Gates Says U.S. Military Involvement in Syria would be a 'Mistake'


Former U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates warned Sunday that deepening U.S. military involvement in Syria's civil war would be a "mistake," warning the outcome would be unpredictable and messy.

In an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation," Gates also said he saw "no good outcomes" in dealing with Iran's nuclear program and warned that a full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would be "a disastrous mistake."

Gates' comments on Syria come amid debate in Washington over whether to step up military support for rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad, even as the administration attempts a new peace initiative with Russia.

"I thought it was a mistake in Libya, and I think it is a mistake in Syria, even if we had intervened more significantly in Syria a year ago or six months ago. We overestimate our ability to determine outcomes.

"Caution, particularly in terms of arming these groups and in terms of U.S. military involvement, is in order," he said.

"Anybody who says, 'It's going to be clean. It's going to be neat. You can establish safe zones, and it'll be just swell,' well, most wars aren't that way," he said.

Gates, who served under both George W Bush and President Barack Obama, was U.S. defense secretary in 2011 when the United States joined a NATO-led air operation in Libya that helped rebels topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

On Iran, Gates said the best the United States can hope for is that sanctions bite deep enough that the regime decides to change course.

"If there is no military attack, and they don't change their policies, you will probably see a nuclear-armed Iran igniting a nuclear arms race in the most volatile part of the world, emboldened to be even more aggressive and with missiles that can reach Israel now and Europe soon.

"But if you do hit them, then I think the consequences of their retaliation could spin out of control," he said.

Gates, a former intelligence officer who helped oversee U.S. support for Afghan insurgents fighting the Soviet Union in the 1980s, said a residual U.S. force should remain in the country after 2014, when U.S. troops are scheduled to come home.

"I will tell you this: For us to leave lock, stock, and barrel at the end of 2014, and abandon Afghanistan as we did after the Soviets left, would be a disastrous mistake."

Comments 1
Default-user-icon Pojardo Quanban (Guest) 13 May 2013, 15:39

According to the local military strategists and renowned experts on intelligence matters GabbyMarch14, NostraBenzona, allouchti, geha, peace and primesuspect, not to mention al-Asseer Wa Fosso 7ami (to name a few), military involvement of the US in Syria is not a mistake, I repeat: IT IS NOT A MISTAKE. They say this with all due respect to Gates, their colleague from their days together at the Military Academy at West Point.