Greatest threat to U.S. is government


Jay Serrano, Editor-in-Chief

The federal government as the biggest threat to national security today, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said.

“The most significant challenge to national security can be found within the two square miles containing the White House and Congress.”

He spoke as part of the Celebrity Forum Speakers Series at De Anza College’s Flint Center on Nov. 19, 20 and 21.

Gates served in Washington as a CIA analyst, CIA director, national security adviser and secretary of defense for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He served eight different presidents before retiring from politics.

“Of all the positions I held, Gates said, “being secretary of defense was the greatest honor of my life.”

He said it was an honor because of his experiences with the members of the United States military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Every man and woman in uniform was in harm’s way because I signed the order that sent them,” Gates said. “We must not honor them just on Veterans Day like last week, but every day.”

He also spoke about the egos of politicians he worked with during his time as a public servant.

“Its hard to match the new biblical self regards found in Washington D.C.,” Gates said. “It’s the only place you can see someone walking down lover’s lane holding their own hand.”

Gates criticized the lack of compromise in government and the reduced room for moderate candidates.

“The center, the foundation of the political system, is falling out,” he said.

Part of the reason is every single issue has become a partisan battle pitting Democrats against Republicans, forcing politicians to pander to their party’s more extreme elements.

“The cameras at a political conference have the same effect on politicians as a full moon on werewolves,” he said.

One reason politicians can get away with this is only about 40 seats out of 435 in the House are truly competitive because of politician-controlled redistricting.

“California has been trying to be part of the solution by taking away redistricting from politicians,” Gates said.

He shared his concern about Congress’s inability to reach a compromise on any major issue or even move the discussion forward.

“You don’t automatically solve big problems in one bite,” he said. “I really do worry about what is going on in Washington.”

Gates shared his views on how foreign policy should be handled and how his views differed from others serving in politics.

“Neither of them (Sen. John McCain and former Vice President Dick Cheney) never saw a national security problem that could not be solved by blowing it up,” he said.

He had the same opinion about the most recent presidents.

“They’re too quick to reach for a gun,” Gates said.

He also talked about events outside the U.S., spending time on the situation in Russia.

“The biggest obstacle to progress is Russia’s de facto president for life,” he said. “He is a man who lives very much in the past.”

Gates analysis of the situation is that Russia is not a serious threat.

“Despite its recent muscle flexing, Russia cannot be considered a rising power,” he said.

China is not a threat to national security either, he said, despite popular worries.

He urged policy makers to be careful when dealing with China.

“If we treat China like an enemy, it will become one,” he said.

At the end of his speech, Gates reaffirmed his belief that modern Washington politics are a threat to U.S. security.

“Even though the U.S. faces several obstacles,” Gates said, “many of them are self inflicted. Which means we can overcome them.”