“I’ve spent my entire adult life with the United States as a superpower, and one that had no compunction about spending what it took to sustain that position. It didn’t have to look over its shoulder because our economy was so strong. This is a different time,” he says.

He also claims that’s one of his reasons for stepping down from his post, which he’s held since the Bush administration. He “can’t imagine being part of a nation…that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world.”

Gates has come under fire at various points during his tenure at the Department of Defense, often for not cutting enough from the Pentagon’s budget. But he doesn’t accept that criticism as valid. “Congress is all over the place,” he told Newsweek.

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