We were attacked from Afghanistan in 2001 and we are at war in Afghanistan today in no small measure because of mistakes this government made – mistakes I, among others, made – in the end game of the anti-Soviet war there some 20 years ago.. . . and I have to wonder if this is the first time a Bush administration official has publicly acknowledged this simple fact, it brings to mind a simple question:
Is believing that the US government can do no right more or less dangerous than believing that it can do no wrong?
The abject failure of anyone in or associated with the administration back in 2001-2003 to even come close to acknowledging the plain fact SecDef Gates lays out in the quote above was a big hint of what did indeed prove to be the case as the wars played out: That the administration was not interested in making things right "over there" nearly as much as it was interested in playing the same imperialist game and making the same avaricious "mistakes" Gates refers to above.
As I've written on other occasions, I still believe that the Iraq campaign could have worked -- if only those in charge of it had actually believed in all the principles and platitudes they offered up in their attempts to market the war to the American public. (More on that here.)
Alas, these people had obviously learned nothing from past mistakes -- though there were any number of experienced hands on the outside trying to warn them, greed and a thirst for vengeance swept away the lessons of history and plunged us into a protracted bloody mess.
(Not that I believe for a moment that Cheney et al didn't understand what they were getting us into. They simply didn't -- and still don't -- care about all the public resources and American and Iraqi lives that are being sacrificed on the altar of their avarice. This is why levelheaded advisors like Gates had to be forced on the administration in the first place, and are reportedly having their voices marginalized in the White House even at this late date.)