Former US defence secretary Bob Gates: 'We overestimate our ability to shape events in the Middle East'

Robert GatesScreenshot/YouTubeFormer US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates appears on Charlie Rose.

Former US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates went on Charlie Rose’s show Monday and said the media is asking potential 2016 presidential candidates the wrong question when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has been criticised over his response to the question: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorised the [Iraq] invasion?”

Bush said that he would have and claimed that likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would have as well based on the intelligence that was available at the time.

Gates told Rose that’s the wrong question, stating that “we overestimate our ability to shape events in the Middle East.”

“I think the right question that has value is, what are the lessons you draw from what happened in 2003? And how would that shape your view of how you would conduct policy?” Gates said. “And for sure, one of the lessons is we overestimate our ability to shape events in the Middle East. And the second is, the law of unintended consequences is always in effect. … If something can go wrong, it will.”

Gates’ comments come shortly after Ramadi, a provincial capital in western Iraq, fell to the Islamic State terror group (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) this past weekend.

The ISIS takeover of the strategically important city about 75 miles from Baghdad has been followed by a stream of analysis alleging that the US strategy in Iraq, and its now 11-month old military campaign against ISIS in Iraq, is failing.

The US invasion of Iraq is largely considered to be a mistake premised on faulty intelligence that Saddam Hussein’s regime was concealing an active weapons of mass destruction program. In 2003, US forces toppled Hussein’s regime, leaving a power vacuum in the country that was partially filled by Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIS.

Since last summer, the US has used air strikes to take out ISIS targets in Iraq, but the militant group has still managed to make territorial gains in the country. President Barack Obama has so far been hesitant to commit any US combat troops to the fight.

US intervention in the Middle East is poised to be a big issue in the 2016 election. The region is mired in conflict while US negotiations with Iran to monitor and restrict the country’s nuclear program are still ongoing.

Here’s the relevant portion of the interview with Gates:

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