Interview With Defense Secretary Gates

Interview With Defense Secretary Gates
December 19th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Interview With Defense Secretary Gates

Interview With Defense Secretary Gates
December 17, 2008

Charlie Rose Show (PBS), 11:00 PM
CHARLIE ROSE: Welcome to the broadcast tonight, an exclusive conversation with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Weíll talk about his reappointment by President-elect Obama and the role of the U.S. military around the world.
DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: My biggest concern in Afghanistan is the history of foreign armies in Afghanistan going back to Alexander the Great. As long as the Afghan people see us as their friend and ally, as long as they see us as in this fight for them, as well as for ourselves, then I think weíll be okay. But if we get too many forces in there, if they come to see us as in it for only ourselves and not as their ally and they turn against us, then I think we cannot be successful.
ROSE: Robert Gates for the hour coming up.
Robert Gates is here. He has served as United States Secretary of Defense since December, 2006, when he replaced Donald Rumsfeld. A career intelligence professional, he quickly established himself as a quiet and principled pragmatist. He fired top military brass for mismanagement of the nationís nuclear arsenal and for the conditions at Walter Reed Hospital.
He has argued for a U.S. military that better integrates diplomacy and soft power with hard power. Under his watch, Iraq has become a more stable place, a new U.S.-Iraq security agreement requires U.S. combat troops to withdraw by the end of 2011, but the war in Afghanistan has intensified. Al Qaeda still has a safe haven in Pakistan and the worldís powers are all shaken by the global economic crisis. Last month, President-elect Obama asked Robert Gates to stay on and he accepted. He became the first defense secretary to continue under a newly elected president, Democrat or Republican.
I am pleased, very pleased to have him back at this table. Welcome back.
GATES: Thank you, Charlie.
ROSE: Great to see you.
GATES: Itís good to see you.
ROSE: I assume that from administration to administration, there are fundamental interests of the United States that both recognize. Having said that, whatís going to be different for you?
GATES: Well, for me, I think that, clearly, Iíll be working with a different team of people and I learned a long time ago that the personal relationships matter a lot, more often than not during my career, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense have not been on speaking terms.
ROSE: Yes.
GATES: Which complicates policymaking and so working with a new set of people, I think, will be interesting. The issues remain the same, and I think one of the things that has changed since I was last in government, and certainly, in the í70s and í80s is that, in those days, we would have a crisis and it would flare up, be dealt with and go away. Now, the crises flare up and they stay on the table and they donít go away. And Secretary Rice and I were joking the other day, here we are toward the end of the Bush administration and all of a sudden we have a new issue, one that we havenít dealt with as a country for 200 years, piracy, and all of a sudden, weíre at the U.N., weíve got naval forces involved and so itís the multiplicity of problems around the world and challenges that we have to deal with, and I think that represents a great deal of continuity, unfortunately.
ROSE: Is there a difference in the approach or the style of these two men that you have seen?
GATES: Well, I havenít really had that much exposure to the president-elect yet, but I assume that there will be changes in approach and style, but theyíre both very business-like. They both seem to me to have a good sense of humor and I think I will enjoy working for the president-elect as I have enjoyed working for President Bush.
ROSE: What is the world expecting? What are they asking you about American foreign policy after January 20th and American defense policy after January 20th?
GATES: One of the things that surprised me the most coming back to government was despite the possibility that a lot of people around the world have a more negative view of the United States, I have found that the governments do not and every government that I have visited around the world and Iíve probably visited 50 countries since Iíve been back, ever since Iíve been in this job is eager for a stronger, better relationship with the United States. I think that one of the breakthroughs diplomatically of the current administration has been a dramatically improved relationship with India and as Iíve traveled to Indonesia and various other places, I have found governments eager to continue strengthening their relationship with the United States and working with us.
So the notion that sort of weíve become irrelevant or a secondary importance to many of the nations of the world, I think, is just not true. And so one of the things theyíre expecting and looking for is for us to continue strengthening our relations with them, working with them and, in many cases, helping them.
ROSE: There are Ė we live in a time in which there are a lot of reviews taking place, I assume General Petraeus is doing a review for your eyes looking at the world for a new administration and lots of other people are taking a look and presenting papers for the transition team, for you, both military and civilian. Is there a sense of core message from these?
GATES: Well, I think that, particularly in terms of the reviews as they relate to Afghanistan and thatís where most of them are going on, I think there are certain features that they all have in common and that is that the recognition of the importance that Pakistan plays in success or failure in Afghanistan and the need for us to work closely with Pakistan and to view Afghanistan more in a regional context than in isolation. And so I think that going forward, we will clearly be looking for ways to have a stronger partnership with Pakistan to see if we can help them with some of their economic problems, and at the same time, encourage them to take action in these ungoverned spaces in western Pakistan where the Taliban and al Qaeda and some of these other violent extremists have found sanctuary.
