Defense Secretary Gates warns against more land wars in Asia

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, February 25, 2011 21:52 EDT
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WEST POINT MILITARY ACADEMY, New York — Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Friday against committing the US military to big land wars in Asia or the Middle East, saying anyone proposing otherwise “should have his head examined.”

Gates offered the blunt advice — hard won after a decade of bitter conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq — in what he said would be his last speech to cadets at the US Army’s premier school for training future officers.

“The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq — invading, pacifying, and administering a large third world country — may be low,” Gates said.

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Gates said.

Douglas MacArthur, the World War II hero of the Pacific campaign, made the comment at a meeting with then-president John F. Kennedy in 1961 regarding US military intervention in mainland Asia.

Gates, a former CIA director, replaced Donald Rumsfeld in the defense job in 2006 as Iraq was spiraling into civil war and the US military appeared to be facing a historic failure.

The change in leadership and a new strategy executed by General David Petraeus helped salvage the situation, and US forces now appear on schedule to leave the country at the end of this year.

But nearly 100,000 US troops are still deeply engaged in another difficult conflict in Afghanistan, once again under Petraeus’ command, with no exit seen before 2014.

Gates said he was not suggesting that the US army “will — or should — turn into a Victorian nation-building constabulary designed to chase guerrillas, build schools, or sip tea.

“But as the prospects for another head-on clash of large mechanized land armies seem less likely, the Army will be increasingly challenged to justify the number, size, and cost of its heavy formations,” he said.

Future US military interventions abroad will likely take the form of “swift-moving expeditionary forces, be they Army or Marines, airborne infantry or special operations,” which Gates said “is self-evident given the likelihood of counterterrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response, or stability or security force assistance missions.”

Gates is set to leave his job this year, and his presentation was a farewell speech to the West Point students.

“We can?t know with absolute certainty what the future of warfare will hold,” Gates said, “but we do know it will be exceedingly complex, unpredictable, and — as they say in the staff colleges — unstructured.”

The United States also has a poor track record at predicting the next conflict, Gates said.

“We have never once gotten it right, from the Mayaguez to Grenada, Panama, Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti, Kuwait, Iraq, and more — we had no idea a year before any of these missions that we would be so engaged,” he said.

Gates praised the army?s “ability to learn and adapt,” which in recent years “allowed us to pull Iraq back from the brink of chaos in 2007 and, over the past year, to roll back the Taliban from their strongholds in Afghanistan.”

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved

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  • Anonymous

    … we roll back the Taliban , then they, like the Tide , roll back …. get the hell out of all of Asia and the Mid-East Yesterday !!! …. Quit propping up the House of Saudi and the state(defense)of Israel . Our insane policies in the mid-east over the past 60+ years has been a disaster . The oil/gas/coal industry has US by the balls . Alternative Energy investment (tax breaks) now , quit subsidizing the oil/gas/coal boys or get used to living under our post-modern Neo-Feudal Overlords . The Pentagon runs on oil . The oil tycoons run the Pentagon . We all Pay , only a relative few truly benefit .

  • Anonymous

    We see the arm chair Law Makers like Grand-pappy McCain and light in the loafers Senator Graham looking to push another War. Rep. Cantor known as the snake is looking to looking for the US to bomb Iran for no reason at all. We have wacko nuts in the Government now as Law Maker and one convicted murder who confessed in his hearing, yes Florida elect yet another nut. Republican/Tea Party wackos are running wild in DC and I don’t blame Obama from staying his distance from them. Aqua Buddha Rand Paul is looking to make as much money as possible before the citizen of Kentucky realize he’s crazy and a fraud. Gates has to speak up over the insanity.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

    Too bad George Bush didn’t have HIS head examined before he led the Nation into endless wars, we cannot win. The dirty criminal.

