"Gates Is a Straight Talker."
Only by Washington standards. The secretary has an uncanny knack for saying things that get him credit for what he will not do, as defense analyst Lawrence Korb has noted. Gates claimed it's crazy to send ground forces in large numbers to Asia or the Middle East after advocating precisely that in Afghanistan. He said that diplomacy is underfunded compared with defense, but wouldn't surrender funds for the State Department. He said the United States has too many carrier battle groups, but fought to keep them all. He said in his Eisenhower speech that the "gusher" of defense spending that opened after 9/11 had been turned off, while fighting successfully to keep it gushing. He often claims to have saved $330 billion on canceled programs, which is only true if you use very creative math. He just gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute saying that saving money on defense requires re-examining roles and missions -- two days after giving another speech at the University of Notre Dame claiming that all of the Defense Department's roles and missions are essential.
America's combination of wealth, geography, and nuclear weapons makes it the most secure great power in modern history. To be praised as a heroic, truth-telling visionary, a defense secretary should be asked to at least acknowledge that simple fact. Actions reflecting that understanding would be even better.
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