I’ve just finished reading Robert Gates’s memoir, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. It’s a well-written, thoughtful book, leavened by occasional injections of nerdy humor. Gates was a career CIA employee on the analysis rather than the operations side of the agency, and the only CIA analyst ever to become director of Central Intelligence. He specialized in the Soviet Union, though he never set foot in the U.S.S.R. until May 1989. His rapid ascent was amazing. . . .
The picture I get of Robert Gates from his book is that of a careful analyst, one who sees American foreign policy as generally and rightly characterized by continuity but one who sees the need for bold changes in response to rapid changes in the worldâ€“and doesn’t look for answers from the government bureaucracies. He is very much aware that we have dangerous enemies in the world, and he was willing over many years to confront them and try to check their advance.
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UPDATE: Related thoughts from Pejman Yousefzadeh. “Iraq will be the biggest front-page challenge for Robert Gates as he prepares to assume his new responsibilities. But military transformation is a tremendously consequential issue that should receive more attention in light of Secretary-designate Gates’s appointment than it currently does.”