  • Anonymous

    Only superficial changes in how the military is used as the enforcement arm of the Plutarchy. Nothing will impinge the Pentagon. As we move to a new Secretary of War, mark the fact that Gate’s words are not profound or particularly of any substance which deviates from the Continuance of Policy Doctrine.

  • Roberthe

    So we’ve finally caught up to Eisenhower 50 years after the fact. Once more, the illusion of progress to keep the sedated comfy.

  • dk504

    Well it’s about damn time someone started telling the truth. How about we get out of both wars and get our finances back under control? Since the Iraq war was illegal to begin with?

  • Anonymous

    “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.’”

  • Anonymous

    Where empires go to die.

  • Anonymous

    I say fuck it and let’s do it. Deficits don’t mean shit. Well, that’s what Dickless Cheney said Ronald Reagan proved.

  • gypski®

    Little late for the head examinations Mr. Secretary. And, why fight wars we don’t win? We haven’t really won any of Bush’s wars, we’re still stuck in them.

  • Anonymous

    The only war we won since WWII was in Kosovo, unless you count the one Reagan did. Was that

  • Johnny Warbucks

    “The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq — invading, pacifying, and administering a large third world country — may be low,” Gates said.

    Pacifying? When? Where? I’m listening to Al Jazeera right now and not only are protesters enforced in Iraq but they also just blew an oil pipe. Oops! I guess his idea of pacifying is not my idea of pacifying.

    As for the rest of the article, yeah, he may think that the US ain’t gonna go war mongering for a while but I bet the MIC begs to differs and if he gets in their way, he may die soon of natural causes like a bullet to the head or a knife to back.

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Finances under control? Hmmm… It may be a tad to late for that.

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Naw. It was the one against the air traffic controllers union.

  • Anonymous

    You are looking at warfare from the perspective of one of the human Citizens. Seen from the perspective of a Corporate Citizen, any war you profit from is a war you win.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone else starting to get the feeling that perhaps the uprisings we’re seeing have been, well…engineered, by those promoting them as citizens acting against tyrants and dictators in the name of a democracy many may have never personally known? That perhaps these uprisings are the first step in a very profitable venture?

  • Taleisin

    “We have never once gotten it right,…. we had no idea a year before any of these missions that we would be so engaged,” he said.

    No offense to your fighting men and women but your military leaders are not gold medal winners.
    They have always relied to heavily on superior technology, firepower and numbers on the ground. It worked in WWII but that was a while ago. It is the ignorance that is your military’s weakness. Arrogance, brutalness. Your military leaders display many of the worst traits of man. They are gearing up for at least 50 years of war…

    This announcement from Gates is simply a ‘gear up for more wars’ notice from management.

  • Anonymous

    This will be the end of Obama “supposed rule.”

  • DriveBy

    We need to replace science with Creationism in ALL our schools and we’ll be No.1 once again.

    USA! USA!! USA!!!

    Fox News/US Chamber of Commerce 2012!!!

  • Anonymous

    Some quotes…

    “Gates, a former CIA director,…”

    “…– we had no idea a year before any of these missions that we would be so engaged,…”

    Well, Mr. ex-Director, WHY NOT? And, why all the other intel shortcomings since then such as the fall of the USSR, China’s development of a blue-water naval fleet, China’s dual-use areo-space infrastructure etc etc etc. Given that CIA intel is supposed to predict strategic power shifts as well, how could the U.S. have been led into loosing all control over it’s financial and industrial position relative to China and global speculators without the CIA running around “with their hair on fire” years in advance? It’s not that a lot of outside experts hadn’t predicted those transitions.

    It seems the CIA had no idea that the Mid-East and North Africa was going to blow up either – or at least the administration seemed not to have a clue.

    Background… Out of the Air Force, Gates joined the CIA. “confirmed by the Senate on November 5 (1991), and sworn in on November 6, becoming the only career officer in the CIA’s history (as of 2005) to rise from entry-level employee to Director.” However, “Gates ‘was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment…’ ” …Wikipedia After that, Reagan wanted to appoint him to Director of the CIA, but Congress would not approve because of Iran/Contra, so his nomination was withdrawn.

