Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ memoir “Duty,” has laid bare one of the most damning statements anyone can make of a commander in chief at President Obama’s door – that the president put his own political fortunes ahead of the lives of the men and women under his command.
While the book will not be officially released until next Tuesday excerpts have already appeared in the press. Some of the allegations Gates makes about his former colleagues are brutal.
Gates writes of a conversation in the White House Situation Room, when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama discussed why they had come out against Bush’s Iraq strategy. They admitted their opposition wasn’t because they believed the surge would fail (it ultimately succeeded), or because they thought it was wrong for the nation, but because they thought opposing it would bolster their own political fortunes during the 2008 campaign.
Clinton admitted she opposed the Iraq surge because she was worried about losing the Iowa Caucuses to anti-war candidate Obama.
Obama opposed the Iraq War because he opposed everything Bush did. At the same time, not wanting to come across to the electorate as a typical anti-military, anti-war leftist in a post-September 11th America, he came out in favor of the war in Afghanistan. And when Obama became president, he owned that war.
Gates’ book reveals that Obama had concluded early on that the surge was a lost cause, but he went ahead anyway. The president committed American men and women to fight and die in Afghanistan so he wouldn’t look weak to the electorate or have to admit defeat in a war he had,just a few months earlier, called a war of necessity that America must win.
There is no more craven act a commander-in-chief can commit. If Gates’ allegations are true,Obama willingly sent American men and women to fight and die in a war he didn’t believe they could win, leaving them with terrible scars they and their families will bear for the rest of their lives.
In short, Obama and Clinton were both willing to trade lives for votes. And they weren’t even ashamed of it. For them it is all politics, all the time.
One of the greatest achievements of our Constitution is civilian control of the military. It is unique in the annals of mankind. We have the strongest military in the world, but it answers to our elected leaders, not the other way around. In the history of the world – in the great empires of the past -- Greece, Rome, Japan, Germany -- a strong military eventually calls the shots. But not in America.
But this comes at a price -- a sacred trust by the president of the United States with the American military -- not to abuse that power. When the commander in chief sends Americans to fight and die, it should be only to protect our vital national interests, not for his own personal, political gain.
I have known Bob Gates for over forty years, beginning in the early 1970’s when we both worked on Henry Kissinger’s White House staff. Gates is a man of enormous integrity, intellect and patriotism, respected by both sides of the political aisle as a straight shooter. I have no reason, none at all, to believe Gates book speaks anything other than the truth, and the whole truth.