Former Obama Pentagon chief Robert Gates criticized the administration for lacking a strategy for containing violence in the Middle East, likening the situation to the one that faced the U.S. during the Cold War.

"If you accept the premise that we face a generation-long period of turbulence and violence in the Middle East, the lack of an overarching strategy for how you react to a region in flames is a problem," Gates said in an interview published Friday night by the Wall Street Journal. "Are there fires we should just let burn out? Who are our friends? Who should we support?"

Gates negatively compared U.S. policy to the government's approach in the Cold War, when George Kennan's 1946 "Long Telegram" outlining a policy of containment for the Soviet Union helped form an implicitly accepted overarching strategy for dealing with the Soviets.

Gates, who served as defense secretary under former President George W. Bush and retained the job for the first years of Obama's presidency, gave the interview as part of the publicity tour for his upcoming book about reforming large institutions such as the Pentagon, titled A Passion for Leadership.

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