According to the transcript NBC just sent to my inbox, this was an actual question David Gregory asked Robert Gates:

DAVID GREGORY: Secretary Gates, you are a hard-nosed realist about this region and about this struggle, going back decades. Is failure an option in Afghanistan?

A real journalist would have replaced “an option” with “likely” or “probable” or “possible.” Instead, Gregory essentially asked Gates to restate for the cameras how awesome he is and how they’ve got this shit on lock. “Secretary Gates, someone in your office emailed me pictures of you enjoying some intimate moments of hard-nosed realism, going back decades. And, sir, I am impressed. What’s going to happen when you apply those weapons to the quivering terrain of Afghanistan?”

Unsurprisingly, Gates replied:

SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: No, I don’t think it can be, given the– the nature of the terror network that Secretary Clinton referred to.  But we will be monitoring our progress.  And– and be willing to adjust our strategy if there are– if there are issues.  We’re not just going to plunge blindly ahead if it– if it becomes clear that what we’re doing isn’t working.

I mean, there are some other alternatives.

The irony is that Gates asks himself tougher questions about the prospects of success or failure in Afghanistan. If this is what Gregory’s going to come with, he should just let the secretary riff uninterrupted for 25 minutes. Probably would get more candid and rigorous answers.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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