The new Bob Gates book is a serious warning to the Obama White House and future occupants that playing politics with national security issues is not only bad for America but dangerous for the world. If you wonder why the Middle East’s Arab Spring has turned into the Islamic Awakening, look no further than a White House foreign policy team focused on politics.
Gates book is also a stern rebuke of Congress and the men and women running for office that their self-interest and self-preservation is tearing down our system.
Gates had a front row seat to America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by being appointed Secretary of Defense in 2006 by President George W. Bush and then re-appointed in 2011 by President Obama.
While Bush and Obama had dramatically different policy positions, Gates seamlessly served both presidents.
His new book, to be released Tuesday, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” cannot be dismissed as a partisan attack.
The book is filled with juicy insights about the inner workings of Washington at a time of war. Excerpts have Gates giving his raw opinions on Congress, President Obama, Vice President Biden, White House staffers and Hillary Clinton.
Gates is extremely critical of President Obama’s leadership style and bemoans how the commander-in-chief brought politics into most every national security decision. Gates even suggests that Obama didn’t believe in his own Afghanistan policy despite campaigning on it.
We’ve seen Obama’s political self-interest play out on the foreign stages of Libya, Syria, Iran and Egypt.
Gates’ glimpse into the Obama White House helps us understand why the president made the Syria redline pronouncement just weeks before his re-election, why the Obama team failed to get a status of forces agreement with Iraq and why they are now weakening Iran resolutions to find a nuclear deal, any deal, with the Islamic Republic.
Gates shows us that Obama is the first American president to put his political advisers in charge of U.S. national security issues. And it hasn’t been good.
In fact, Obama’s “pivot” to China also rings of a short-term temporary political move designed to distract the easily distractible Washington press corps -- a campaign political event designed by campaign political operatives that was wildly successful.
China continues to bully the region and Obama has already pivoted elsewhere.
But for anyone who thinks the Obama team just inherited wars and was simply trying to manage the current crisis, Gates makes clear that the Obama team has been in charge of every national security issue America has faced for the last five years.
Gates criticizes the Obama White House for its simplification of the wars and over reliance on dialogue to win a war.
Gates also admits that Obama, from the moment he entered the White House in 2009, was determined to win reelection. It was always his ultimate goal.
The Obama “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,” Gates writes.
He goes on to the call Obama White House “controlling” and determined “to take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the career folks in the trenches who had actually done the work.”
Gates contrasts the Obama White House with the Bush White House and says “I don't recall Bush ever discussing domestic politics -- apart from congressional opposition -- as a consideration in decisions he made during my time with him…”
Gates’ harsh words for Congress as “uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country” has rankled some on Capitol Hill. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) quickly tweeted: "@JeffFlake Re Gates book. Extraordinarily bad timing, and form, if you ask me."
Gates says he was so frustrated by Congressional hearings for their “kangaroo-court environment” and politicians for their grandstanding “especially when cameras were around” that he dreamed of dramatically quitting with this line: “I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else.”
But Gates also admits that he had an easier road than other Bush or Obama officials.
In a refreshing rare admission from a Washington insider, Gates says, “Throughout my tenure at the Pentagon, under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, I was, in personal terms, treated better by the White House, Congress and the press for longer than almost anyone I could remember in a senior U.S. government job.”
Gates also gives some important facts about a few other people wanting to become the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania.
Hillary Clinton, he says, admitted in a private moment that she played politics with the U.S. military in order to stake out a better political position for her presidential bid.
The shocking admission from the former Secretary of State had been speculated about but her aides dismissed it as nonsense.
Gates sets the record straight. The revelation that Hillary, too, was so self-serving that she was willing to use the U.S. military for her personal political gains is sure to be a problem for her if she chooses to run for president.
Gates also flatly says Vice President Joe Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
I hope the Washington media reads this book. It’s a clear warning to them, too, that they have a lot of catching up to do to correct the phony tales they’ve been telling.