Monday, February 11, 2008

The Professional

In the Times this weekend, Fred Kaplan provides a must-read profile of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“Here’s another lesson I’ve learned. Two of the presidents I’ve worked for got into trouble because of foreign policy: Carter and Reagan. And in both cases” - Carter with the hostage crisis in Tehran, Reagan with illegal arms shipments to raise money for the Nicaraguan contras - “they got into trouble over Iran.” He half-smiled and cocked his eyebrows.

It was a classic display of the traits that distinguish Gates from his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld: caution as opposed to brashness, attention more to particulars than to grand theory and a view of history as a set of warning bells, not an outmoded mind-set to be transcended. Gates is clearly aware of the comparison. “My favorite cartoon from my confirmation hearings,” he said with a laugh, “shows me holding up my hand and saying, I swear that I am not now, and have never been, Donald Rumsfeld.”

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