Gates could see himself as finally achieving genuine, national self-interest, as a real protector. He wasn’t able to do any better, and it wasn’t his fault; it was fault of the American people for not electing a competent president.
For example, Gates knew that the Iraq policy around 2007-2008 was the best idea. He knew that Kerry, Obama, and Clinton opposed it for the wrong political reasons. He knew that he would lose his fight against them and would have to confine that to the loneliness of the voter’s box. Then he would have to support their decisions loyally.
Most people do not face such a situation, and it is very difficult. Men would die, U.S. interests would be abandoned, and terrorists would be strengthened while Gates had to listen to unpatriotic sentiments such as those from Joe Biden. He even wrote that he considered resigning due to Biden. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates wrote in his memoirs.
Yes, everyone would consider resigning. But you can only resign once.
Notice the timeline.
He was deputy director of the CIA from 1986 to 1989.
He accepted the job of CIA director in November of 1991 and then permanently resigned in January 1993. He never returned to the CIA.
He became secretary of Defense in 2006 under George W. Bush. On December 1, 2008, President Obama announced that Gates would remain in his position as secretary of Defense during his administration, at least for the first year. When he retired in 2011, Gates said, “I think that it would be a mistake to wait until January 2012.… This is not the kind of job you want to fill in the spring of an election year.”
As a former civil servant, he may well have been correct to state it that way; let’s see, there’s Obama, Clinton, Kerry, Biden, and Harry Reid–how could they do more danger to U.S. interests? Most of the other senior foreign policy official experts would have said “duh.” Under such serious circumstances, I think he was sending a signal. And frankly, almost everyone had heard the same thing privately from these officials.