News / USA

Gates Ends US Defense Secretary Tour

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates walks with a group of service members at Forward Operating Base Waltman, Sunday, June 5, 2011, in Kandahar, Afghanistan
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates walks with a group of service members at Forward Operating Base Waltman, Sunday, June 5, 2011, in Kandahar, Afghanistan

Multimedia

Robert Gates will step down as U.S. Secretary of Defense on Thursday, after more than four years of service in the post under two presidents of different political parties.  He has overseen U.S. military surges in Iraq and Afghanistan and he leaves at a time when the U.S. military is facing a growing range of challenges.

A man above politics

Robert Gates was sworn into office in late-2006, during the administration of President George W. Bush at a crucial time during the war in Iraq.

His ability to stay in his post as long as he has is a tribute, some say, to his ability to put politics aside.

This is what former President Bush had to say about Gates after choosing him to take over for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"He's [Gates] a man of integrity, candor and sound judgment.  He knows that the challenge of protecting our country is larger than any political party,” said Bush.

James Carafano, a national security analyst at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, says Gates has been successful because he does what his boss wants him to do.

"People often marvel at how could this person work for President Bush and President Obama, who have completely different leadership styles," he said.  "There is actually a lot of continuity in their foreign policies, but certainly the rhetoric of their foreign policies is completely different.  And yet, this same person serves them both very well."

Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns

When Gates became defense secretary, there were huge questions about the future of the war in Iraq.  He oversaw a troop surge there that analysts say helped turn the campaign around as well as a subsequent withdrawal, as security responsibility shifted to Iraqi authorities.

In Afghanistan, he has overseen a similar process which is moving into its drawdown phase.  Analysts note that although the future of both engagements is uncertain, Gates has made the safety, security and welfare of U.S. troops a top priority.

And his approach appears to resonate with the troops.

Gates spoke with the troops during his last visit to Afghanistan in early June.

"More than anybody except the president, I am responsible for you being here.  I am the person that signed the deployment papers that got you here and that weighs on me every day," he said.

As secretary of defense, Gates has made 12 trips to Afghanistan and more than a dozen to Iraq, always making a point to meet with those who put their lives on the line.

During a speech to the Marine Corps Association, Gates became visibly emotional as he spoke of Marine Corps Major Doug Zembiec, who was killed in May 2007 during his fourth tour in Iraq.

"Every evening, I write notes to the families of young Americans like Doug Zembiec," said Gates. "For you and for me, they are not names on a press release or numbers updated on a website.  They are our country's sons and daughters."

A straight-talker

Gates is known for being a straight-talker and has not walked quietly into the sunset during his last few months in office.  At a hearing on Capitol Hill earlier this month, Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski called Gates' remarks in recent farewell speeches "eyebrow-raising" and "jaw-dropping."

“You’ve dropped more bombs on some of these [speeches] than the Air Force,” said Mikulski.

Speaking at the United States Military Academy in February, Gates spoke of the changing nature of America's military and warned against large-scale wars similar to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“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,” he said.

NATO allies

In a speech to members of NATO, he warned that a lack of funds from European members and frontline support were weakening the alliance.

But The Heritage Foundation's James Carafano says Gates' sharp remarks were too little, too late.

"Everything that Secretary Gates said going out the door is absolutely true.  NATO is not paying enough; we can't afford to take missions off the table; we have to buy new equipment.  He did nothing in his four years to prepare for that," he said.

Challenges ahead

As Gates leaves office, the Obama administration is grappling with an American public that has grown weary of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pressure is building to cut defense spending.  Gates cautioned that it was crucial to consider what kind of a role the United States will play in the world.

“Are we basically sending a message to the rest of the world and I would say to China, to Iran, to North Korea, to a variety of other places, the U.S. is closing up shop and going home, and we’re headed toward fortress America again?” asked Gates

Gates says that is a huge question that administration officials, lawmakers and the American people will need to grapple with after he is gone.   

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid