Former defense secretary Robert Gates is not memorable for much, but his condemnation of “next war-itis” is worth remembering—but only because of its unfortunate revival by Washington Post writer Tom Ricks.
In a 2008 speech, Gates said, “I have noticed too much of a tendency towards what might be called Next-War-itis — the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict," Gates said. And in a world of limited resources, he continued, the Pentagon must concentrate on building a military that can defeat the current enemies: smaller terrorist groups and militias waging irregular warfare.
That is so wrong on so many levels—e.g., it assumes we’ll never have to fight another conventional war—it’s hard to believe it ever came out of a defense secretary. (A former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs once told me in confidence that when Gates said it, he shook his head in disbelief.)