    In short, Gates has been at the center of U.S. intel since the late ’70s and knows all their is to know about what games are being played and by whom. He influenced, or was at the center of, the transition from HUMINT to satellite/electronic intelligence gathering in the late ’70s which pretty much corresponds with the end of competent intelligence gathering and interpretation by the CIA. Given the abysmal record of foreign intelligence analysis, Gate’s words should be taken more as a reflection of political decisions being made in D.C. rather than any world reality that necessarily dictates them and, as such, those decisions will probably have no more credibility than those of past several decades.

  • Anonymous

    Our bloated military has been sucking the economy dry since the Vietnam Conflict. Not that we don’t need the military, we just only need a much smaller one that we can afford. Maybe then we also wouldn’t be so quick to mess in other people’s affairs and get involved in decades long quagmires.

  • CozmicSeer

    And it only took him how many years to figure this out? He’s either a real slow learner(in which case what the hell is he doing at the head of the Defense Dept.) or he’s performing the typical military CYA because he realizes how wrong they went by staying in Iraq and Afghanistan. If he now acknowledges this, why doesn’t he do the right thing? Get the troops out of there and reduce military expenditures before this country goes bankrupt trying to support it..

    In the future, if a group of people attack us similar to what happened on 9-11, track down and then capture those people who were involved in it using a Letter of Marque and Reprisal, a Constitutional solution for situations like this. You don’t need an army to do that and the lives of our soldiers and the huge associated costs can be avoided from the start.

  • BuzzCoastin

    Vizzini: You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line”! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…
    Vizzini stops suddenly,his smile frozen on his face and falls to the right out of camera, dead.
    The Princes Bride

  • Anonymous

    This article is from theonion.com … right ?

  • Anonymous

    Don’t believe this Guy is a Pacifist. Why was he selected By Cheney-Bush in the first Place?

    He wants to upgrade the War on terror ( Perpetual War of Full expectrum Dominance) to Wireless (Air Raids) or by using More foreigh troops AKA Mercenaries or Domestic ones.

    By the way some are specting another false flag coming soon to teathers:


  • Anonymous


  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6VIII2XPU4HUPLANTLEJGSYN7A jARED

    As long as the defense industry can profit off of making and selling ammunition, then we have to have somewhere to use it. I’m no pacifist, but let’s be pragmatic. All the most easily extracted fossil fuels are on Asian land. Do you see anyone making any real efforts to curb the military and industrial use of fossil fuels? Mr. Gates can try to salvage his legacy, but as long as 2+2=4, it’s pretty obvious what the future holds.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U4CB4JMBKUBO6NL2RNREZDZUEA Freeky_Fried_Chicken

    I said war there would be crazy in Sept of 2001.

    Maybe you fascist assklownz should hire me as a consultant.

    P.S. – No 4-year degree, either.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U4CB4JMBKUBO6NL2RNREZDZUEA Freeky_Fried_Chicken

    We’re building sand castles at low tide; as soon as we pull out, the tide will come in and there will be no sign we were ever there except for the fattened wallets of the MIC.

  • YeaSayer

    Meanwhile Gates is working on military options to save Libya while simultaneously American forces are killing protesters in Iraq. Go get your head examined, Mr. Gates.

  • DriveBy

    Not to worry… there’s always oily Venezuela….oily Brazil… oily Nigeria…. oily South Sudan….. There’s a lot of world left even without Asia and the Middle East and you can be sure that the MIC will find “a threat to our national security” somewhere out there.

  • ghostof911

    War criminal BHO needs the contributions from the weapons manufacturers for his reelection campaign.

  • ghostof911

    You’re missing the point. It is not at all about winning or losing, It’s about profits for the war machine. Endless wars = endless profits for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumann, Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton…

    What is it about this that you do not understand?

