Robert Gates: Defense Secretary's exit interview
Robert Gates will retire this month as the US Defense Secretary. In his 45-year career, he's served under eight presidents. In a Newsweek interview, Gates discusses Hilary Clinton, Osama bin Laden's death, and emerging US isolationism.
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On the fraying of the Transatlantic Alliance:Skip to next paragraph
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Gates expanded his views in answer to a question in Brussels: “What’s changed is the political and economic environment of the United States… You have a lot of new members of Congress who are roughly old enough to be my children or grandchildren. And they do not have the formative experiences that I have had… I am, in the active U.S. government today, essentially the last senior leader who is a product of the Cold War. And I think the kind of emotional and historical attachment that American leaders have had to this [NATO] alliance for nearly 65 years is aging out. Decisions and choices are going to be made more on what’s in the best interest of the United States going forward… My hope is that the fact that reality is changing in the United States will get the attention of European leaders to realize that the drift of the past 20 years cannot continue—not if they want to have a strong transatlantic partnership with the United States.”
On being the last of his kind:
“I think we are very thin on people who have served both Republican and Democratic administrations—thin almost to the point of non-existence. People who have dealt with both sides of the aisle and are trusted by both, whether or not they agree; and people who have experience stretching over multiple administrations. Now Richard Holbrooke is gone, it’s very difficult to find anyone in this administration whose experience in government at any senior level in the national security arena goes back before the Clinton administration.”
“I do worry about who comes after me. When I look back at the people that I think were seminal during my career, people who had bipartisan respect and were regarded as wise men after they left office—guys like George Shultz, Scowcroft, Kissinger. All those people are in their mid-80s, early 90s. Larry Eagleburger, another of that breed and a dear friend of many, many years, has just died. So I’m sort of the youngest who served in multiple administrations. But I don’t see who is coming along behind me, who has that kind of experience, and that worries me.”
John Barry joined Newsweek's Washington bureau as national security correspondent in July 1985. He has reported extensively on American intervention in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq and Somalia and efforts for peace in the Middle East. In 2002, he co-wrote "The War Crimes of Afghanistan" (8/26/02 cover) which won a National Headliner Award. He won the 1993 Investigative Reporters & Editors Gold Medal for his investigation of the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes, as well as a 1983 British Press Award—the British equivalent of a Pulitzer—for his reconstruction of the US-Soviet negotiations to ban intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe.