Gates’s warning should be a call to arms for conservatives who, in election after election, have retained the public’s trust by adhering to the principle that American military preeminence is absolutely essential if we want security at home and great-power peace abroad. It is a platform that Republicans in Congress and those running for president, in particular, need to reaffirm. Former Minnesota governor and 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty got it precisely right when he said: “I’m not one who’s going to stand before you and say we need to cut the defense budget. . . . I’m not for shrinking America’s presence in the world. I’m for making sure America remains the world leader.”
Through the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bob Gates has seen the thin line that separates “too few” from “just enough.” He knows how hard it is to turn defeat into a chance for victory. When he says “enough,” conservatives—and all Americans—should listen.