WASHINGTON, June 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says his career in Washington, which includes guiding two wars and serving eight presidents, may have made him too cautious.
"I think one of the reasons it's probably time for me to leave is that sometimes too much experience can get in the way, and you can get too cautious," Gates told Politico in an interview published Wednesday. "It may be making me more cautious than I ought to be."
Gates, who retires June 30, opposed intervening in Libya and seriously questioned intelligence behind the raid to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Gates plans to return to his lakefront home in Washington state, north of Seattle, where he says he plans to write two books -- one a memoir and another a humorous guide to transforming public institutions.
Gates gained a reputation for never backing away from the Pentagon's so-called sacred cows, including capping or scrapping weapons programs deemed unacceptable or unnecessary, bringing Pentagon leaders into his push for budgeting restraint and chiding upper-crust Americans about the folly of considering military service as "something for other people to do."
Concerning Libya, Gates told Politico he was determined to fight and win the two wars on his plate without voluntarily opening new fronts. Gates said Libya was his biggest disagreement with Obama, for whom he has only praise.
"Once in 2 1/2 years isn't bad," he said.
Gates said he had to ask the questions during planning of the bin Laden raid because "[my] concern was what we'd find when we got there. What if he's not there?"
Every president "is owed and should demand" open debate, something Obama wanted.
"And he told the military leadership early on: He said, 'The only thing I'll ever blame you for -- or get mad at you -- is if you had a different view and you didn't tell me,'" Gates said.
Gates told Politico he planned to follow the lead of former Presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush once he leaves the nation's capital.
"I think it would be very unseemly to leave and then turn right around and start doing op-eds and talk shows and things like that," he said. "I think I need to, as my kids would say, get a life."