For the last five years, I have waited for the other shoe to drop.
In 2008, the American people elected an incompetent and foolish president, Obama. President Obama knew that he could only trust a handcuffed politician and loyalist like Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. He then later appointed the pompous John Kerry to fill this capacity. Yet this “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” was a ticking time bomb.
Three strikes and you’re out. Let me list them:
- Obama: incompetent and disinterested in policy (president).
- Clinton: interested in policy but a potential rival politician, so she could not be assigned to do anything too productive (secretary of state).
- John Kerry: assigned to do productive work but totally incompetent (secretary of state).
Imagine former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates–who recently published Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, in which he criticized Obama and his administration–seething. Certainly, he never would have gotten as far as he did if he hadn’t been an opportunist, but U.S. interests, not politics, was his duty. He knew that Americans were being sacrificed uselessly to make the situation “work.”
Gates feels that he has a personal responsibility to the American public. Obama and Clinton, on the other hand, are pure politicians, and for all they try, they cannot get rid of their “me-first” mindsets. In other words, Obama and Clinton don’t want to be rid of “how does it benefit me?” as their first priority, while Gates cannot get rid of that squeaky little voice asking “what about America’s interests?” as well as “what stupid thing will Vice President Joe Biden say next?”
Here we have to remind everyone that politicians have to deal with the future of politics, post-Obama. And those future careerists like Gates need to be quiet and disciplined, because they know that they cannot risk offending other political interests, from whom they might need future support.
Career officials need supporters, especially in order to rise up the ladder.
One day, as a fourteen year old, I was riding the bus in Washington, D.C. I overheard two men, who were obviously government officials, talking. One said, “These people are so stupid. They don’t know what they are doing. They all make the wrong decisions, but after all they and I will just go into retirement.”
Almost 50 years later, I still haven’t forgotten this.
Washington, D.C., is an endless game of thrones. But for once it came to what may be more commonly called a perfect storm. Gates was the one knight who had nothing to lose in publishing his memoirs, except reviews–which could only increase readership. On the one hand, he could have done the noble thing; on the other hand, he could have acted in his own interests. His interests and the public’s, however, were congruent.
Gates could see himself as finally achieving genuine, national self-interest, as a real protector. He wasn’t able to do any better, and it wasn’t his fault; it was fault of the American people for not electing a competent president.
For example, Gates knew that the Iraq policy around 2007-2008 was the best idea. He knew that Kerry, Obama, and Clinton opposed it for the wrong political reasons. He knew that he would lose his fight against them and would have to confine that to the loneliness of the voter’s box. Then he would have to support their decisions loyally.
Most people do not face such a situation, and it is very difficult. Men would die, U.S. interests would be abandoned, and terrorists would be strengthened while Gates had to listen to unpatriotic sentiments such as those from Joe Biden. He even wrote that he considered resigning due to Biden. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates wrote in his memoirs.
Yes, everyone would consider resigning. But you can only resign once.
Notice the timeline.
He was deputy director of the CIA from 1986 to 1989.
He accepted the job of CIA director in November of 1991 and then permanently resigned in January 1993. He never returned to the CIA.
He became secretary of Defense in 2006 under George W. Bush. On December 1, 2008, President Obama announced that Gates would remain in his position as secretary of Defense during his administration, at least for the first year. When he retired in 2011, Gates said, “I think that it would be a mistake to wait until January 2012.… This is not the kind of job you want to fill in the spring of an election year.”
As a former civil servant, he may well have been correct to state it that way; let’s see, there’s Obama, Clinton, Kerry, Biden, and Harry Reid–how could they do more danger to U.S. interests? Most of the other senior foreign policy official experts would have said “duh.” Under such serious circumstances, I think he was sending a signal. And frankly, almost everyone had heard the same thing privately from these officials.