West Point (New York), Feb.26 (ANI): United States Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has bluntly told West Point cadets that any senior official advising the president to deploy huge land armies in conflict zones like Iraq and Afghanistan in the future, should have his or her head examined.
"In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it," the New York Times quoted Gates as telling the army cadets here on Friday.
"As the prospects for another head-on clash of large mechanized land armies seem less likely, the Army will be increasingly challenged to justify the number, size, and cost of its heavy formations," Gates warned.
"The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq - invading, pacifying, and administering a large third-world country - may be low," Gates said, but the Army and the rest of the government must focus on capabilities that can "prevent festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly - and controversial - large-scale American military intervention."
Gates, who was brought into the Bush cabinet in late 2006 to repair the war effort in Iraq that was begun under his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, did not directly criticize the Bush administration's decisions to go to war.
Even so, his never-again formulation was unusually pointed, especially at a time of upheaval across the Arab world and beyond.
Gates has said that he would leave office this year, and the speech at West Point could be heard as his farewell to the Army.
A decade of constant conflict has trained a junior officer corps with exceptional leadership skills, he told the cadets, but the Army may find it difficult in the future to find inspiring work to retain its rising commanders as it fights for the money to keep large, heavy combat units in the field.
To find inspiring work for its young officers after combat deployments, the Army must encourage unusual career detours, Gates said, endorsing graduate study, teaching, or duty in a policy research institute or Congressional office.
Gates said his main worry was that the Army might not overcome the institutional bias that favored traditional career paths.
He urged the service to "break up the institutional concrete, its bureaucratic rigidity in its assignments and promotion processes, in order to retain, challenge, and inspire its best, brightest, and most battle-tested young officers to lead the service in the future." (ANI)