interview, outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that he views “wars of choice” with much more caution, a point that he made earlier in the year during a speech at West Point. Gates seemed to reflect the view of many who first protested Bush’s misadventures in Iraq: war is always the last resort and a matter of “necessity,” or self-defense. Gates also suggested that he held back the Bush administration from an unpredictable invasion of Iran:
“If we were about to be attacked or had been attacked or something happened that threatened a vital U.S. national interest, I would be the first in line to say, ‘Let’s go,’ ” Mr. Gates said. “I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice.”
...Even as a trained historian, he said, he has learned most clearly over the last four and a half years that wars “have taken longer and been more costly in lives and treasure” than anticipated.
...In the interview, Mr. Gates was asked to confirm reports of policy duels during the two years before Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney left office, a time in which he was said to have been successful in altering policies or blocking missions that might have escalated into another conflict.
“The only thing I guess I would say to that is: I hope I’ve prevented us from doing some dumb things over the past four and a half years — or maybe dumb is not the right word, but things that were not actually in our interest,” Mr. Gates said.
...Some of the defense secretary’s confidants...confirmed that Mr. Gates prevented provocative, adventurist policies against Iran, in particular, that might have spun into war.