HIGHLIGHTS OF SECDEF ROBERT GATES’ NEW BOOK: For Obama, Every National Security Decision Was Political

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has a new book coming out this month. Entitled “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War“, it provides an inside view into the dysfunctional gaggle of political hacks inside the Obama White House.

Highlights from Washington Post:

Obama, after months of contentious discussion with Gates and other top advisers, deployed 30,000 more troops in a final push to stabilize Afghanistan before a phased withdrawal beginning in mid-2011. “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission,” Gates writes.

If you as the Commander-in-Chief don’t support the mission, you then truly don’t support the troops.

It is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president…

…the book simmers with disappointment in Obama, it reflects outright contempt for Vice President Biden and many of Obama’s top aides… Biden is accused of “poisoning the well” against the military leadership. Thomas Donilon, initially Obama’s deputy national security adviser, and then-Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the White House coordinator for the wars, are described as regularly engaged in “aggressive, suspicious, and sometimes condescending and insulting questioning of our military leaders.

…”“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. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying…”

Why would that be surprising, Mr. Gates? Everything Democrats do — they invented “triangulation”, after all — is about personal power, not the country.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the central commander in charge of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, made remarks to the press suggesting he was not comfortable with setting a fixed date to start withdrawal.

At a March 3, 2011, National Security Council meeting, Gates writes, the president opened with a “blast.” Obama criticized the military for “popping off in the press” and said he would push back hard against any delay in beginning the withdrawal.

According to Gates, Obama concluded, “ ‘If I believe I am being gamed . . .’ and left the sentence hanging there with the clear implication the consequences would be dire.”

Gates continues: “I was pretty upset myself. I thought implicitly accusing” Petraeus, and perhaps Mullen and Gates himself, “of gaming him in front of thirty people in the Situation Room was inappropriate, not to mention highly disrespectful of Petraeus. As I sat there, I thought: the president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [Afghanistan President Hamid] Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

With Obama, it’s all about Obama. That’s all anyone needs to know.

…in a battle over defense spending, “I was extremely angry with President Obama,” Gates writes. “I felt he had breached faith with me . . . on the budget numbers.” As with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” “I felt that agreements with the Obama White House were good for only as long as they were politically convenient…”

…during internal debates over whether to intervene in Libya in 2011 that Gates says he felt compelled to deliver a “rant” because the White House staff was “talking about military options with the president without Defense being involved…”

…after Donilon and Biden tried to pass orders to Gates, he told the two, “The last time I checked, neither of you are in the chain of command,” and said he expected to get orders directly from Obama…

Highlights from The Wall Street Journal:

It is difficult to imagine two more different men than George W. Bush and Barack Obama…

… 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…

…With Obama, however, I joined a new, inexperienced president determined to change course—and equally determined from day one to win re-election. Domestic political considerations would therefore be a factor … in virtually every major national security problem we tackled…

…Most 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, which I routinely resisted. 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. I directed commanders to refer such calls to my office. The controlling nature of the Obama White House, and its determination 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, offended Secretary Clinton as much as it did me…

You know what Obama inherited from Bush? A Fallujah without Al Qaeda.

Hat tip: BadBlue News.

Doug Ross @ Journal

This is the year for decision on Iran, says former IDF intelligence chief.

Fmr. IDF intel chief Amos Yadlin.

Fmr. IDF intel chief Amos Yadlin.

“In a probing interview with New Republic published on Wednesday, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin made his assessment clear: the coming year would be the year of decision for Israel,” reports the Times of Israel. “The next several months, he said, would provide the last opportunity for Israel to confidently and effectively strike Iran’s nuclear program, if that’s what it chooses to do.”

“Yadlin, now the director of the Tel Aviv-based Institute of National Security Studies, was careful not to advocate for an attack in the interview, and he made clear that Israel also has the option in the coming months to decide to leave the Iranian issue to the Obama administration, or Jerusalem could decide to live with a nuclear-capable Iran,” notes the Times. “According to Yadlin, the timetable for an American decision is different, as US capabilities leave the option of a military strike available for longer. ‘For the US, because of their capabilities, it is at least a year post-Israel and will depend on many operational parameters that should not be public knowledge,’ he told the magazine’s Ben Birnbaum. He assessed, however, that US opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran may lessen depending on the success of ongoing negotiations between the West and the Iranian regime.”

