Gates: ‘I don’t know’ whether Iraq war was a ‘good idea.’

In an interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks published today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was hesitant to endorse several cornerstones of President Bush’s foreign policy:

I don’t think you invade Iraq to bring liberty. You do it to eliminate an unstable regime and because sanctions are breaking down and you get liberty as a byproduct,” he continued.

I asked him whether invading Iraq was a good idea, knowing what we know now. He looked at me for a bit and said, “I don’t know.” […]

I asked if the military could perform this sort of nation-building, as it is in Iraq. “That’s very short-term stuff. Hooking up water mains. That’s not job creation or institution-building.”

I asked if it was a mistake to put the Pentagon in charge of postwar reconstruction in Iraq instead of the State Department. He thought for a long time but didn’t say anything.