ROSE: We have given them $10 billion in aid. Why havenít they been able to do that in previous time?
GATES: Well, first of all, they have been in the fight. The Pakistanis, I think, most people donít realize, the Pakistanis have lost several thousand men, soldiers killed in this struggle in the western part of Pakistan. They have been in the fight. They withdrew from the fight earlier this year, which, frankly, gave the Taliban an opportunity to surge into Afghanistan and confront Ė one of the reasons thereís been more violence is because the Taliban didnít have to watch their backs. Now, the Pakistanis Ė
ROSE: This was a deal made by General Musharraf.
GATES: Exactly, and it didnít work, obviously, and now the Pakistanis are back in the fight, but they have been an important source of support for us. They Ė almost all of our supplies, about 80 percent of our dry cargo moves through Pakistan to Afghanistan and they have helped provide protection for the convoys.
I think that they have done a lot. They face a lot of problems right now and I think they have come to realize Ė they have always thought of India as the existential threat to Pakistan. I think theyíre beginning to understand that the extremists in the ungoverned spaces in their west have become an existential threat to Pakistan and I think thatís one of the reasons the army is back in the fight and one of the reasons why I hope that we will be able to work closer together in the future.
ROSE: And you have confidence in the loyalties of ISI?
GATES: Well, Iíve had familiarity with ISI going back a long time.
ROSE: Well, brief us on that in terms of what you think of where they are today.
GATES: Well, I think, first of all, they have new leadership appointed by General Kiyani, the chief of army staff and I think they realize, I think the leadership of the country realizes that ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, has cooperated or at least worked with or supported some of these violent groups in the west as a way of trying to keep a handle on them and that they really have to make up their minds now that those groups are a threat, not a hedge and they really have to get into the fight against them as well.
ROSE: Is it the most dangerous place in the world for the United States right now in terms of its potential to deliver consequences more than anywhere else?
GATES: I would say that if there was a place, the way I would say it is that, I think, of all of the Ė the one that is at the top of the priority list, for me, would be Pakistan at this point.
ROSE: I think the president-elect has said much the same, at least heís emphasized that in terms of the way heís talked about it.
So how do you get them to shift their focus from India and that conflict, which was exacerbated by what happened in Mumbai and to focus on the danger at hand of the militants? What is it that the United States can do to encourage them to take those steps and do those things that will allow you to have Pakistan as part of the solution in Afghanistan?
GATES: I think theyíre headed in that direction. I think as I indicated that they recognize the threat to themselves posed by the extremists in the west. As I say, they are in the fight. Part of their problem is the problem we had before Afghanistan and before Iraq and that is we had an army that was basically trained to take on the Soviet army coming through Fulda Gap in Germany for a major conventional war. The Pakistani army is in kind of the same situation. They are trained to deal with the Indians, not with counterinsurgency, and so to the degree we can help them with that based on what weíve learned ourselves and our still learning in Iraq and Afghanistan, then, I think, we can help them be more effective.
ROSE: Can you say that the $10 billion was used well?
GATES: I think it was not a waste of money.
ROSE: They did help capture some al Qaeda members early on in the conflict.
GATES: They have captured and killed more al Qaeda than anybody in the world except maybe us.
ROSE: What will change under the new administration having to do with going after al Qaeda who are protected because theyíre in those areas of Pakistan that are, A, unreachable and B, not under the control of the government?
GATES: Well, I, as I say, I havenít had extensive conversations with the president-elect or the team yet, but my sense is that he regards it as one of his highest priorities to keep going after al Qaeda wherever theyíre located.
ROSE: He stressed that in the campaign.
GATES: Yeah, and I think that continues to be a very high priority for him.
ROSE: Whatís the mission in Afghanistan?
GATES: I think one of the challenges that faces the new administration is, in fact, to decide what our objectives are in Afghanistan, and whether some of our objectives may reach too far into the future in terms of being idealistic and whether we ought to scale back our objectives for the shorter term for the next two to three years in terms of, first of all, preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda and others who would reach out and attack America.
I think everybody agrees thatís got to be our highest priority in Afghanistan to keep it from becoming a safe haven again. But thatís easier said than done and it canít just be a military solution. We also have to help them try and build a government and try to develop their society and to improve their governance.
One of my concerns, in fact, my biggest concern in Afghanistan is the history of foreign armies in Afghanistan going back to Alexander the Great. As long as the Afghan people see us as their friend and ally, as long as they see us as in this fight for them, as well as for ourselves, then I think weíll be okay, but if we get too many forces in there, if they come to see us as in it only for ourselves and not as their ally and they turn against us, then I think we cannot be successful.
