Gates speech may embolden U.S. enemies in Asia, Middle East

March 02, 2011

Taking his cue from the White House, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has shown increasing eagerness to scale back the military. Apparently, the national defense is no longer a priority with him.

Mr. Gates' speech to cadets at West Point last Friday shows the extent to which this thinking has consumed him. "Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or onto the Middle East should have his head examined," is how he put it. No conditions, no ifs, ands or buts, with the strong implication that the American lives lost in Iraq were for nothing, and we would have done better to have left Saddam Hussein in power.

You can argue past policies as you will, but for a U.S. defense secretary to baldly state that there are no conditions under which he and this administration would take up arms against a sizable foreign power is very dangerous talk. In the middle and late 1930s, British government leaders made speech after speech about how they couldn't "afford" even a small war on the continent. Adolph Hitler tested them and found that they were as good as their word. So a maniac who could have been easily contained in 1936 or 1937 or 1938 ended up precipitating a horrendous all-consuming war that resulted in the deaths of many tens of millions.

There are maniacs aplenty in our modern world too, and none of them look any more dangerous than Hitler in 1936. With luck they will all die as frustrated old fools. But to build support, the crazies need to be able to tell their supporters that the world's greatest power will do absolutely nothing to stop them.

They have their man in Secretary Robert Gates.

Jack Wickham, Glen Arm

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