GATES: Well, probably about... it's getting on toward 900 in Afghanistan... Well we've lost about 3,500 in Iraq, probably a third of those while I've been Secretary.
McFADDEN: It's a dangerous world, of all the things that keep you up at night, what's the toughest?
GATES: Well would it be irreverent to say barbecue! [laughter]
McFADDEN: Not the answer I was expecting!
McFADDEN: You are kind of a wit. You know, for a very somber guy, you kind of a crack-up, right?
GATES: Well, no. I just...
McFADDEN: But you know, look, when you were studying Russian history...
GATES: I'll tell you what keeps me up.
McFADDEN: What keeps you up at night?
GATES: These kids. The casualties.
McFADDEN: Was the world a simpler place when we have the Soviet Union as the evil empire and...
GATES: It was a simpler place. And the danger was cataclysmic, but the probability extremely low. Now the danger of a cataclysm is very low, but the likelihood of attacks is high. And so it's sort of a flip, in terms of likelihood. But the consequences -- I mean we have been both good and lucky since 9/11. The capabilities the government has developed, the intelligence, the military capabilities, the whole works, the law enforcement, is just night and day different than it was on 9/10, 2001. But they keep coming at us. It's a problem we're gonna face for I think quite a while.
McFADDEN: If there was one thing you could accomplish, whatever amount of time you have left in this office, what would it be?
GATES: Well, I would hope that it would be that it would, that people would recognize that we're making progress in Afghanistan, that this is worth doing, and that the sacrifice these young men and women are making is in fact producing success. It's gonna take a while, but I think it's headed in that direction.
McFADDEN: Years ago when you were studying Russian history, that was certainly if you wanted to change the world, affect the world, that was certainly the thing to study. What would you advise someone now to study?
GATES: Well one of the programs that that I've gotten the help of Congress in getting through is paying ROTC students to study hard languages like Dari and Farsi and various Arabic and so on. I think that the difference that we face now from the world that I grew up in is that the the challenges are so diverse, and we face, I think, a growing split in the world between the developed countries and developing countries, many of whom are failing or are approaching failed state. And so they have deeply unhappy populations.
You have huge youth bulges in many of these societies and no jobs, like in Iran, but in a lot of other societies too. So you know, this is why I make the argument that we can't afford to reduce the size of the American military at this point. We face a diversity of challenges all over the world, and we are the only power that, in the world, that has global interests, and frankly is a force for stability and I believe, and I've believed my whole life, a force for good.
McFADDEN: We ask a much different thing from an American soldier today than we did even 15 or 20 years ago. I mean it seems to me they have to be part social worker, part psychiatrist, part urban planner, as well as combat ready.