More Caution on US Preemptive Attacks after Iraq: Gates

WASHINGTON ~ The United States will likely be more cautious about launching a preemptive attack after the intelligence failures of the Iraq war, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

“The lessons learned with the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction and some of the other things that happened will make any future president very, very cautious about launching that kind of conflict or relying on intelligence,” Gates told PBS television in an interview on Wednesday.

He added any future president is “going to ask a lot of very hard questions and I think that hurdle is much higher today than it was six or seven years ago.”

Gates, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said that stricter criteria would have to be met for possible preemptive military action.

“I think that the barrier, first of all, will be: ‘Are we going to be attacked here at home?’ As one of the thresholds,” he said.

“And then the quality of intelligence would be another.”

The Bush administration argued at the time that the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq was vital because the regime’s alleged weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat. But no WMD stockpiles were found.

Gates also said the previous administration, which he joined in 2006 – long after the war in Iraq was launched – made a serious mistake in planning for what it believed would be a short conflict.

“I think most people would agree that there was clearly inadequate planning for the situation not turning out that way and for us to be involved for a protracted period of time,” he said.

“And I think that was one of the biggest mistakes that was made. I think we just didn’t anticipate at the time that this could be a protracted counterinsurgency kind of challenge and it clearly turned out to be that.”

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