So I think the solution for us when all is said and done is we must accelerate the growth of the Afghan army and get the Afghan army in the lead where we are helping them and partnering with them.
ROSE: Is 58,000 troops too many troops, American troops? If you increase it by 20, youíre up to around 58,000. Is that too many? Is that enough to do the job?
GATES: I think that we can meet the requirements of the commander in Afghanistan, our commander General McKiernan for the additional four brigade combat teams and a combat aviation team without tipping the balance, but I think we ought to think after those forces are provided, I think, we should think long and hard before we make any further significant troop contributions in Afghanistan.
ROSE: It is said one of the reasons the Taliban have gained strength is because there was so much corruption.
GATES: Corruption is clearly a problem, and itís a big problem and, in many respects, it is also a function of the narcotics problem. Afghanistan produces about 98 percent of the poppies in the world and basically fills the worldís supply, provides the worldís supply.
So the two are linked together and they are linked with a lack of good governance. Where you have provinces with good governors, there has been great progress in rooting out both corruption and poppy growing. In the south where there have been problems with governance and where the Taliban is the most active, these are the areas where the corruption, narcotics are the biggest problem.
ROSE: Does Iraq teach us anything about what to do in Afghanistan?
GATES: I think we need to be very careful about drawing analogies between Iraq and Afghanistan. I think that Afghanistan is a very different place historically, the challenges are very different, just one basic fact, the revenues of the Iraqi government this year will probably be somewhere in the vicinity of $70 billion. The revenues for the Afghan government will probably be more like $700 million.
Afghanistan is a desperately poor country and when you talk about reconstruction in Afghanistan, itís really a euphemism for construction. Weíre building some of the first paved roads in the history of Afghanistan.
So the challenges, I think, in Afghanistan are more complex than they were in Iraq, nonetheless, the need to pay attention to the tribes, to the provinces and the districts, as well as the central government, the reality that at some point, ultimately, and on the terms of the Afghan government, there has to be some measure of political reconciliation.
I think these things the two have in common, and finally, I think our understanding that you have to combine the civil development, civic development and economic development and building schools and providing medical care and services to the people have to be a partner with military operations and you have to provide for the security of the population.
ROSE: You referred earlier in this conversation to often thereís a conflict between the State Department and the Pentagon. You have seen it up close. It is also true that you have, I think, for the first time in the history of many people at the State Department, called for more money for the State Department and made the point that there are more people in the military bands than there are diplomats around the world.
GATES: Well, I think, thatís pretty much true. The problem is that the civil side of our government, foreign service, the foreign policy side, our aid for international development and those things have been systematically starved of resources for a quarter of a century or more. I first testified actually to get more Foreign Service officers when I was the deputy director of CIA over 20 years ago. We were sending clandestine service officers from CIA out to collect information around the world that any good Foreign Service officer could pick up off the street.
And so this is not a new problem; itís a longstanding problem. I hope that there is a developing bipartisan support in the Congress for significantly greater resources for this side of our government, for the soft side if you will.
ROSE: What is it you want us to understand as you make these speeches and there are common themes in them about how America views the world in the 21st century, the battles, the conflicts, the problems and the ways to settle them?
GATES: I think that we have not provided the resources necessary, first of all, for our diplomacy around the world, and second, for communicating to the rest of the world what we are about, who we are as a people. And so the truth of the matter is, many people around the world when they think of America, they think of Baywatch. They donít think about how religious Americans are. They donít think about how many Americans go to church. They donít know about all of the volunteerism in this country. They donít know about all the positive things that go on in this country and I said in one speech, how is it that the country that invented public relations is being out-communicated by a guy in a cave?
And so I think it is Ė
ROSE: And tell me what your answer is to that.
GATES: Well, I think that we have not devoted the resources to it, but I also think we havenít been very creative. Now, in the last six or seven years, there has been a significant increase in the State Department budget and that should be acknowledged, in fact, I think its almost doubled, but part of the problem is the increased cost of security and inflation and so on has eaten a lot of those resources.
ROSE: Well, we found out when we went to Iraq that we didnít have that many people that spoke the language, did we?
GATES: Well, thatís been a continuing problem for us.
ROSE: Yeah. It is also said about you and your philosophy that Secretary Rumsfeld, you know, believed in Ė was capital intensive with respect to technology and while you respect technology, your emphasis is on human potential and human resources, that thatís going to build the fabric that allow us to play a role in nation building.
GATES: Well, I really dislike many of the invidious comparisons that are made to my predecessor. I think he accomplished a lot of things.
ROSE: I didnít mean that to be invidious, by the way.
