Gates was decisive during the Walter Reed hospital fiasco. He is honest and trustworthy on Iraq. And on Monday, at the World Forum on the Future of Democracy at the College of William and Mary here, Gates delivered a speech that could define the center ground of American foreign policy.
He ran through the history of the never-ending debate between realists and idealists. He noted that this debate began just after the founding of the Republic. Thomas Jefferson saw the French Revolution as a triumph for liberty. John Adams saw it as reckless radicalism. (Note by E1: Sounds like somebody has been reading Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation which makes that exact point as a reason for a disagreement between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson)
Throughout the messy years that followed, Gates explained, we have made deals with tyrants to defeat other tyrants. We’ve championed human rights while doing business with some of the worst violators of human rights.
“It is neither hypocrisy nor cynicism to believe fervently in freedom while adopting different approaches to advancing freedom at different times along the way,” Gates said.
Two themes ran through his speech. First, the tragic ironies of history — the need to compromise with evil in order to do good. And second, patience — the need to wait as democratic reforms slowly develop.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Well worth reading: The Education of Robert Gates by David Brooks: