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Robert Gates and his inappropriate political remarks

By Scott Tibbs, September 2, 2010


(Defense Secretary Robert) Gates visited one of the U.S. military's new advisory brigades in Ramadi, which is in the heart of Anbar province the cradle of the Sunni insurgency against the initial U.S. occupation.

He said history will judge whether the fight was worth it for the United States.

"The problem with this war, I think, for many Americans, is that the premise on which we justified going to war turned out not to be valid," he said. "Even if the outcome is a good one from the standpoint of the United States, it'll always be clouded by how it began."

Two and a half years ago, I came to the conclusion that the war in Iraq was a bad idea from the beginning and supported a drawdown of American military engagement in a way that would ensure the future stability of Iraq. This is one of the few areas where I agree with President Obama.

That said, it is not at all helpful for U.S. soldiers to have the Secretary of Defense talking about how the premise of the war was invalid and that the war (and by extension the soldiers' sacrifice) will be "clouded" by that. I imagine it only serves to demoralize the troops. It is one thing for elected officials and the general public to debate the justification for the war in Iraq, but Gates should know better. This was not a time for political statements.

Even President Obama was gracious to his predecessor in his speech announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq. Gates cheapened himself with political remarks taking a shot at his former boss. Gates should be reprimanded and told that if he wants to make policy pronouncements, he should do so as a private citizen.