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National Security: President Obama's former defense secretary paints the commander in chief as an uncertain trumpet in a conflict he called the "right war" — and who lost interest in a war he sent troops to fight and die in.
Robert Gates doesn't call Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the Three Blind Mice or Three Stooges defense and foreign policy, but he might as well have. In his upcoming book, "Duty, Memoirs of a Secretary at War," he makes it clear that under this administration competence, not politics, stopped at the water's edge.
As reported by Bob Woodward in the Washington Post, Obama was no less callous than President Lyndon Johnson was during Vietnam, putting men into harm's way in a war he had no intention of winning.
As Woodward notes, Gates "unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama's leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president 'doesn't believe in his own strategy, and doesn't consider the war to be his. For him, it's all about getting out.'"
Yet it was candidate Obama who insisted our war in Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time and that Afghanistan was the right war, the war we should be fighting to defeat al-Qaida, the Taliban and the terrorist threat. Obama opposed a troop surge in Iraq, then supported one in Afghanistan. He ended up abandoning both countries with precipitous withdrawals.
Gates writes of a "remarkable" exchange between Obama and Secretary of State Clinton: "Hillary told the president that her opposition to the (2007) surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. ... The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political."
Such political considerations were no doubt in play when both covered up administration malfeasance that led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, in a terrorist attack on our diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
According to published reports in both the Post and New York Times, Gates writes of Obama's 2009 decision to surge troop levels by 30,000 in Afghanistan though the president was "skeptical, if not outright convinced it would fail."
Actually, Obama helped ensure failure with restrictive rules of engagement reminiscent of LBJ's micromanagement of Vietnam. A perfect example was the Extortion 17 mission in Afghanistan, where rules of engagement prevented the use of suppressive fire as members of Navy Seal Team 6 were sent to assist an Army Ranger unit engaged in a firefight with the Taliban.
The Chinook helicopter carrying the rescue team was shot down by a Taliban-owned rocket-propelled grenade over Wardak Province on Aug. 6, 2011, killing 38, including 30 Americans and 15 members of Navy SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden just three months prior.
It was Biden who painted a bull's eye on the backs of SEAL Team 6. On May 3, 2011, he spoke at a dinner at Washington's Ritz Carlton Hotel of "the incredible, the phenomenal, the just almost unbelievable capacity of his Navy SEALs and what they did last Sunday," meaning the killing of bin Laden.
Of Biden, Gates says he "has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." He further accuses Biden of "poisoning the well" against the military leadership on a number of issues within the White House.
Gates paints a disturbing picture of a White House consumed with political calculations in wartime and making half-hearted military decisions based on politics and ideology and not on the security interests of the U.S. or the welfare of the troops fighting its battles.