Fareed speaks with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates about Iran, China and what his advice would be to future presidents. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
What do you think is the lesson…presidents sometimes write a letter to their successors. If you were to set out a couple of things to worry about or to be focused on, for not just the current secretary of defense but going forward, what are the things that worry you about in the way that Eisenhower wrote about the military-industrial complex? What is it that worries you about America's defense posture and foreign policy?
Well, first of all, I would say that the one piece of advice that I would give, either to a new secretary of defense or to a president is that absent an immediate threat to the United States, the use of military force should be a last resort, not a first option. We need to be much more careful.
I wrote in my first book that the dirty little secret in Washington was that the biggest doves wore uniforms. And it's because they have seen the face of war, and they have been thrown into conflicts only to have political support evaporate behind them. And so being very cautious about the use of force, I think is incredibly important.
Right now, the biggest threat to our national security as far as I'm concerned is the paralysis in Washington and the uncertainty with respect to defense programs, uncertainty about what kinds of military capabilities we're going to need in the future...
…Do you think we have to plan for China as a strategic military adversary?
Well, I think our military plans for everything. I think that China is not a military adversary at this point. I think that the way the Chinese and American leaders deal with each other in the years to come will determine whether or not that becomes the case. But I do think that our presence in Asia is very important, just as our presence in the Middle East is very important, as a deterrent.
Can you envision a scenario where Israeli or U.S. military action against Iran ends well, has the desired effect?
Ends well jumps from the action to...
…some period of time beyond that. I think that if there is a military action against Iran, Iran will not just absorb it or retaliate in a cursory sort of way, with a few rockets launched into Israel and maybe a few Hezbollah rockets launched into the northern part of Israel. I think Iran will retaliate and, moreover, I would say that that would make it inevitable that Iran would become a nuclear state.