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The exhaustion of war

I suspect few war-mongers come here, so I don't want to alarm anyone, but.... Secretary of Defense Robert Gate's "exit" interview with Jim Lehrer on the PBS Newshour (June 23) was impressive. The man is sane and even balanced! He spoke of the troops' exhaustion; he seemed a little exhausted himself--time to become the dispensable nation?There is a transcript posted here. Dare I say, far more impressive than his predecessor--what's his name.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Goven the present crop pf GOP presidential candidates I keep looking around for other possible GOP candidates. I wonder if Gates is a Republican. Should Obama go down in the polls I think we'd need to worry about who is running against him.

The same wise man gave a superb speech recently on that most human of old arts - leadership. It was not about how to go to sea and win but about "a strength of purpose and belief in a cause that reaches out to others, touches their hearts and makes them eager to follow." It was impossible while reading it not to think of the long stream of Catholic bishops and cardinals whose performance has been on display in recent times. The speech is non-sectarian and non-military - it's for anyone burdened with important responsibilities and authority. Recommended.

The glorification of war in this country is a sick affair. It is one thing to defend against attackers. It is another to go to war for material interests. The latter, sadly, is more common.

Thanks for the link to the text. I find it much more rewarding to go over what's said at a reading-and-review pace, instead of being dragged along linearly at the speed of and with the distractions of the video.Sane, balanced, sure. And intelligent, reasonable. One hopes his successor will be made from an equally solid mold.I wonder, though, what happens if the "enemy" should simply pick another -stan in which to base themselves. Also, presumably, keeping Iraq and Afghanistan adequately supported when the spotlight of "our war" is off them will be a tough political job.

Jack Barry ==Yes, thanks for posting that address for Secretary Gates' superb speech. He certainly deserves a rest, but I hope he'll be available for future service. Wise man.

Huntsman/Gates '12!

Thanks for the Gates speech. Very nice. It reminds me of "A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix" by Ed Friedman, a book I recommend. There's a slight danger here: it runs the risk of romanticizing the image of the leader, full of integrity, standing alone against all opposition. My guess is this will produce both the best and the worst of situations, depending on how often a leader mistakes ego (or something) for integrity.

Jack Barry: Good call. I attended the USNA commencement and the Secretary did indeed give a very nice address. I did not attend, but have heard from colleagues, the Secretary spoke at this year's Notre Dame commencement regarding public service which was well regarded by the people I know who read it.

JL: Why not gates/huntsman?

Not sure Gates is that interested. Nor am I sure of his debt/budget credentials, unlike Huntsman.But I wouldn't be that disappointed by Gates/Huntsman, as long as he appointed Mitch Daniels to Treasury and Obama to HHS.

Then again, what if Gates is a Democrat? He has worked for 8 presidents. I remember when people were just starting to talk about Eisenhower as a potential candidate no one was sure which party he was in. He was a real centrist, at least for his time.

"Then again, what if Gates is a Democrat? He has worked for 8 presidents. "He is a known registered Republican, hence the plaudits Obama earned by keeping him.

Not all registered Republicans vote Republican. The Shadow knows.

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