Top 10 Revelations From Robert Gates’ Tell-All Memoir
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has published a 600-page memoir called Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. The book includes a rare insider look into the war, particularly defense policy made in Washington. The Wall Street Journal has compiled a list of the 10 biggest revelations from Gates’ upcoming tell-all.
Chief among them is Gates’ open disdain for Congress and how he wanted to storm out of his Congressional hearing and outright quit after the way he was treated by lawmakers. “I saw most of Congress as uncivil,” Gates writes, “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.”
Gates also expressed disdain for Vice President Joe Biden who he says “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
He was also unhappy with Obama’s national security team trying to tightly control every aspect of policy. “I never confronted Obama directly over what I (as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and others) saw as his determination that the White House tightly control every aspect of national security policy and even operations,” Gates writes. “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.”
He mentioned other problems with Obama’s National Security staff, pointing out that his conflicts were rarely with Obama himself. “Much of my conflicts with the Obama administration during the first two years weren’t over policy initiatives from the White House but rather the NSS’s micromanagement and operational meddling,” he writes. “For an NSS staff member to call a four-star combatant commander or field commander would have been unthinkable when I worked at the White House – and probably cause for dismissal. It became routine under Obama.”
Gates also called out the White House for trying to take credit for every good thing that happened in the war effort. He points out that his “minimalist goals were achieved in Iraq.” He also questions Obama’s commitment to the Afghanistan strategy, noting “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for the mission.” He expressed disdain that every military decision had domestic politics factored into it and repeatedly cites his contempt for Washington.
Interestingly, the former Secretary of Defense takes a very dovish approach to foreign policy. Gates writes that “presidents confronted with tough policy problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents. For too many people, war has become a kind of videogame or action movie: bloodless, painless and odorless.”
He goes on to say “I did not enjoy being secretary of defense.”