- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 26, 2011

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates leaves office Thursday popular with the liberal Washington establishment, but not so with conservatives chafed by his budget cutting and his enthusiastic support for open gays in the ranks.

In some ways, Mr. Gates‘ 4½-year tenure under two presidents was one of big achievements but stark contradictions.

He shepherded a surge of combat troops in Iraq under President George W. Bush, then did the same under President Obama in Afghanistan. Yet he delivered a major policy address at the U.S. Military Academy in which he said any future defense secretary who recommends such wars should “have his head examined.”

Mr. Gates opened the door to budget cuts through weapons terminations two years ago, including the Air Force’s most advanced fighter and the Marine Corps‘ next amphibious fighting vehicle. He also wants $100 billion in Pentagon savings and, with his 2012 budget, put the brakes on annual defense budget increases after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The $670 billion plan is $38 billion below last year’s proposal.

Today, Mr. Gates is warning about the cuts he started, as the White House eyes $400 billion in additional reductions after he leaves Washington.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made his final official visit with troops in Afghanistan this month. "Getting on that plane was very hard. Leaving them behind and still in the fight," he said Sunday. "They're so dedicated and so confident, and they're so capable. They're just extraordinary people." (Associated Press)
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made his final official visit with troops ... more >

“I believe Bob Gates is likely to be remembered as the man who enabled the very thing he’s warning against right now, namely, dramatic cuts in the modernization of our forces, the hollowing out of the United States military and a weakening of the United States to project power and be a credible ally in an increasingly dangerous world,” said Frank Gaffney, who directs the pro-defense Center for Security Policy.

“This is the irony of his now Hamlet-esque warnings. Much of this is a direct result of his own tenure, not just what’s going to come next. Barack Obama got the political cover that Bob Gates provided.”

Liberal media love him

But Mr. Gates, a former CIA director who reluctantly returned to Washington to replace the beleaguered Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2006, has many fans in town.

The liberal media have lavished praise for his support of repealing the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military and for not being Mr. Rumsfeld, who regularly chided the press.

It was Mr. Gates who oversaw the daring Navy SEAL mission that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

“He probably gets the highest rating of any defense secretary in living memory,” said Loren B. Thompson, who directs the pro-business Lexington Institute.

“I think Gates is probably as good as it gets. The single most important thing is he presided over a reversal of strategy in Iraq that averted defeat. Now many people will tell you Gates should not get all or most of the credit saving America in Iraq. But the fact of the matter is when he showed up, we were losing.”

Mr. Thompson said Mr. Gates‘ legacy goes beyond war. Mr. Gates began deflating a ballooning Pentagon bureaucracy that was wasting too much money, an especially troublesome burden as Washington grapples with a debt crisis.

“He began the process of reducing waste in the system,” Mr. Thompson said. “After eight years of the Bush buildup, there was a lot of unnecessary spending going on. Gates at least began the process of identifying where cuts could be made. Gates‘ fixing the Pentagon was kind of like [President] Nixon going to China. He had the credibility among hawks to make cuts and make changes.”

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