Image courtesy: Samantha Quigley
In an interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he intends to leave the Pentagon before the end of 2011. Gates, who took over for Donald Rumsfeld in December 2006, is the only secretary of defense in American history to serve under both a Republican and Democratic commander-in-chief.
When Gates took over at the Pentagon, the atmosphere surrounding the Iraq war was politically poisonous at home and very dangerous overseas for our men and women in uniform. In two weeks, the combat mission in Iraq will end after a successful surge of American troops that was ordered by President George W. Bush shortly after Gates was confirmed as defense secretary. In Afghanistan, Gates has implemented another troop surge, on the orders of President Barack Obama. Secretary Gates is known for his pragmatic, non-partisan style and calm demeanor.
Considering that Gates will soon have served longer than all but four of his predecessors and that America has been at war during every waking moment of his tenure, it becomes easier to understand why he is choosing to step down. While any public official can be second-guessed or criticized, I believe Robert Gates ia a patriot who did his very best under a particularly difficult set of circumstances. We should thank him for his long career of public service.