Seven (New) Things We Learned from Robert Gates

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Robert Gates, who served as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011 and is also the former Director of Central Intelligence, talks about his new book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary At War, and his reflections from the Bush and Obama administrations.

Seven Things Robert Gates Told Us That You're Not Hearing Him Say Everywhere Else

On Thursday's show, David Sanger of the New York Times follows up on some of Gate's comments.

Hillary Clinton Is a Surprising Hawk Gates says he'd never met Hillary Clinton until they were both part of the Obama administration, but that their first meeting convinced him she was more hawkish than he'd anticipated -- he found her to be "very tough-minded."

George Bush Was This Close to Bombing Iran  Military strikes against Iran were seriously considered under George W Bush, mostly in reaction to Iranian influence in Iraq. “When the president said all options were on the table, he meant that.” Gates says he was opposed because he felt there was more time to increase pressure through sanctions, and that “we were already in two major wars.”

He's Ambivalent About the New Iran Deal The Obama administration was “completely correct” in sitting at the table to negotiate with Iran, says Gates, and this deal shows the sanctions strategy “has probably worked." But he says the test is what comes next. Gates insists that sticking to a six-month deadline is key, and that “what might be useful is for the congress to pass significant additional sanctions, triggered only by the failure of the negotiations.”

Leakers - But Not Journos - Should Be Prosecuted "We shouldn't make reporters the targets of leak investigations,” says Gates. But he thinks Edward Snowden should face trial, as he's the one who “breached trust.”

We Won Iraq (Depending on How You Define "Win") Gates says that "since the Korean War we've found that it’s very difficult to have outright victories." But, in 2008, with the "narrow objectives of handing over a stable state that’s relatively secure, with a fledgling democracy... we were successful in our mission." Gates says that “you can’t freeze history,” and acknowledges that the country has slid backwards since.

The NSA Has Actually Been Transparent Gates insists that "there has been no allegation of wrong-doing" regarding NSA programs, and that the agency has actually been "diligent in keeping Congress informed" of the nature of their programs. He says the question for Congress coming on the heels of the Snowden revelations is whether in "the application" of these programs the NSA went too far.

He's Fine With Criticizing a Sitting President Gates has received push-back for writing about a sitting president under whom he served. But he says his goal is to show a "polarized Washington" how he was successful, and influence issues of "war and peace" (Iran, Russia, China) where he thinks we "are to quick to go to the gun," in many cases.