Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Gates is Only the Beginning

An interesting day it has been, reading the responses here and there to some of the quotes coming out of former SECDEF Gates's book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.

As most of the responses are personal attacks or tales of butthurt, I'll let you find them yourselves. 

I would like to comment on a few quotes from Gates in his book that have come out, as most of this rings true from what I saw and thought.

From WaPo;
... 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.”
Similar to the argument made here for over four years. Click the AFG tab below to the posts from DEC09 on; it's all there.

I would add that Obama did something morally worse than sending people to die for something you don't believe in ; setting the conditions for a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.
In “Duty,” Gates describes his outwardly calm demeanor as a facade. Underneath, he writes, he was frequently “seething” and “running out of patience on multiple fronts.”
Gates had good company. Many of us did. We also saw you set your jaw and suspected you felt the same. Many did our duty as best we could while serving under people we had little faith in. Serving your nation is much greater and very different than those you are sometimes serving with. Gates served his nation well.

Gates is also spot-on Salamanderesque on Biden;
Gates calls Biden “a man of integrity,” but questions his record. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” ...
Anyone who saw the Senate Democrats pivot a decade ago should not be shocked by this.
Gates offers a catalogue of various meetings, based in part on notes that he and his aides made at the time, including an exchange between Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he calls “remarkable.”

He writes: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”
Of course it was political. They were both in Reid's caucus in the Senate. To them, foreign policy is just an extension of domestic party politics - just with actual dead bodies.
At a March 3, 2011, National Security Council meeting, Gates writes, the president opened with a “blast.” Obama criticized the military for “popping off in the press” and said he would push back hard against any delay in beginning the withdrawal.

According to Gates, Obama concluded, “ ‘If I believe I am being gamed . . .’ and left the sentence hanging there with the clear implication the consequences would be dire.”

Gates continues: “I was pretty upset myself. I thought implicitly accusing” Petraeus, and perhaps Mullen and Gates himself, “of gaming him in front of thirty people in the Situation Room was inappropriate, not to mention highly disrespectful of Petraeus. As I sat there, I thought: the president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [Afghanistan President Hamid] Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”
It was always so with Obama. He wants to fundamentally change the USA. To do that he does not want or need foreign entanglements - and he does not want to do anything to empower those in uniform or their standing with the American public.

The worse the better.
“I was extremely angry with President Obama,” Gates writes. “I felt he had breached faith with me . . . on the budget numbers.” As with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” “I felt that agreements with the Obama White House were good for only as long as they were politically convenient.”
Gates says his instructions to the Pentagon were: “Don’t give the White House staff and [national security staff] too much information on the military options. They don’t understand it, and ‘experts’ like Samantha Power will decide when we should move militarily.”
Another time, after Donilon and Biden tried to pass orders to Gates, he told the two, “The last time I checked, neither of you are in the chain of command,” and said he expected to get orders directly from Obama.
So important. With the exception of Gates and Jones, who are now gone, the intellectual capital at DOS and DOD is very thin - and will not get better.

A final note, I think many who served or are serving will well understand this quote. I greatly respect Gates for putting a voice to an emotion that is hard to explain. It has to do with service to nation and duty. I'll leave it there for you to ponder.
Gates writes, “I did not enjoy being secretary of defense,” or as he e-mailed one friend while still serving, “People have no idea how much I detest this job.”

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