Robert Gates Departs: Now Wary of "Wars of Choice"

Defense Secretary Robert Gates shares his thoughts on the U.S. and war in an interview Friday:

“If we were about to be attacked or had been attacked or something happened that threatened a vital U.S. national interest, I would be the first in line to say, ‘Let’s go,’ ” Mr. Gates said. “I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice.”

He also had some thoughts on how to make it Washington, particularly when, as he did, you have to serve under different Presidents from different parties: [More...]

Avoid saying, ‘Well, we tried that before,’ or ‘We’ve thought about that,’ or ‘We’ve been down that road and that won’t work.’ Those things always get under people’s skin when they come in.” He concluded that, “frankly, it took a lot of Washington experience to make it work.”

Gates is opposed to going to war in Libya. But on national security issues, he sounds like he agrees with President Bush. When asked if he influenced Obama to move in the Bush direction on national security, he makes it sound like that direction was Obama's only logical choice:

Reality is a very effective teacher.”

As for what he's most looking forward to: Losing the entourage and security detail, and driving himself to Burger King.

And, of course, writing his memoirs.

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    He makes no sense (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Dadler on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 01:43:37 PM EST
    Reality is an effective teacher.  Especially when you get to dictate what reality we're talking about, which is the alternate one in your own paranoid and ego-driven mind.

    Rest assured, he rose as he did, and served across administrations as he did, because, no matter how "different" he may have seemed, when push came to shove, Gates is a company man and yes man through and through.  The game never changes, only the players, and he is always loyal to the game, the military industrial racket.  Oh, sure, he made a few minor league waves, but he was no great or even good shakes.  Nice to hear him expressing his regret and wariness now, once again as they always do, when it doesn't matter and will make no difference and requires no risk on his part.  Very brave.  As-hole.

    Cowards and halfwits and imagination vacuums, all of them.  I am reminded of the line from broadcast BROADCAST NEWS, delivered by a just canned employee to the exec who tells him if there's anything he can do for the guy, just say it: "Well, I certainly hope you'll die soon."  

    His memoirs, no doubt, will be the standard lies and rationalizations and self-delusions.  If they make it to paper, I'll make sure to wipe my dog's ace with it.

    Happy Father's Day, Moron.

    I felt the same way (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Zorba on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 03:03:58 PM EST
    about Colin Powell, as well.  Thanks bunches, Colin, for speaking up after you left the Bush administration, instead of during, when you even carried Bush's water and lied to the UN.  I don't want to hear from anyone like that- Gates, Powell, or someone like Robert McNamara, who admitted many years later that Viet Nam was a mistake.  If they didn't have the guts to fight for what they said (much later) that they believed, or do the honorable thing and resign and tell everyone why they resigned (I'm thinking Elliot Richardson here), then STFU when it's too late to make a difference.

    And I don't think there's too much doubt, (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Anne on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 02:29:33 PM EST
    at this point, that continuing our involvement with respect to Libya is Obama's choice, and further, that he does not believe he needs to consult the Congress about doing so.

    The Charlie Savage piece in the NYTreveals that:

    President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

    Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military's activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to "hostilities." Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.

    But Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team -- including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh -- who argued that the United States military's activities fell short of "hostilities." Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.


    The administration followed an unusual process in developing its position. Traditionally, the Office of Legal Counsel solicits views from different agencies and then decides what the best interpretation of the law is. The attorney general or the president can overrule its views, but rarely do.

    In this case, however, Ms. Krass was asked to submit the Office of Legal Counsel's thoughts in a less formal way to the White House, along with the views of lawyers at other agencies. After several meetings and phone calls, the rival legal analyses were submitted to Mr. Obama, who is a constitutional lawyer, and he made the decision.

    I think if I were Robert Gates, I'd be glad to be leaving, too; I don't know which is worse, a president who can be talked into things because he doesn't know enough, or one who cannot be talked out of them because he thinks he knows best.

    I would be looking for more departures, and soon.

    Yes, reality is a good teacher. (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by KeysDan on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 02:43:45 PM EST
    The Obama administration learned that they have to go after reality-based leakers and whistleblowers so as to stop guys like Charles Savage from reporting what should be embarrassing revelations about their decision-making.

    I agree (none / 0) (#8)
    by loveed on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 03:16:37 PM EST
    All the adults seems to be leaving. Some will stay until after the election, because of loyalty to Obama. Some will stay so they do not have to campaign for him.
     Even GWB knew you cannot win a war in Afghanistan.he limited the numbers of troops (appox.20-30,000).The bulk was NATO troops. Nato realized this effort was fertile. Even are closest allies(the few we had left) started to withdraw. Obama increased the troops by about 100,000.
     There is nothing in Afghanistan but rocks an drugs.
    The only targets was the people of Afghanistan. The government we installed is corrupt.

     Obama will not be reelected. All the speeches in the world will not save him. He has a record. His record will be his downfall.



    If a near and dear one (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by oculus on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 02:46:03 PM EST
    died or was severely injured in one of our many "wars of choice," would Secretary Gates' words provide solace?  Don't think so. Is he making headlines now as he exits stage left?  Yes. Will this help sales of his planned memoir?  Probably.  

