Michael Barone has an interesting piece concerning Bob Gates, nominee for Secretary of Defence.
He gives a summary of Gates's career and concludes with the following:
On Libya, Gates sided with Casey in favor of taking action against the Qadhafi regime.
"Some CIA analysts thought that the Reagan administration was making a serious mistake in taking on [Qadhafi] publicly–that they were creating an Arab hero-martyr inasmuch as [Qadhafi] was seen standing up to the incredibly powerful United States. They had a valid point, but it was also true that Libya was an incubus for terrorism and for efforts to destabilize a number of African and Middle Eastern governments. To have ignored all this would have been a mistake, a greater one in my view that responding to his activities."
Only briefly in this 1996 book does Gates refer to the Islamist terrorists who are our chief enemy now. Here is the one reference I found, in his review of CIA conduct over the years:
"Similarly, on occasion, our operations–for example, in Afghanistan–had lingering and dangerous aftereffects. The paramilitary training and weapons we provided, after the conflicts ended, sometimes were put to unwelcome purposes and even used in actions hostile to U.S. interests. We always were conscious of this likelihood and, indeed, had warned policymakers about this possibility during the debate over whether to use Stingers in Afghanistan."
The picture I get of Robert Gates from his book is that of a careful analyst, one who sees American foreign policy as generally and rightly characterized by continuity but one who sees the need for bold changes in response to rapid changes in the world–and doesn't look for answers from the government bureaucracies. He is very much aware that we have dangerous enemies in the world, and he was willing over many years to confront them and try to check their advance.
Maybe we should give this guy a chance.