Gates: War With Iran ‘Would Be Disastrous,’ It’s ‘The Last Thing We Need’

In the most recent issue of the Army War College’s quarterly journal “Parameters,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote an article (pdf) titled “Reflections on Leadership,” in which he examines the “three principles of war for a democracy” espoused by General Fox Conner — “a tutor and mentor to both” General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General George Marshall.

Gates applied one of Conner’s principles — “never fight unless you have to” — to the current situation with Iran:

Conner’s axiom — never fight unless you have to — looms over policy discussions today regarding rogue nations like Iran that support terrorism; that is a destabilizing force throughout the Middle East and Southwest Asia and, in my judgment, is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need. In fact, I believe it would be disastrous on a number of levels.

Gates added that “the military option must be kept on the table” but his overall assessment echoes a recent statement by Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Michael Mullen. Last week on Fox News Sunday, Mullen said “I’m fighting two wars, and I don’t need a third one” in Iran. Watch it:

However, the right’s neoconservative hawks see the Iranian threat differently. Surge architect Fred Kagan said recently that “there’s nothing we can do short of an attack to force Iran to give up its nuclear program.” Ultra-conservative evangelical Pat Robertson wants an attack before November. John Bolton wanted bombs flying over Iran yesterday and Vice President Dick Cheney is reportedly on board.

But while Sen. John McCain is busy assessing the “nature of the threat” from Iran, President Bush recently authorized direct high level talks with the Iranians regarding their nuclear program — an indication he may be backing away from his “appeasement” rhetoric and siding with Gates and Mullen.