“I think in late 2013 or early 2014, especially if America sees that Iran is not serious about reaching an acceptable agreement and only continues to buy time, the US will accept an Israeli attack because a nuclear Iran is absolutely against American vital national security interests,” Yadlin said.

“The negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, which resumed last week in Geneva and left P5+1 representatives upbeat about conditions for a possible deal, are a win-win for Israel, the former military intelligence chief reasoned,” reports the Times. “If a deal is reached ‘which is reliable and contains intrusive inspections and turns the nuclear clock backwards, it’s better than the dangerous options of the ‘bomb or the bombing.’ And if negotiations fail, then there will be legitimacy to take preventive action to stop Iran,’ he said. Yadlin, who helped persuade then-defense minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu back in 2010 not to strike Iran, said that the probability for a successful Israeli attack against Tehran’s nuclear program would soon diminish. ‘It can be the last quarter of 2013 or the first, second or even third quarter of 2014. There is not a certain deadline, but the probability of success will eventually decrease to a level that may change the decision to launch the attack.’”

————————


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Analysis: Netanyahu nearing decision on Iran strike. Ready to order attack last fall, but Obama pressured against. Two leaders to meet on September 30th at White House.

Netanyahu talking at the cabinet meeting Tuesday morning. (Photo by Emil Salman/Haaretz).

Netanyahu talking at the cabinet meeting Tuesday morning. (Photo by Emil Salman/Haaretz).

(Washington, D.C.) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is nearing a decision on an Iran strike. As he does so, he will soon come to the United States. The Israeli leader and his top national security team will meet with President Obama at the White House on September 30th. The premier will then address the U.N. General Assembly on October 1st.

Netanyahu’s expressed mission: To persuade the U.S. and Western powers to intensify — not ease up on – pressure on Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the fuel to build them.

The big question: Is Netanyahu’s real mission to prepare the world for war?

Admittedly, there has been talk of such a war numerous times in recent years. But few realize just how close Netanyahu was to ordering the attack.

Media reports indicate that Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak were ready to order a strike on Iran in 2010, but faced stiff opposition from the head of the Mossad and other top defense and intelligence officials, and thus backed off.

On August 2nd, 2012, readers of this blog will recall that I wrote this column: “COULD ISRAEL STRIKE IRAN IN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER? Ahmadinejad calls for ‘annihilation’ of Israel; Netanyahu warns U.S. time is running out to stop Iran.”

Just last month, a former senior Israeli official confirmed that Netanyahu was, in fact, extremely close to ordering an attack on Iran in the fall of 2012 — with the support of top Israeli defense and intel officials — but was pressured not to do so by President Obama.

Israel’s former National Security Advisor Giora Eiland “discussed the Israeli plan and Washington’s objections during a closed conference two weeks ago, saying that Netanyahu had originally intended to order a strike on Iran sometime between September and October of 2012, at the height of the US presidential campaign and around the same time as Netanyahu’s famous speech at the United Nations,” reports the Times of Israel. “The report claimed that Netanyahu was requested by the Obama administration to call off the attack, possibly so as not to interfere with the American electoral process. The former general was quoted as saying that although Israel is not controlled by the US, it does take American considerations into account with regard to issues of global significance. ‘On many subjects Israel can perform independently,’ Eiland was quoted as saying. ‘The construction in Jerusalem, the attack on Gaza as well as other regional issues — we don’t need to ask the Americans before we take action, even if they don’t like it. But, when an issue involves something of American interest, we cannot act against their will.’ However, ‘changing times’ could allow for an Israeli strike in the future, Eiland reportedly said, also noting that in light of Washington’s apparent lack of appetite for military action in Syria, the chances of an American strike in Iran were slim.”

In October 2012, then, Netanyahu famously declared before the U.N. General Assembly Iran would likely reach the “red line” between spring and summer 2013. He indicated if the world did not take decisive action, Israel would have to.

Since then, while the U.S. and Western powers have increased economic sanctions, the Iranians have not stopped enriching uranium. To the contrary, they have continued making nuclear weapons fuel, hardening their facilities, and moving steadily towards an arsenal of nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them.

