Defense Secretary Robert Gates appeared on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS Sunday, granting host Zakaria an hour long interview that was one of the most detailed discussions of current U.S. military strategy you're likely to see anywhere. It all began with Gates mounting a sensible defense of President Barack Obama's diplomatic initiatives:
ZAKARIA: President Obama -- you've heard a lot of Republican criticism that he's going around the world apologizing about America. Do you accept that?
GATES: Well, I like to remind people that, when President George W. Bush came into office, he talked about a more humble America. And, you know, you go back to Theodore Roosevelt and his line about speaking softly, but carrying a big stick. I think that acknowledging that we have made mistakes is not only factually accurate, I think that it is unusual, because so few other governments in the world are willing to admit that, although they make them all the time. And some of them make catastrophic mistakes.
And in speeches myself, I have said that at times we have acted too arrogantly. And I didn't feel that I was being apologetic for America, I just was saying, because the next -- I was just saying that that's the way we are in terms of being willing to recognize our own limitations, and when we make a mistake to correct it. Because I think the next line that I always use is, no other country in the world is so self-critical, and is so willing to change course when we feel that we've strayed from our values, or when we feel like we've been too arrogant.
So, I think -- I have not seen it as an apology tour at all, but rather a change of tone, a more humble America. But everybody knows we still have the big stick.
Following that, host and guest drilled down into the complexities of our operations in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theatre, including whether or not Pakistan could develop the "capacity for real counterinsurgency" and whether or not they'd willingly accept U.S. military advisers, as well as a lengthy discussion on political reconciliation in Afghanistan. It was a pretty wide ranging and intelligent discussion, the transcript for which is available here.
I think it's worth pointing out, by the way, that every Sunday I get a growing number of emails that praise GPS as -- in the words of an emailer, "The best of all Sunday shows." Another liveblog reader urged: "You really should take a look at Fareed's show on CNN. If you put [it] on your list maybe you could take off [Meet The Press.]" And how's this for emphatic praise:
Why don't critics consider GPS one of the Sunday [talk] shows? It's the only one that has something to say that hasn't been pre-scripted by some party or already yammered about on all the other "opinion shows" during the week. I don't work for the show, honest. I'm just a mom, retired from the workforce -- but I would give my eye-teeth if the press/public would just recognize a press release (or 4) for what they are and ignore those shows until they actually become substantive again.
And next weekend, I imagine I'll hear it again from Media Monitors and news junkies alike. I'd say it's getting more and more clear that GPS is something CNN is getting right, the first show to come along in a long while that I'd like to see supplant the traditional Sunday morning hegemony. Discerning viewers seem to agree!