I never had much use for Robert Gates – the former defense secretary and former CIA director.
I famously predicted Barack Obama would select Gates as his defense secretary even before Obama was elected. How did I figure that out?
In July 2008, I noticed candidate Obama drop a major policy bombshell that no one else in the press noticed. At a campaign stop in Colorado Springs July 2, Obama made what has now become an infamous statement after I pointed it out: “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”
The statement was dropped from campaign press handouts of the speech – always a tipoff something suspicious is up.
Since I’ve never heard anyone inside or out of government use the phrase “civilian national security force” before, I was more than a little curious about what he had in mind – especially because the ambitious idea required funding equal to the entire Defense Department budget, then at $439 billion.
I did a little checking and learned Obama wasn’t the first official to use this phrase. He borrowed it from Gates.
On that basis, I predicted Gates, then serving in George W. Bush’s administration, would be the next defense secretary whether Americans chose Obama or John McCain. I made that assertion because Gates is one of those establishment insiders – part of what is sometimes called “the permanent government.”
Gates is back in the news this week with a tell-all book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” about his experiences inside the Obama administration.
Among the newsworthy nuggets:
- Gates says Obama had no faith in his own policies in Iraq or Afghanistan from the beginning. In promoting his book, Gates wrote in the Wall Street Journal Obama’s “fundamental problem in Afghanistan was that his political and philosophical preferences for winding down the U.S. role conflicted with his own pro-war public rhetoric … the nearly unanimous recommendations of his senior civilian and military advisers at the departments of State and Defense, and the realities on the ground.” By March 2011, Gates writes in his book: “As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand (Afghan 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.”
- About Vice President Joe Biden, Gates writes he poisoned the well for U.S. military leadership and has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
- He complains of the “controlling nature” of the White House, writing that Obama’s national security team “took micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level.”
- Gates recalls Obama and his secretary of state at the time, Hillary Rodham Clinton, discussing their opposition to Bush’s 2007 surge of troops in Iraq. “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the 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.”
- “All too early in the [Obama] administration,” he writes, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials – including the president and vice president – became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief and his military leaders.”
Of course, all this leaves me wondering what Gates thought he was getting himself into when he took the job.
Didn’t he understand the character of those he was joining in the Obama administration – starting with the so-called commander in chief?
Why did he stay until 2011?
Why didn’t he blow the whistle on Obama before the 2012 election?
Was he saving all this stuff to make a killing on the book rather than saving the nation from another four years of Obama?
Did he wait for the moment when practically the entire nation, save the establishment press corps, already recognized Obama for what he is?
And I’m still waiting to learn what he and Obama had in mind for that “civilian national security force.” Aren’t you?
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