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United States Politics

The Quiet Fury of Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates 341

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the a-bit-blunt dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Activities, technologies, equipment, or other matters regarding the U.S. Department of Defense are a common topic on Slashdot, both as stories and in discussions. Despite that, we seldom see stories regarding the senior leadership of DoD as we do for technologists, the political branches, and lately the NSA. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served under both Presidents Bush and Obama, has released a rather biting memoir of his tenure as the Secretary of Defense. The Wall Street Journal has an excerpt: '... despite everyone being "nice" to me, getting anything consequential done was so damnably difficult — even in the midst of two wars. I did not just have to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq and against al Qaeda; I also had to battle the bureaucratic inertia of the Pentagon, surmount internal conflicts within both administrations, avoid the partisan abyss in Congress, evade the single-minded parochial self-interest of so many members of Congress and resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House, especially in the Obama administration, to bring everything under its control and micromanagement. Over time, the broad dysfunction of today's Washington wore me down, especially as I tried to maintain a public posture of nonpartisan calm, reason and conciliation. ... difficulties within the executive branch were nothing compared with the pain of dealing with Congress. ... I saw most of Congress as uncivil, 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.' — More at The Washington Post."
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The Quiet Fury of Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:17PM (#45898997) Homepage Journal

    We actually did reduce military funding. Twice even. It's not completely politically untenable like taxes that target the plutocratic class as much as the working and middle classes.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:57PM (#45899509) Journal

    Is it really so damning the Obama didn't consider Afganistan "his war", and "wanted to get out"?

    His implication is that Obama should have either committed to winning the war, and won it; or given up directly and saved lives. Instead (according to Gates), he waged the war half-heartedly, which didn't resolve anything. Choose a course of action and do what it takes to accomplish it, that's what Gates feels Obama didn't do.

    Or be "skeptical" of the plans put in place by the military leadership?

    This is an attack on the competency of Obama, saying he didn't have the skills to assess the plans. It's one thing to be skeptical if you have a reason, it's another to be skeptical for no reason. A comparison here is being skeptical of evolution: it's generally a sign of ignorance, but an expert with knowledge might be skeptical of the idea that humans descended from reptiles, or other similar.

    These are the interpretations of those statements from Gates; whether they are justified or not, I don't know.

  • Re:This is why... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anubis IV (1279820) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:28PM (#45899897)

    Gates used to be the President of Texas A&M University. I was a student when he took up the position, and I was still one when he resigned his position to become the Secretary of Defense (after having previously turned down the then-new position of Director of National Intelligence, a.k.a. Intelligence Czar).

    I had a couple of friends who had personal interactions with him. For instance, Gates was, at one time, the director of the CIA, and I had a friend who was interested in working in intelligence. Gates actually set aside time to mentor my friend one-on-one on several occasions, even though my friend was just a random student out of the 45,000 or so that were there at the time. Another example of the sort of guy he is: A&M has a tradition that involves students gathering at midnight on the night before any football game. Gates never missed a single one of those in his entire time there, even though he was under no obligation to attend any of them (the President that followed him certainly didn't attend them on a regular basis). I even recall seeing him at one after he had injured his leg (broken it? can't recall). He hobbled out to the stadium on crutches at midnight and climbed into the stands with the rest of us. He sent out regular e-mails to the student body that you could tell he hadn't simply put his signature on, and he addressed campus problems that came up head on, rather than tiptoeing around them and promising to "look into them" or "form a committee".

    The faculty loved him too. Many of them had had the opportunity to talk to him directly, and when he said he'd get something done for them, he meant it. He instilled a strong sense of vision in the university, encouraging them to think way bigger than they had been thinking, while at the same time streamlining things and encouraging them to be frugal. All of this in 4 years.

    In short, I consider him to be one of the "good guys" that we always lament about not being able to get into politics. I wish there were more people like him in politics, since we need more people there who detest the state of things.

  • Re:in other words... (Score:3, Informative)

    by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:18PM (#45900433)

    I doubt it was any different 200 years ago.

    I'd guess there was a big damn difference. Congress critters are now full time, well salaried positions. In 1813, they were not. In 1813 a congressman was paid $6 per day in session Or just under $90 inflation adjusted for today. Even if they were in session five days a week, 52 weeks per year, it works out to $1560 per year, which is just under $23K per year in today's dollars. Currently a new member of the house receives $174K per year as a base salary. Since they are elected every other year, they basically spend half of their time campaigning these days and voting in a manner that will get them reelected the other half.

    Personally, I'd like to see a bill passed that would penalize congress critters for not doing their job. They should be financially penalized for every day the country has to run without a real budget in place. Continuing resolutions don't count. Failure to pay taxes, or abuses of office should be grounds for removal, or at the very least trigger a recall election. Violating laws related to the office should be grounds for immediate removal from office, loss of any pension, and be ineligible to run for that office again.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

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