GATES: Okay. And there was Ė there has been a significant transformation of the American military over the last six or seven years. The army that we have today is far more expeditionary, far more mobile, far more capable than the army we had when we liberated Kuwait in 1991.
We can get more force overseas faster now than probably at any time in our history. The key though is and some of our generals have said it, General Petraeus has said it, Iíve said it as well, we canít kill or capture our way to victory against many of the enemies we face. There is what we call a kinetic part of it where you do require soldiers and you do have to kill or capture people, but that is not sufficient for success and it is the other side of American power. It is who we are as a people, and frankly, our soldiers, our men and women in uniform are amazing ambassadors for the United States. Thereís a lot of anti-Americanism in Pakistan right now, but when our military went into Pakistan after the earthquake several years ago, they were loved by the Pakistani people. It had a huge impact on the Pakistani people.
When we send our hospital ships around South America Ė
ROSE: It happened after the tsunami as well.
GATES: Or Africa and elsewhere Ė tsunami, you get a tremendous response because this is what America is really about and thatís the part that we need to be better at communicating.
ROSE: You have, in fact, in one of your speeches or in one thing that I read said, you have a new respect for what the Helsinki Accords were about.
GATES: One of the ironies of the Cold War is that the Soviet Union wanted this conference on European security for decades and the United States resisted it, Western Europeans resisted it because they thought it would just codify Soviet control over Eastern Europe growing out of World War II.
We finally agreed to do the conference, but one of the costs that we imposed on the Soviets was they had to agree to what was called Basket Three, which was a series of statements on human rights and how governments should behave toward their people. It was, I think, regarded by a lot of people as nothing but verbiage.
The reality is, though, that it spawned, it sparked the birth of the freedom movement in Czechoslovakia, in Russia, in the Soviet Union itself, throughout Eastern Europe.
ROSE: It sent a message to those people that there was someone who was listening and who supported their aspirations.
GATES: But it also gave them a statement that had been signed by the leadership of the Soviet Union on how governments ought to behave toward their people that they could use against the Soviet government because they had signed it, and people like Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia and Lech Walesa in Poland, both have attested to the fact that those Helsinki documents, that those declarations made all the difference in creating the movement for freedom in Eastern Europe.
ROSE: Is the military on Ė
GATES: So the irony is Ė
ROSE: Yes.
GATES: We fought it, agreed to it. The Soviets wanted it and it helped bring about the end of their empire.
ROSE: One of the things that they say has stained Americaís reputation is Guantanamo, and it is often said, the president-elect has said that he wants to do something about it. President Bush has said that heís not in favor of Guantanamo.
Why hasnít it been taken down? Why hasnít there been a change in Guantanamo? Whatís the problem?
GATES: Well, I think that there are some problems that need to be dealt with, probably in statute to be able to close it. I think that we can provide alternatives to it, but as an example, you probably want something in legislation that says if somebody is freed from Guantanamo, they donít have an automatic right to asylum in the United States. Some of these people are very dangerous and we donít want them coming here into the United States.
I think these problems are solvable, and my guess is Ė
ROSE: So on balance, youíd like to see it Ė
GATES: I would like to see it closed and I think it will be a high priority for the new administration.
ROSE: How long will it take?
GATES: Well, it partly depends on statute. It partly depends on how quickly we can return some of these people, can persuade other countries to take some of these prisoners back. The truth is there are a number of these people weíre ready to release right now, but we canít find a country that will take them back or we canít find a country that we can be sure wonít further imprison them and mistreat them.
ROSE: You have served under seven presidents, correct?
GATES: Eighth coming up.
ROSE: Eighth coming up, 40 plus years you have done this. You had earned the right to go home as Iím sure your family Ė
GATES: Thatís what a lot of my friends told me.
ROSE: Iím sure your family has told you. You accepted this reappointment, for what reason?
GATES: For exactly the same reason that I agreed to do this job in the first place when President Bush asked me with our men and women in uniform at war in two places and with all the challenges that we face around the world. If the President of the United States comes to me and says, I need your help or I think you can help, I donít know how you say no.
ROSE: But itís also said that you were more inclined to do it after the Statute of Forces Agreement had been signed with Iraq.
GATES: No, not really.
ROSE: You donít believe that? It wouldnít have made any difference?
ROSE: Because it made Iraq at that time a question, not of when, but how.
GATES: No, it really wasnít an issue.
ROSE: Okay. Fair enough. When you accepted this job and then you looked at this man you would be working for, President-elect Obama and you knew his positions, it seems to me in looking what you have said in speeches and what he has said on the campaign trail and what he has said in debate and in his acceptance speech in Chicago, that there is a remarkable affinity between how he sees the world and how Robert Gates sees the world.