  • ghostof911

    Rayguns also won his war against AIDS victims.

    As America remembers the life of Ronald Reagan, it must never forget his shameful abdication of leadership in the fight against AIDS. History may ultimately judge his presidency by the thousands who have and will die of AIDS.


  • ghostof911

    From the beginning of time, the only purpose of war was $$$ profit for the ruling elites.

  • ghostof911

    You do not understand the politics of the US military leadership. The sole objective is to secure high priced lobbyist positions for the weapons manufacturers when they retire. Those who can generate the biggest profits for Lockheed Martin, etc. by exploding the most bombs will get the best positions.

    It is really that simple.

  • Anonymous

    By all means light this sucker up. Lets blow the pop stand. If not us who?. If not now, when?

  • Taleisin

    As it is you, O ghost, I have no doubt you are right. How sad and pathetic.
    Mind you, your military has a reputation overseas, and it isn’t very good..

  • Johnny Warbucks

    Well, Amerikans have a very good philosophy in life: put your hand over your eyes so don’t have to see the sun and declare that it doesn’t exist because you can’t see it.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/3ETFGMQ3B7VD4AAMILBBEVMCWE JasonA

    I missed nothing fool. I consistently denounce corporate greed and influence. Stop flapping your gums please. And save the pointless lecture.

  • Anonymous

    @BuzzCoastin, many people do not realize that the scene you quote is only one of many that arguably make The Princess Bride the BEST MOVIE EVER.

  • Anonymous

    “The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq — invading, pacifying, and administering a large third world country — may be low,” Gates said.

    uh…. North Korea, anyone?

  • Anonymous

    I’m not defending Gates, but your assertion is frankly uninformed to say the least. How in the hell is the situation with North Korea remotely related? They don’t have the petrochemical resources that we typically go to war over. (Yes, minerals,etc but not oil). They also are implicitly defended by China and heavily subsidized by the US and many other countries in the form of food aid, etc.. We’re simply not going there.

    I agree that NK is a third world country, but since for practical reasons we can’t intervene there without going to “real” war with a major player it won’t happen.

    So what is your point? My thought is that we are doing everything possible to AVOID conflict there for the simple reason that it is a fight that no one will benefit from, the US or China included, not to mention all of the other Asian players in the region. If you doubt that, just review the dozens (literally) of half assed mollifying measures taken by our country and the UN to do anything BUT take North Korea head on.

    The thoughtless hyperbole behind reflex statements like yours sound like knee-jerk fear mongering.

    The threat is not there, it is here.

    The MIC cannot make money or profit off of that scenario. It is a lose-lose situation, therefore to be avoided at all costs (in their way of thinking).

  • Anonymous

    uninformed? my point is simple, and one in which you have misinterpreted: when the NK regime collapses from within, the United States will be there. no matter what you call it, US intervention will still involve invasion, pacification, and administration of that third world country. North Korea’s existence is unsustainable, and will fall apart at some point in the near future. While indeed an ally, China values its close economic relationship with the US far more than the propping-up of a corrupt and dead-end regime, and will not go there when the crap hits the fan. I agree, neither China nor the United States wants to be drawn into a regional conflict over a failed state.

    Gates is simply wrong in asserting that the United States will not continue to be involved in Asia.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Mr. Gates for telling us something that we’ve all known since 1975. Now how about rounding up Bush, Rumsfeld and Feith and locking them away for good in a mental institution.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MZ3Y42YVAM76ZFRXX5EFYSNCVQ Coyote Man

    YOu know a guy like Gates can only hope for another land war. All those starving military contractors like Haliburton.

  • Dolmance

    No wars in Asia, I assume we’re not planning to go to war in Europe, which leaves us with Africa and Australia. Africa’s got nothing we want and Australia is a genetic ally, so what possible justification could there possibly be for us to spend more than the entire world combined on defense?