Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Gates on strategy

I think this observation made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Army War College in early April captures the essence of strategy, much more than anything about tying together ways, means and goals. By the time a decision gets to the president, there are no good options. If there was a good option, somebody ...

586295_090429_gatesB2.jpg
586295_090429_gatesB2.jpg

I think this observation made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Army War College in early April captures the essence of strategy, much more than anything about tying together ways, means and goals.

By the time a decision gets to the president, there are no good options. If there was a good option, somebody at a lower level would have made the decision and taken credit for it. By the time a decision gets to the president or secretary of Defense, more often than not, you've having to choose the least bad option."

I think this observation made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Army War College in early April captures the essence of strategy, much more than anything about tying together ways, means and goals.

By the time a decision gets to the president, there are no good options. If there was a good option, somebody at a lower level would have made the decision and taken credit for it. By the time a decision gets to the president or secretary of Defense, more often than not, you’ve having to choose the least bad option.”

Of the six defense secretaries I’ve covered, the two most effective were William Perry and Robert Gates. Both are smart, articulate, reserved, and wise. The difference between the two, I think, is that Gates seems to me to have a killer instinct, which probably helps him herd the services along. Just ask the Air Force these days.

U.S. Army

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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