GATES: I think there are a lot of things in common. I think there probably will be areas where we disagree, but Ė
ROSE: Lay out Ė
GATES: But he has been very clear as he has assembled this team that he wants people who will speak their minds, who will give him a range of views, who will disagree so that he has the opportunity to listen to both sides and make decisions.
ROSE: Well, does the agreement with Iraq makes that easier rather than more difficult?
GATES: Absolutely.
ROSE: Because it sets the time.
GATES: No question about it.
ROSE: The other question is how to do it. Theyíre coming out of there.
GATES: No question about it.
ROSE: As far as you understand it, how many residual forces will be left there after 2011?
GATES: Well, I think that remains to be seen, and first of all, because any forces remaining there after the end of 2011 will have to be there as a result of a new agreement negotiated with the Iraqis. So they will clearly have a voice in how many are there as well.
ROSE: If they say none, itís none or not?
GATES: Thatís absolutely right.
ROSE: Yeah.
GATES: Thatís absolutely right. They are a sovereign country, and if they tell us after the end of 2011, we want you all out, I think we have no choice but to do that.
I think that just in a ball park figure when I think of the support that they likely are going to need for their air force, for their navy, for counterterrorism, for continued training, for intelligence, for logistics and so on, my guess is that youíre looking at perhaps several tens of thousands of American troops, but clearly, in a very different role than we have played for the last five years.
ROSE: And operating in a different role in terms of having no military responsibilities or what?
GATES: I think there would be probably, apart from the counterterrorism role Ė
ROSE: Right.
GATES: Probably no combat role at all.
ROSE: All right. Iran. Thatís one of the areas in which it seems that you and the president-elect have some agreement on, I mean, you have been very clear and you have been involved in Iran all of your life and you have pointed out that Iran was a problem for two presidents in terms of their foreign policy, one, Jimmy Carter, and the other Ronald Reagan and it did not come out well, correct?
GATES: I have said that I have been involved in the search for the elusive Iranian moderate for nearly 30 years.
ROSE: Well, do you think the elusive Iranian moderate exists?
GATES: Not in the government.
ROSE: So, therefore, it makes you come to what analysis of strategy for this government and other governments?
GATES: Well, first of all, they may not be moderate, but theyíre not irrational, and I think that theyíre concerned about preserving their own power and theyíre concerned about preserving Iran. And so I think that there are ways to bring pressure on them to get them to make a rational decision to change their behavior, to change their policies because of the consequences if they donít, and right now, I believe, that the focus should be on the economic and political consequences for them.
ROSE: Can we do that without the help of the Russians and the Chinese?
GATES: They have been helpful, I mean, weíve had, I think, three U.N. Security Council resolutions that they have both supported.
ROSE: Yeah, but theyíve also not supported tougher measures.
GATES: No, but I think that it creates an umbrella under which individual countries can do things with respect to the Iranian economy and we have seen that happen, I donít want to get into specific details, but in terms of making economic life harder for the Iranians, and obviously, the best thing thatís helped us is the price of oil falling from $145 a barrel to $40 some a barrel, because that has cushioned their ability to withstand some of these sanctions, and I think that itíll exacerbate what weíre doing.
ROSE: And it also makes their own citizenry more inclined to question the government.
GATES: Huge young population. Huge percentage of the population under the age of 25. Huge underemployment and unemployment of young people, I mean, they have some real economic problems.
ROSE: What is our goal with respect to Iran?
GATES: I think weíd like an Iran that doesnít threaten its neighbors, that doesnít sponsor Ė
ROSE: By support of Hezbollah and Hamas? What other ways?
GATES: By that, by their sending explosives and weapons into Iraq for extremists. Theyíre doing the same thing in Afghanistan to a much smaller extent, but theyíre still interfering. They engage in subversion throughout the entire Gulf area. We know that they have this nuclear program. I personally believe that their goal is a nuclear weapon. We want them to abandon that. Basically, we want them to be a good neighbor. Thatís all.
ROSE: Is there a military solution to this issue of their pursuit of nuclear weapons?
GATES: Well, I think the way we have framed it in the past has been that weíre keeping all options on the table; obviously, one of those options is the military option.
ROSE: But do we have to do that? In other words Ė
GATES: Well, itís certainly is my hope we do not have to do that.
ROSE: But do we even have to keep it on the table?
GATES: I think we do.
ROSE: They will not move if you donít say, unless you change and the president-elect has used the word unacceptable. Everybody uses the word unacceptable, but might we come to a time in which we have no choice but either use military action or not or to figure out a way to live with a nuclear Iran?
GATES: I donít know anybody in leadership position in the American government now or to come that is willing to contemplate that possibility.
