The Best Defense

Quote of the day: Gates fighting, warning and philosophizing

I've thought for awhile that Robert Gates is the best defense secretary we've ever had, kind of a William Perry but with a killer instinct. I like the determined way he took on the pork barrelers in the fight over the F-22 fighter.

Two of his recent observations only confirm my opinion.

First, from his July 16 speech in Chicago, this warning:

...The president is the eighth president I've worked for, and I do not recall a single time in my entire professional career when I felt that the country faced as complex and, in many respects, dangerous a time as we do now."

I also find the following comment Gates made at a press conference on Monday quite interesting. I hadn't seen this thought expressed this way:

...We're living in a time not only of great change, but also great simultaneity. Many things are happening all at once in many different places; and though we may be tired, we must stay focused."

Not bad for an old Sovietologist.

Update: In this item, the second quotation, about "simultaneity," was not said by Gates, but by Adm. Mike Mullen in the same joint press conference. I apologize for the error.

Jason Reed - Pool/Getty Images

The Best Defense

"Waltz with Bashir"

This is a terrific film about war and memory. It plays with your mind especially because it is an animated documentary -- the only such thing ever made, I think. It also is a good meditation on the difference between what you think might be going on across a battlefield and what is really going on. That's a lesson for any commander -- and for any journalist covering combat.

It is ostensibly about the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, but it really felt more like what poorly prepared soldiers might feel in any war. It is out on Netflix now. I recommend watching it twice in one sitting: First just the film, and then the director's commentary, which is like another layer of the story. (Also I noticed a lot more in the background in the second go-round.)

My favorite part was the one-minute version of Apocalypse Now, set in Lebanon. Wordlessly, it summarizes everything that goes wrong in a war.

My wife thinks it should be a double feature with The Hurt Locker. That's a bit too much PTSD for me in one bite.

Ya'akov Sa'ar/GPO via Getty Images