Saturday, April 2, 2011

"Not as long as I'm in this job."

I remain in reverential awe of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He epitomizes everything that leadership is about: getting people to follow when they have the freedom to choose not to follow. As President of  Texas A&M University he demonstrated that capability daily. That leadership was on display last Thursday when he stated "not as long as I'm in this job" when pressed by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on whether there will be American troops on the ground in Libya.

It was just four weeks ago that Gates warned his successors against sending large ground forces into the Middle East or Asia ("Defense Secretary warns against fighting more ground wars"). This reminds me of a story I heard about one of his cabinet meetings at Texas A&M. I was not in the room, but I have heard this story from several who were. The meeting occurred just about a week before the second war in Iraq began. Gates was asked whether he thought a second war in Iraq was inevitable. He reportedly said "Yes. It will begin next week and we'll be there for the next fifty years." He was probably right. And his advice to his eventual successor is also probably right.

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