ROSE: And is the issue, in fact, somebody might get their hands on those weapons, not that the Iranian government might use them?
GATES: It is their willingness to potentially provide it to an extremist group, to provide nuclear capabilities to extremists, to provide it to other countries. It is the fact that they have threatened to destroy Israel. It is their interference in Iraq.
This is a country that under, particularly under President Ahmadinejad, has pursued a very radical foreign policy and is a major source of instability in the entire Middle East, from Lebanon to Afghanistan and the notion of a country like that pursuing those kinds of policies having nuclear weapons is difficult to accept.
ROSE: What do you hope will be the relationship between an Iraqi government and an Iranian government?
GATES: I hope that they will behave as good neighbors; frankly, my hope would be that Iraq ends up being an obstacle to the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East and not a bridge. Right now, I think it is very much looking out for Iraqi national interests, Iraqi sovereignty, and I think when Prime Minister Maliki sent troops into Basra, I think they were amazed at the extent of Iranian influence there in the south of Iran and I think it was a real wake up call for the Iraqi government about how much meddling the Iranians were doing.
I think thatís all to the good because when all is said and done, they are Iraqi nationalists.
ROSE: Did they consult with us, the Maliki government, before they did that?
GATES: Actually, no.
ROSE: Were you surprised?
ROSE: And pleased?
GATES: And pleased.
ROSE: Because it showed theyíre prepared to stand up against Iraqis that they thought were meddling in the affairs Ė
GATES: Against the Iranians Ė
ROSE: Well, Iranians and Iraqi Ė
GATES: Iraqis acting at the behest of Iran.
ROSE: Yeah.
GATES: And, you know, we provided them some help once they got started, but the decision to go was Prime Minister Malikiís.
ROSE: Do you have confidence in him?
GATES: I think he has grown a great deal in the job, and itís interesting to listen to some of the governments in the region because a year or so ago, they were unhappy because Maliki was too weak and he wasnít decisive enough. Now, they worry that heís too strong. But I think the neighboring Arab states are beginning to reach out to the Maliki government. A number have now sent ambassadors back. A number have forgiven Saddam-era debt. They are beginning to invite Iraq to meetings.
ROSE: So itís being integrated into a larger Arab world?
GATES: I think it is being integrated into the larger Arab world, and, of course, our argument with the Arabs has been, if youíre worried about Iranian influence in Baghdad, then get your Sunni Arab influence into Baghdad to be a counter and some of them are doing that.
ROSE: Is the Iraqi war a net plus for the United States?
GATES: I think thatís a very difficult question to ask. I think that there is no question that Saddam Hussein being gone is a good thing for the world. My view was before the war when I was out of government that the U.N. sanctions were weakening. There was clearly a huge amount of corruption and graft in the oil for peace program. Every nation in the world basically believed that Saddam was working on weapons of mass destruction. Thatís why the Security Council passed U.N. Resolution, Security Council Resolution 1441.
ROSE: And why was Ė
GATES: Because they believed it.
ROSE: I know, and why did they believe it? And why did intelligence Ė
GATES: Because the irony is he wanted them to believe it.
ROSE: He wanted it because he lived, he wanted the world to be fearful, he wanted his neighbors to be fearful and he wanted his own people to be fearful.
GATES: Exactly.
ROSE: And so, therefore, he was willing to risk an invasion by the Americans who were threatening that unless you come clean, weíre coming.
GATES: I think he thought we were bluffing, and you know, it was interesting in 1990 and 1991 when he invaded Kuwait and we went in to throw him out in January and February 1991. There were multiple, literally tens of branch points where if he had made a decision in another direction, we would not have gone in and with incredible consistency, he made the wrong decision for him every single time. The right decision for us in terms of being able to liberate Kuwait and bringing the world along behind us, I think, even President Bush has said history is going to have to judge Iraq in retrospect. Itís too hot a subject for us to talk about it. Itís too polarizing in this country for us to be able to really evaluate.
ROSE: But are you saying even though you donít talk about it, even though you feel like you canít talk about it because of all the things you just said, you simply donít know yourself, I mean, youíre struggling to understand and have an answer to the question? Or are you simply havenít enough evidence to know the answer?
GATES: I know that as of mid-December 2008, there is no longer a Saddam Hussein. There is an Iraqi government that is more democratic than almost any government, any other government in the Middle East other than Israelís. There is an Iraq that is potentially and is now and potentially in the future, an ally of the United States. You have an Iraq that will not invade its neighbors as Saddam Hussein did on several occasions.
So I mean those factors as of today, I think, are very important.
ROSE: Whatís the negative side though?
GATES: Well, thereís been a huge cost for the American people.
ROSE: Almost a trillion dollars.
