Robert Gates plans to retire this year, but he is not going quietly. The secretary of defense has gone on offense to make his unhappiness known about the Libyan war. Here are some of his public comments, starting with early reservations about a no-fly zone:
"Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses."
Asked how long we would be in Libya, he said, "I don't think anybody knows the answer to that." What he did think of sending American ground forces into the country? "Not as long as I am in this job."
The opposition forces are "pretty much a pickup ball game at this point."
Libya "was not a vital national interest to the United States."
As for arming and training the rebels, "as far I'm concerned, someone else should do that."
Individually, the comments raised eyebrows. Taken together, they show a virtual hostage trying to signal the truth of his captivity.
Unfortunately, nobody is listening. President Obama rebuffed Gates' advice at nearly every step, which we can safely assume was more strenuous in private than it was in public.
Perhaps the most curious aspect of the affair, however, is how little mainstream-media attention it has received. I can't find a single instance of coverage that recounts all the above comments, a list by no means exhaustive.
It was certainly a media circus when President Bush ordered the Iraq surge against the wishes of many commanders. But that was Bush, and the media hated war then. Or was it just Bush they hated?