A Sober, Steady Hand: Robert Gates’ Legacy at the Pentagon

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Departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates is the 10th military chief I have covered since Harold Brown was running Jimmy Carter’s Pentagon. After a private dinner at the White House on Wednesday night, and a final ruffles-and-flourishes sendoff at the Pentagon on Thursday, Gates will fly off for his home in Washington state and never look back.

“He will once again try his hand at retirement,” Gates’ trusted spokesman, Geoff Morrell (who is leaving along with Gates), said Monday. “After a coupe of notable failures, he assures me he is determined to succeed this time.” If he succeeds as well in his retirement at his lakefront home as he did running the Pentagon since December 2006, his years to come should be golden.

Gates, 67, was a pragmatist who did more than speak the platitudes about the troops that all defense secretaries say.

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