I believe, therefore, that Netanyahu and his team have been steadily preparing — once again — for war with Iran. In July of 2013, as you may recall, I wrote a blog headlined: “Has the end game begun? Privately, senior Israeli officials now warning Iran war could come in 2013. Netanyahu preparing public.”

Jerusalem’s concerns have since been affected by two developments:

  1. The emergence of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in early August, which seems to be lulling the Obama team into a false sense that Tehran is moderating and becoming more willing to cooperate.
  2. The use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Assad regime – and President Obama’s weak, dithering, vacillating approach towards the Syrian crisis — which has further worried the Israeli government, and caused them to believe that maybe they really have no choice but to act on their own.

“It is not exactly starting off as a happy New Year in Jerusalem,” I noted in a September 5th column for National Review Online. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his security cabinet are mortified by what they are seeing unfold — not in Damascus, but in Washington. To be sure, Israeli leaders are concerned but not surprised by the horrific blood-letting that is underway between the evil Assad regime and the demonic forces of al-Qaeda and their radical Islamic partners. But the Israelis are stunned and dismayed by the vacillating, lurching, confused, and chaotic approach to decision-making of President Obama and his top advisers….[B]ehind the scenes, Netanyahu and his team have never felt more alone. If President Obama is so distrusted by the American people and her representatives in Congress that he cannot build solid support for limited military strikes against Syria’s chemical-weapons facilities, the Israelis are coming to the painful realization that there is no chance for the president to pull together support for preemptive military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.”

This is the back drop for Netanyahu’s upcoming trip to the U.S. to meet with top administration officials, and address the international community. And despite all the talk in recent weeks about Syria, Netanyahu is signaling in advance his focus remains Iran above all else.

“In a week and a half, I will go to the United Nations General Assembly, and before that I will meet with President Obama. I intend to focus on stopping Iranian nuclear program. Really stopping the nuclear program,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting Tuesday, according to a report by the Times of Israel.

“The prime minister presented four criteria for doing so: ’1. Halting all uranium enrichment; 2. Removing all enriched uranium; 3. Closing [the Fordo enrichment facility at] Qom; and 4. Stopping the plutonium track,’” noted the Times. “Evidently responding to suggestions that the US might be willing to lift or reduce some sanctions on Iran in return for diplomatic progress, Netanyahu added: ‘Until it is genuinely stopped, the pressure on Iran must be stepped up, not eased or reduced.’ On Monday, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Iran was willing to close its uranium enrichment facility at Fordo in return for an easing of Western sanctions. Quoting an intelligence source, the magazine reported that Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, might consider closing down the heavily fortified Fordo facility, near the holy city of Qom, and allow international observers to supervise the destruction of the centrifuges, if the West were to lift the sanctions regime it has placed on Iran’s oil industry and central bank. Rouhani could make the offer later this month at the United Nations General Assembly, the report said.”

The Times also reported:

  • On Sunday, the prime minister met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem following the joint Russia-US deal announced Saturday regarding Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
  • In comments aimed at his hosts, Kerry said the deal, if successful, “will have set a marker for the standard of behavior with respect to Iran and with respect to North Korea and any rogue state, [or] group that tries to reach for these kind of weapons.”
  • Netanyahu thanked Kerry for his efforts to purge Syria of chemical weapons and linked the agreement with Syria to the ongoing campaign to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
  • “We have been closely following – and support – your ongoing efforts to rid Syria of its chemical weapons,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “The Syrian regime must be stripped of all its chemical weapons, and that would make our entire region a lot safer.
  • “The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don’t have weapons of mass destruction because as we’ve learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction, they will use them. The determination the international community shows regarding Syria will have a direct impact on the Syrian regime’s patron, Iran. Iran must understand the consequences of its continual defiance of the international community, by its pursuit toward nuclear weapons… if diplomacy has any chance to work, it must be coupled with a credible military threat.”

Will Netanyahu order an attack on Iran? This remains to be seen, but signs are pointing in that direction.

Yet again, we need to pray for peace, but be prepared for the possibility of another war in the epicenter.

—————————

>> Track the latest developments and analysis on Twitter — @JoelCRosenberg.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog