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The legacy of Robert Gates: Your reactions

Last week, our essayist Jon Meacham saluted the long career of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a realist with a “steadying, sensible hand” who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. Although Meacham credited Gates as a “wise, imperfect man who did the best he could in an imperfect world,” some of our readers thought differently of the Gates legacy.

Reader chuckv writes:

Cognitive dissonance tonight. Mr. Meacham must surely be aware that, from Iran-Contra to the bloody muddle that is Afghanistan, Gates is complicit in all of the homicidal corruption and deceit our country has inflicted on this poor world for many years now.

Gates is certainly not the slobbering, lying fiend that was Donald Rumsfeld, or the mean-spirited dullard that was G.W. Bush, but somehow that makes any reflection on his career even more troubling. Precisely because he is a man of parts — lacking only a moral compass if one is to judge from his participation in the killing grounds of Central America Iraq and Afghanistan — he must be held to a higher standard.

Gates tragically squandered his many admirable attributes. He is not a figure worthy of celebration.

Deb Schroeder counters this, saying that Gates did the best he could:

I think Gates has done a good job. At least as good as possible given the task. Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush were war mongers. They got us into the wars we now fight. I don’t know the goal. Afghanistan was originally to get bin Laden, took us awhile, but we did it. Iraq was another story, still don’t know what that was all about. When it is all said and done will we have allies in these two countries? Don’t think so. They are not like us. What was Obama to do? We were under-manned in Afghanistan and our soldiers were being  killed. As much as I would have liked to just remove troops from both countries, it was not an option.

Jan finds the direction of the U.S. military under Gates’ leadership to be the most troubling of all:

Mr. Gates was in power at the time when the military dropped all ethics and committed itself to torture; something John McCain also opposes strongly. I’m sorry but there is no way I would ever admire Mr. Gates for anything. The thought that he is admired in the Obama circles is far from comforting; especially given the fact that Obama escalated things in Afghanistan as soon as he got into office and has now gotten us entangled in Libya.

I’m sorry but I’m going to have to completely disagree with you on this topic.

How do you view Gates’ leadership of the military during his tenure as Secretary of Defense? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter.