“It Wasn’t Me!” – Former SecDef Gates Pens Memoir, Rips Obama.


Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has penned a tell-all memoir in which he viciously rips President Barack Obama for his handling of American foreign policy during Gates’ tenure in office.

As the Washington Post reports:

In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Leveling one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat, Gates asserts that Obama had more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan. The president was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” Gates writes in “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.”

Obama, after months of contentious discussion with Gates and other top advisers, deployed 30,000 more troops in a final push to stabilize Afghanistan before a phased withdrawal beginning in mid-2011. “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission,” Gates writes.

As a candidate, Obama had made plain his opposition to the 2003 Iraq invasion while embracing the Afghanistan war as a necessary response to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, requiring even more military resources to succeed. In Gates’s highly emotional account, Obama remains uncomfortable with the inherited wars and distrustful of the military that is providing him options. Their different worldviews produced a rift that, at least for Gates, became personally wounding and impossible to repair.

I predict that some Neoconservative republicans will rally around Gates as an anti-Obama icon, trumpeting Gates as a valiant “inside man” pulling back the curtain. I disagree. I think Robert Gates is a self-serving bastard. His publishing of this book proves it.

In one segment of his book, we read:

All too often during my 4½ years as secretary of defense, when I found myself sitting yet again at that witness table at yet another congressional hearing, I was tempted to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot. The exit lines were on the tip of my tongue: I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else. It was, I am confident, a fantasy widely shared throughout the executive branch.

So, he wanted to slam his book shut and quit in protest. Why didn’t he? He kept his mouth shut. He never made any waves. He never gave the public any indication that something was amiss in Washington.

More from the book:

I did not just have to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq and against al Qaeda; I also had to battle the bureaucratic inertia of the Pentagon, surmount internal conflicts within both administrations, avoid the partisan abyss in Congress, evade the single-minded parochial self-interest of so many members of Congress and resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House, especially in the Obama administration, to bring everything under its control and micromanagement. Over time, the broad dysfunction of today’s Washington wore me down, especially as I tried to maintain a public posture of nonpartisan calm, reason and conciliation.

I was brought in to help salvage the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–both going badly when I replaced Donald Rumsfeld in December 2006. When I was sworn in, my goals for both wars were relatively modest, but they seemed nearly unattainable. In Iraq, I hoped we could stabilize the country so that when U.S. forces departed, the war wouldn’t be viewed as a strategic defeat for the U.S. or a failure with global consequences; in Afghanistan, I sought an Afghan government and army strong enough to prevent the Taliban from returning to power and al Qaeda from returning to use the country again as a launch pad for terror. Fortunately, I believe my minimalist goals were achieved in Iraq and remain within reach in Afghanistan.

President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan–especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty–were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan–a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government–were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.

So we hear Robert Gates trying to disavow himself of any responsibility or connection to what has happened in Iraq or Afghanistan. His book is 600 pages of “It wasn’t me!”. He is pointing the finger at Bush, Rumsfeld, and Obama. He is blaming mismanagement and bungling from the Bush Administration, and political inertia from the Obama Adminstration. But Gates presided over the majority of both wars. He held the office of SecDef since 2006. For nearly 5 years, he was one of the top dogs in the Iraq and Afghan Wars.

Gates says that he privately boiled over the mismanagement of these events during his tenure. If so, they why didn’t he ever say anything? This is always the case with these “tell-all” post-governmental types. They spend years on the inside without making a peep, and then wait to deliver their scathing critiques until they’re well out of office; and not immediately after leaving office either, but usually years later when they really have lost almost all influence. Gates was in a position to project some real influence, but he never took the opportunity. As he mentioned earlier, he did just shut up and let “that son of a bitch” (whomever he was referring to) talk to him that way.

Robert Gates is responsible for what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, as is George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Barack Obama and Leon Panetta. Gates signed on for the job. He never took his concerns public. He never complained or quit in protest when he felt he was being marginalized or steam-rolled politically. When he realized that things were rotten and he didn’t want to be blamed for it, he should’ve gone public. By refusing to publicly criticize both the Bush and Obama administrations, or quit in protest, he accepted complicit responsibility for what went on. He put his seal of approval on it. If he really disagreed with what was happening, he should have said something publicly, or quit and immediately made his public criticisms in a press release. Gates was in a position to make real impact. Imagine if tomorrow, Secretary of State John Kerry came out with scathing criticisms on the hypocrisy and immorality of many aspects in American foreign policy. He would likely get the boot the next day, and it would probably not bring about any immediate policy changes, but the public impact would be enormous. It would really make the public think. It could be a trigger event to start moving public ideas in a new direction.

Of course, John Kerry would never do this. Gates never did it. Almost nobody in government ever quits in protest, or comes out swinging with harsh public criticism while in office. The last person I can think of to do this was William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State back in the early 1900s. He was upset that Woodrow Wilson was pushing the United States into World War I. Jennings Bryan chose to resign rather than be complicit in what he considered to be the immoral machinations of the Woodrow Administration. Otherwise, it seems these “inside men” always keep quiet until they’re safely on the outside, when their ability to influence people diminishes significantly. That’s how these guys, like Kerry and Gates, get to where they do in government: their superiors know they will not rock the boat or make trouble while in office. They don’t significantly care about what they do post-career; it’s what happens in office that really counts. In office, they can be counted on to shut up and color.

On a final note, the same thing can be applied toward Obama, in this situation. Gates says that Obama has been skeptical of achieving success in Iraq and Afghanistan. He even says that Obama was seemingly looking for exit avenues from Afghanistan from the beginning of his tenure. This makes me shake my head. If Obama wants to get US troops out of Afghanistan, then why doesn’t he? At the very least, why doesn’t he make a public statement: “We all know by now that Afghanistan is a total farce. I know it, and you all know it. It was ill-conceived from the very beginning. Let’s cut our losses and move on. It may seem humiliating on the world stage, but who cares? What’s most important is to not waste the lives of any more soldiers.” This would be huge. But Obama hasn’t said this. I can imagine that as soon as he leaves office, he’ll write some tell-all in which he says he always thought this. My question at that time will be the same: Why didn’t you say anything while you still had influence?

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