Gates, a Republican, writes about Obama with an ambivalence that he does not resolve, praising him as “a man of personal integrity” even as he faults his leadership. Though the book simmers with disappointment in Obama, it reflects outright contempt for Vice President Biden and many of Obama’s top aides. [Washington Post]
IT’S NOT hard to guess that Bob Woodward enjoyed writing the report on the new memoir of Bob Gates, Duty, which seems to further emphasize the story begun by Rosa Brooks in Politico’s Magazine. Taken together, the foreign policy picture being portrayed of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, as well as those who made up the team who gave the go ahead to get Osama bin Laden, is not only unflattering, but becomes a story during Obama’s presidency while he’s still living it.
Rosa Brooks was the first to report this story, specifically about the generals, which Gates continues:
“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.”
Let’s see, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers,” well, well, well, that could have been said about John F. Kennedy, too.
As for Afghanistan, which Gates also dissects, Vali Nasr began the criticism in The Dispensable Nation, early in 2013.
A military man to his corps, Gates writes about the political calculations of politicians, which are rarely laid out so starkly.
“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.”
This is hardly surprising, as war and peace is often weighed as a political calculation. We all remember the selling of the Iraq war by Karl Rove, Andy Card and the Bush administration in 2002, right before the midterm elections.
Around this time, Rove was criticized for telling a Republican group that the war and terror themes could play to the GOP’s advantage in the November elections. Not long after, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was asked why the administration waited until after Labor Day to try to sell the American people on military action against Iraq. Card replied, `From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.’ [NPR]
Woodward quotes Gates from Duty, also lauding Secretary Hillary Clinton:
Earlier in the book, he describes Hillary Clinton in the sort of glowing terms that might be used in a political endorsement. “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” he wrote.
Gates also critiques the controlling aspect of all things foreign policy inside the Obama White House, which was continued with Susan Rice entering from the U.S., in terms that include Democrats Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, both of whom felt the same as Gates, that they were on the outside.
“I never confronted Obama directly over what I (as well as [Hillary] Clinton, [then-CIA Director Leon] Panetta, and others) saw as the president’s determination that the White House tightly control every aspect of national security policy and even operations. His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost.”
The comparison to “the most centralized and controlling in national security” that rivals Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger is the most disturbing, because it has rippled out to impede the First Amendment rights of reporters and journalists, with the details published in a report by CPJ [Committee to Protect Journalists] in October 2013, revealing the Obama administration’s penchant for control, and punishment.
“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” – Bob Gates on V.P. Joe Biden
There will be partisans lining up to defend their team, with an all hands on deck moment for Vice President Joe Biden. Gates evidently getting amnesia that he and Biden were both against the Libya bombing. V.P. Biden was correct on Pakistan, offering his theory on this very site, as he was on Afghanistan. His relationships worldwide are real and deep. There is little doubt that he steps in it regularly, and the Twittering mass mock him daily. Gates accuses Biden of “poisoning the well” against the military leadership, but there are few politicians with a record of support for the troops that rivals Joe Biden, with his distrust of the brass hardly unique.
It’s also good to remember that Bob Gates was beside CIA Directory Bill Casey when he launched his covert war in Afghanistan against the Soviets that bled into what was then the Soviet Union, which was against international law, unbeknown to President Ronald Reagan, who was purposely kept in the dark. He was also wrong about the advice he gave to Reagan about Gorbachev, which was pointed out by Max Fisher.
President Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates may have thought of his boss as “a man of personal integrity,” but it’s very clear from the reporting that he does not respect his brand of leadership.