GATES: Weíve had Ė the biggest cost is Ė
ROSE: Human life.
GATES: Weíve lost 4,000 soldiers. We have several tens of thousands who have been wounded. So the price has been high.
ROSE: And whatís the lesson? Because you came in 2006 and you said at that time, I have two goals, one is to stabilize Iraq so we can make other decisions, correct?
GATES: My basic goal when I came to this job was to prevent a failure in Iraq because I believed failure in Iraq would have devastating consequences for the United States, in the region and around the world.
ROSE: Do you believe that if you had been Secretary of Defense from the beginning there would have been Ė
GATES: Iím not going to go down that road.
ROSE: Russia. Interesting, you, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State are PhDs in Russian studies.
GATES: And as Iíve said, fat a lot of good thatís done us.
ROSE: What do you think the Russians want? And how do you think we should engage them so that they become a very helpful part of the international community?
GATES: Part of the problem that I think we face today is that when Russia was developing its warmest relations with the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when they cooperated on a lot of different things and basically had a very positive attitude was probably one of the points of greatest weakness in Russia since the very end of World War II when they were devastated.
Putin calls the Conventional Forces Treaty the colonial treaty. He believes that when Russia was down in the early 1990s and mid-1990s, the West took advantage of Russia, that the West exploited Russiaís weakness.
ROSE: Does he have a point?
GATES: I think that, you know, from the Russian perspective, he probably does. I think that, clearly, theyíve been annoyed by NATO expansion, which began during the Clinton administration and now has, I think, nine new members. But it was mainly the lack of what they regard as a lack of respect and deference to their interests that annoys Putin the most in my view, and the problem is now that they have regained their strength, now that they have a strong government again, now that they have stronger finances, itís almost as though they donít know how to play a broadly constructive role as a way of illustrating that they are a great power that is back. Itís sometimes like they feel like they have to put a stick in the wheel to make people pay attention to them and to take them seriously.
ROSE: And thatís what Georgia was?
GATES: And I think thatís partly what Georgia was about. I think the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was their payback for dozens of countries recognizing the independence of Kosovo, but I think it is Ė another aspect of this that I think we probably did not fully appreciate in the early Ď90s was the magnitude of the humiliation of the Russians by the collapse of the Soviet Union because it wasnít just the collapse of the communist regime, it was the collapse of the Russian empire.
ROSE: But there were two superpowers, and they were one of the two.
GATES: Thatís right.
ROSE: And after that, they were not one of the two superpowers, and they were dependent on the West and the United States and others to come help them.
GATES: Yeah, and people referred to them as Upper Volta with missiles, and so Ė
ROSE: Did we make a mistake? Does your friend, Zbigniew Brzezinski has written that that period of time between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the Iraqi war were a series of mis-opportunities to create a new relationship?
GATES: Well, Iím Ė
ROSE: Your area.
GATES: Iím fairly confident we missed some opportunities.
ROSE: To overcome their insecurity.
GATES: Well, Iím not sure you can ever overcome the Russians in security, I mean, Khrushchev shows up at Geneva with Eisenhower in 1955 and heís embarrassed because Eisenhowerís plane is bigger than his, I mean, this is pretty deep-seated stuff and so trying to avoid touching on one of Russiaís insecurities is almost impossible, to avoid doing that is almost impossible.
I think there are some opportunities going forward. The Russians Ė itís a curious mix because there are some areas in which Russia continues to be helpful, Russia, for example, supported the renewal of the U.N. resolution on Afghanistan. Russia is very worried about the drugs coming out of Afghanistan and has been supportive in terms of providing alternative routes for Europeans, in particular, to get equipment and supplies into Afghanistan. There are some areas where Russia has been cooperative.
So I think one of the challenges facing the new administration is figuring out kind of where you push back on the Russians and where there are opportunities to build a closer relationship.
ROSE: Do you have advice for the new administration as to where you push back?
GATES: Well, I think Iíll save that for the new administration.
ROSE: I thought I had you for a moment. You were at least thinking about it.
The foreign minister of Russia was here and I want you to see what he said because itís appropriate to this conversation. Roll the tape.
SERGEI LAVROV (Russian Foreign Minister) (From video.): What we actually need is collective leadership of the key countries and itís reflected in the drive to expand the Security Council of the United Nations. Itís reflected in the drive to expand the G-8 and President Sarkozy of France spoke in the U.N. about bringing five or six more members in the Group of Eight.
Itís a reflection of poly-centric trend of the world development, and this collective leadership would still have the United States as the leader, but it will be a respectful leader, first among equals, not the head of the unipolar world.
ROSE (From video.): First among equals include Russia, China, India, all of them?
LAVROV (From video.): Well, all of the countries who support Ė
ROSE (From video.): First among equals.
