Saturday, June 23, 2007

Roger Morris on Robert Gates and the Cold War

From the introduction to a long essay on the Cold War in the form of a profile on U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates by former NSC official Roger Morris.

For all his relative virtues in 2007, however, Gates remains a genuine Jekyll-and-Hyde character, a best-yet-worst of America as it flung its vast power over the world. To appreciate who and what he was - and so who and what he is likely to be now, at one of the most critical junctures ever to face a secretary of defense - is to retrace much of the shrouded side of American foreign policy and intelligence for the past half-century or more. Most Americans hardly know that record, though its reckonings are with us today - with a vengeance. At the unexpected climax of his long career, the 63-year-old Gates faces not only the toll of the disastrous regime he joins, but of his own legacy as well.

This is a vintage American chronicle with dramatic settings and dark secrets. The cast ranges from hearty boosters in Kansas to bitter exiles on the Baltic, from doomed agents dropped behind Russian lines across Eurasia to Islamic clerics car-bombed in the Middle East - all in a family saga of long-hidden paternity. As with Rumsfeld, such a sweeping history - the history, in this case, of that blind deity of havoc, the CIA - cannot come condensed or blog-sized. It is, necessarily, without apology, a long trail a-winding. Though in the end this will indeed be a profile of the US's new secretary of defense, much has to be understood before Gates even joins the story in a serious way as policy-accomplice and policymaker. But the trip is full of color, and quicker than it seems. And as usual, the essential lessons, along with the devil, are in the details.


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