Robert Gates, the former CIA director and the only person to serve as Secretary of Defense under two presidents of different parties, gave the keynote presentation at the Nutanix Now partner conference. Gates reflected on the importance of leadership and how the lessons he learned in his decades of national service can help IT solution providers.
Gates, whose consulting firm Rice Hadley Gates LLP is helping Nutanix to win federal business, said he's happy to be working with Nutanix. "The Pentagon probably has several times the number of PR people as Nutanix has people," he said. "It certainly has thousands of times more lawyers."
Gates used his experience in government to highlight the importance of making good decisions when faced with a lack of information.
During a 1973 intelligence briefing in Geneva that included Gates and U.S. Ambassador Paul Nitze, Gates said, analysts had concluded there would be no war between Egypt and Israel.
"Nitze asked me, 'Do you read French?'" he said. "I said, 'No.' He asked, 'Do you listen to the radio?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'If you read French or listened to the radio, you'd know that Egypt attacked Israel two hours ago.'" That morning, the Yom Kippur War had begun. And Gates said he did not know about it.
Gates then went on to cite four examples of bold decisions made in the face of a lack of complete information.
In the first example, he told about former President Ronald Reagan's decision to drive the Soviet Union into the "ash heap of history." The opportunity came in 1985 when an analyst told Reagan the Soviet Union couldn't survive, making it the first time in U.S. history a major adversary was doomed, quite possibly during Reagan's presidency.
There was a lot of disagreement about how Reagan should conduct his first meeting with the Chairman of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, with the Pentagon worried that Reagan would bargain away the U.S. military advantage, Gates said.
However, Reagan seized the moment, and recognized that, after several years of U.S. military buildup, "there was an opportunity to sheathe the sword," he said.
NEXT: Cost Vs. Lives, The Surge, And The Osama Bin Laden Raid