LAVROV (From video.): Who support the United States want to resolve the issues, which are important for the entire world, and countries without whom the solution of those issues is absolutely impossible.
ROSE: Do you have anything to disagree with that?
GATES: Well, Iím not sure what the full context was, but I think that thereís a full recognition that we live in a multi-polar world, and that we do need the help of other countries to address most of the main issues that face us.
So thatís the way I would frame it.
ROSE: The other country we havenít mentioned is China. Do you think they have military ambitions?
GATES: I think China wants to be the preeminent power in East Asia. I think they want to be recognized as one of the two or three or four greatest powers in the world.
ROSE: If you look at their economic power, should they be?
GATES: I think that almost by default Ė
ROSE: Yeah.
GATES: They have to be put in that category. Absolutely.
ROSE: They are our largest creditor.
GATES: Thatís true.
ROSE: They have more American debt than any other country in the world and a huge economy.
What ought to be the relationship, I mean, what ought to be, how do you go? Because you have emphasized diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy, I mean, itís almost like that youíre as much prepared to be Secretary of State as Secretary of Defense.
GATES: Well, I happen to be one who believes the Secretary of State is the principle spokesperson for the United States.
ROSE: Having said that, how do we make the relationship with China better? And how do you respond to what their ambitions may be? Are they in conflict with our ambitions?
GATES: I donít think so. I donít think that there is a need for the relationship to be adversarial. I think that there are aspects of it that will be competitive; certainly, in the economic arena, but I think the relationship with China is good and getting better.
So I think that the Chinese-U.S. relationship is in a pretty good place right now, actually.
ROSE: So just pull back for a second now and with a new administration coming on board on January 20th, a little more than a month from now, whatís the outlook for the United States you think in the 21st century? Whatís the challenge for it? How it has to see the world differently than it might have? Because youíve seen it from the position of a CIA director, youíve seen it from the position of the National Security Council and now youíve seen it from the position of a country engaged in two wars at the same time and a country that is now suffering as the globe is, a huge economic crisis.
GATES: Iím very optimistic, actually. I think that, you know, we will work our way of this economic crisis. We will probably do it first because we are probably the most agile in terms of government policy and in terms of the private sector.
I think as I indicated earlier, most governments in the world want a stronger, better relationship with the United States. They want to partner with us. They want to work with us.
So Iím actually very optimistic.
ROSE: And now with this eighth president, how do you see the world differently than you have, say, through most of your career?
GATES: Well, most of my career was during the Cold War where we had the single-minded focus on an existential threat to the United States.
ROSE: And whatís the conflict most likely to be from now on out?
GATES: I think we will not have conflict on that scale except in the ideological conflict with some of the violent extremists, but I do not believe that poses the kind of threat to the existence of the United States that the Soviet Union did or the same kind of threat to freedom around the world.
I think that the opportunities for freedom, for expanding freedom for most of my career were not great as long as the Soviet Union was in existence. The collapse of the Soviet Union created a more open world, in part, because it wasnít shaped by the U.S.-Soviet struggle and I think that what we tend to lose sight of is how many hundreds of millions of people have found freedom since 1991 and I think that process will continue. And how we pursue it is the challenge in the 21st century and how we creatively approach this and how we work with other countries to make it happen.
ROSE: Youíve also said youíve learned some lessons about the limits of power.
GATES: My focus has been, the comments that Iíve made in that vain have been, have surrounded more the unpredictability of war and itís one of the things that makes me very cautious about the use of military power because it always, not sometimes, always has unintended consequences and people who draw up these plans and so on, the plans become worthless the day the war starts and there is great uncertainty that it associates with war.
Weíve seen it in Iraq and in Afghanistan for that matter, and so it makes me cautious about the use of force. Iím not unwilling to use force and I will do so at the order of the president to defend our interests when necessary, but we need to be very careful.
ROSE: Was it William Tecumseh Sherman said Ė
GATES: War is hell.
ROSE: War is hell. I thank you for coming. Itís a pleasure to have you back on this broadcast and we look forward to seeing what happens with the new administration and the new responsibilities.
Having said that and all the praise that youíve been getting from all corners, are they developing a kind of myth of Bob Gates? Because you donít, go ahead Ė
GATES: Youíd have to have been on the other side of that story to be able to take it with a grain of salt. In 42 years, it has not always been this way, and so I think I have a perspective about how quickly that worm can turn.
ROSE: But do you know why it turned?
GATES: Iím probably the least Ė the least able to answer that question.
ROSE: Thank you again.
GATES: My pleasure.
ROSE: Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, for the Bush administration and soon-to-be Secretary of Defense for the Obama administration. We thank you for joining us and thank him again for this hour.

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