    Exactly my reaction (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Towanda on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 02:58:38 PM EST
    reading this on Father's Day, thinking about all of the fathers who are thinking of their lost daughters and sons today, lost in these loser wars.

    Also was thinking of the fathers and mothers whose children have come back but now will need their lifelong care.  A friend was at an event in D.C. last week for veterans.  The friend was the only Viet vet there, as the event was to honor vets of our current wars.  The friend reported realizing, at one point, that he was looking at "seven veterans with only one leg among them."

    And the friend noted that all of the vets had to have their caretakers with them, and that many of those were fathers and mothers on in years now.

    Gates?  He wasn't there.


    An inexperienced president could not have had (none / 0) (#2)
    by loveed on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 01:52:44 PM EST
    a better SOD.
     I think Gates is a true patriot. He is respected cross party lines.
     I wish him and his family the best. They have truly donated a large part of there lives to the country.

    Sure he could (none / 0) (#10)
    by BobTinKY on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 08:32:01 PM EST
    Gates was a GHW Bush protege and up to his neck in Iran Contra and politicizing intelligence.  Obama's retention of Gates was the first indicator, soon to be followed by Geithner and HRC's appointments, that hope & change was all BS.

    Spare me the "public service" of high ranking, well paid Govt officials who walk through the revolving door and earn enormous sums in the process.  It's about power & money, not public service.  And don't tell me of the billions he would have earned had he applied his talents in the private sector, who knows?  As if the foregone imagined earnings of some alternative universe offers any measure of one's dedication to serving the public.  

    Did you know  GHW Bush pushed through a law granting huge tax credits to those appointed to high ranking govt positions.  John Snow and Hank Paulson were but two beneficiaries, to the tune of tens of millions.  Yet we are told how lucky we are to have had their public service all the while their joining government was a tax dodge of monumental proportions.  


    Someone has to run these departments (none / 0) (#12)
    by loveed on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 10:05:32 AM EST
    no complaints of how the department was managed.
     Everyone has there own political views. Gates could have made billions in the private sector.
     I can't imagine the stress on theses families.Husbands and father gone from homes for years at a time. Not able to make simple family plans.
     Yes I think he's a patriot. I thank him for his service.

    Is this a joke? (none / 0) (#14)
    by BobTinKY on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 04:32:03 PM EST
    Oh (none / 0) (#9)
    by Ga6thDem on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 06:39:35 PM EST
    this just wants to make me say BS. However, I wish him the best in his retirement.

    I saw Gates' interview this morning (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 12:27:08 AM EST
    It was interesting.  I recorded it to watch again tomorrow.  What a really weird Father's Day though.  We invited the parents of our daughter's boyfriend out to dinner because things have gotten sort of strange lately.

    I think these kids are going to get married, but I have no idea how this young man comes to us via his mom. Both of our kids are 22 now.  I don't tell my daughter who she is.  I tried to when she was in her teens and even then that didn't go very well :)  Now she tells me who she is, and she is sort of figuring that out now too.  Her SO is so wonderful too, both my husband and I love him.

    Dinner was horrible though.  His mother continuously told him who he was, and when he attempted to say otherwise she would change the subject and not listen to him.  Then she started telling our daughter everything that was wrong with her, and my husband told her she was out of line but then ended up leaving the table for awhile before he got very angry.  Stupid me stayed there and attempted to "understand" her, why was she coming off like this? What a waste of time that turned out being :)  In the rearview mirror it is sort of funny now.  How can anybody walk around that incessantly mean and angry though?  Don't you eventually get sick of yourself?  I can think of one good thing she did though, she brought this great kid into the world and for that I am eternally grateful.  But you can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, you can pick your friend's nose if they are comatose, but you can't pick your in-laws.  And I think I'm now entered in the whole damned rodeo.  

    It is sad, but true, that some parents (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 11:26:37 AM EST
    never learn that their kids are supposed to be who they want to be, and not who or what Mom and/or Dad decided they should be.

    Not that it's easy to learn - it's not - because for some reason, as much as we try to impress on our kids that they don't have to give in to peer pressure, it's too easy to go deaf and blind when that pressure is being put on us, by other parents who measure themselves by and through their children, if that makes sense.  And damn it, it starts even before you get out of the delivery room.

    I've had this same discussion with my brother, who has been the most controlling parent ever, who didn't let his kids breathe that he didn't have something to say about how they were doing it - and it always had to be his way.  At the other end of the spectrum is my sister-in-law, who was trying so hard to be the cool mom, the best friend mom, that these kids had no idea which end was up.  I kept telling my brother that a choke collar was no substitute for training and education - that yanking on the leash, so to speak, wasn't teaching them anything except that with Dad in control, the couldn't breathe, and they needed to pull harder to try to get some space.  Which they did.

    Kids who never get to think for themselves are a disaster waiting to happen - if you never learn to make your own decisions, starting with the small ones, how are you ever going to be able to function, to trust yourself, to know yourself?

    My kids are far from perfect, trust me, but I think they are themselves, and as long as they're happy, who am I to tell them they have to be something or someone else?

    I don't envy you with these potential in-laws, not when your daughter seems to be something of a target, but, if she's anything like her mother, I suspect she will be able to handle herself - and will do so quite well.