to wait as democratic reforms slowly develop.

Using this logic, Gates would likely argue that we should be actively engaging Iran and Syria, regime’s we don’t approve of, in order to bring order to Iraq. And he would argue that, since “democratic reforms slowly develop,” invading countries unaccustomed to democracy and foisting it upon their people isn’t too bright. What else?

“I don’t think you invade Iraq to bring liberty. You do it to eliminate an unstable regime and because sanctions are breaking down and you get liberty as a byproduct,” he continued. I asked him whether invading Iraq was a good idea, knowing what we know now. He looked at me for a bit and said, “I don’t know.”

Well, that’s just about the most honest thing a high-level Bush Administration official has ever said in public. You might claim that Bush’s best decision in the Iraq War was appointing this guy to be SecDef. You might also claim that Bush’s worst decision was waiting so freaking long.

And wait, Gates isn’t done.

I asked him if it was a good idea to encourage elections in the Palestinian territories. He didn’t directly address the question, but he noted: “Too often elections are equated with democracy and freedom.”

I asked about how we can promote freedom in Iran while taking care of security threats. He emphasized soft power.

It’s official! He’s the anti-Cheney!

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