Outspoken Gates defends Libya action, criticizes defense spending cuts

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
Font Size:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is officially leaving his post on June 30, but he’s not going gently into that good night. Gates has recently been outspoken in opposing defense spending cuts and supporting U.S. military intervention in Libya.

In an interview with Newsweek published yesterday, Gates said he was troubled by the United States’ slipping position as a world superpower.

“I’ve spent my entire adult life with the United States as a superpower, and one that had no compunction about spending what it took to sustain that position,” Gates said. “It didn’t have to look over its shoulder because our economy was so strong. This is a different time.”

“To tell you the truth, that’s one of the many reasons it’s time for me to retire, because frankly I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a government … that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world,” Gates continued.

That kind of bluntness could cause trouble for the Obama administration in the future and give ammo to its critics. But Gates has shown no interest so far in playing partisan politics. Yesterday, he also defended Obama’s interpretation of the War Powers Act, which the president has used to continue U.S. military operations in Libya without seeking congressional approval.

“I was in the White House and the NSC staff not long after the War Powers Act was passed,” Gates said on Fox News Sunday. “And I believe that President Obama has complied with the law, consistent in a manner with virtually all of his predecessors. I don’t think he’s breaking any new ground here.” (Gates: America at risk of losing global supremacy)

Gates said Obama’s intervention in Libya was “absolutely the right strategy.”

Gates was appointed Secretary of Defense in 2006 under the Bush administration. He served 26 years in the CIA and was director of the agency from 1991 to 1993.