Former Secretary of Defense Gate’s new book is highly controversial—to say the least. I haven’t read it yet, so my comments come from what the media says is in it—I’m focusing on the points they all agree on.
Many of these points are of little surprise to those of us who have watched our president take two sort-of-successful wars—in Iraq and Afghanistan—and turn them into total failures.
The book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, is a lengthy look back at Gates’s career, which (with the exception of Bill Clinton) spanned every President since Richard Nixon. Gates has the experience to get things in the proper context.
First, give this some thought. A couple of years ago a former secret service agent put out an “unofficial” list of presidents, first ladies, and vice presidents—and how the secret service felt about these dignitaries—and how the secret service members were treated by them.
Interestingly, it matched exactly how our military leaders felt. Since WWII our nation has had only two presidents who never served a day in our military. They are Presidents Obama and Clinton. And these two men, and their wives, and their vice presidents all treated our military and their secret service details with suspicion and disrespect. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on this.
Okay, now Dr. Gates observations about our current president. Gates paints the picture of a reluctant commander-in-chief who was not prepared to lead the country, let alone a war.
All military leaders know that, ultimately, they work for the President; he is the boss. But the military culture includes telling the boss the truth, not what he wants to hear; maybe this open, honesty is what was bothering. Anyway, Gates felt his toughest obstacle was the “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials — including the President and Vice President.”
Gates was shocked to watch the relationship between Obama and the Pentagon sour. “It became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander-in-chief and his military leaders.”
And it wasn’t just on the war. Obama’s decision to seek the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy toward gays serving in the military was a breach of faith. Though Gates says he supported the decision, there had been months and months of debate, with details still to work out. On one day’s notice, Obama informed Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen that he would announce his request for a repeal of the law. Obama had ‘blindsided Admiral Mullen and me,'” Gates says.
In other words, the very leaders forced to carry out this radical agenda were neither prepared for nor consulted about the change. “I felt that agreements with the Obama White House were good for only as long as they were politically convenient,” said Gates.
This administration sees the military as a force for political correctness. At the time, virtually no top military leaders agreed with that concept at all. This is why, as we discussed at length last week on this show, why so many senior military commanders have been fired in the past five years.
Oh, yes, there’s the war thing. 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 US, requiring even more military resources to succeed. Gates says 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. Thus, President Obama didn’t believe in the war in Afghanistan, yet he still sent troops over there to fight and die—leaders don’t do this.
As happens all too often, President Johnson in Vietnam was perhaps the worst in this area, people who know little to nothing about waging war—decide to call all the shots. Obama’s White House, worked to bring everything under its control and micromanagement. As a field commander putting your troops in harm’s way, wouldn’t you be annoyed when some fat-living bureaucrats who doesn’t know which end of the gun toes bang—tells you how to fight your war? They did—and do.
There’s so much more, but I’ll conclude with this. The Vice President and other White House aides are described as regularly engaged in “aggressive, suspicious, and sometimes condescending and insulting questioning of our military leaders.”
Secretary Gates gets a few black eyes for his actions, too. He was in a position of leadership and should have stood up to the President on matters of principle. I feel that Gates should have resigned in protest, but he did what he felt he had to do.
Bottom line; our nation has no leader in the White House.