Gates's case is emblematic of how it is that ambitious, brown-nose functionaries (as well as rising four-stars) can ooze themselves into top positions and do irreparable harm. The only hope of preventing this in the future is to expose how the system now works, so I feel bound to add my two cents (plus a confession for having been Gates's branch chief 50 years ago).
Goodman's piece was occasioned by Gates's key role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have followed Gates particularly closely since he took the job as defense secretary in late 2006 as Donald Rumsfeld finally heeded his generals' advice that the Iraq war was hopeless, and that "surging" still more troops into Iraq in 2007 would simply compound a long list of errors.
Enter Robert Gates and "wing-man" Gen. David Petraeus who said they thought the surge a great idea. Its main purpose, actually, was to allow Cheney and Bush to leave office without losing a war. The cost? "Only" 1,000 additional U.S. troops delivered to Dover in "transfer cases." Writing in November 2008 I reviewed the play by play and posed a question: "Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?" Few of those watching closely thought the question in that title as off the wall as it had first sounded.