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United States Politics

The Quiet Fury of Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates 341

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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  • Welcome to life bro (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:14PM (#45898961) Journal
    This is the problem of everyone who tries to work with other people, it's something you see at every job where your interests are not aligned perfectly with everyone else's. If you think that's bad, try dealing with an HOA.
  • Re:in other words... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:22PM (#45899065)

    The US government has never had the amount of technology, money, and laws to it's favor than any time before this, that is what is different.

    "Governs least governs best" - it is time to shrink the Federal government and pull it's teeth by pulling the purse strings tight.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @01:59PM (#45899539)

    Arguably that pressure-cooker is present in any group of political elite, from the Politburo to the King's Court.

    Are you intentionally limiting this to politics for some reason? I wonder what Larry Ellison and Donald Trump have to pay their secretaries to put up with them. The fact that we have any separation of power at all between the economic, political, and religious realms is a relatively recent and welcome innovation IMHO. The natural state of humanity is a bunch of slaves under a hierarchy of masters with one at the top. That is what things revert to unless we work continually against it.

  • Re:waah waah waah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:00PM (#45899567)
    You're shooting the messenger. The point is not "feel bad for me," the point is "Your government sucks. They're not making you secure or being strong on defense, which is why a lot of you voted for them in the first place. They're making you less secure. Vote for less blowhards."

    Not sure his message is going to get anywhere, seems to me that most voters know how bad politics in Washington are, they just think that THEIR incumbent who they voted for is one of the good guys.
  • Re:in other words... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:23PM (#45899835)

    The US government has never had the amount of technology, money, and laws to it's favor than any time before this, that is what is different.

    "Governs least governs best" - it is time to shrink the Federal government and pull it's teeth by pulling the purse strings tight.

    That's off-topic, though.

    Basically, he's saying that the biggest detriment to his job was beauracracy and the antics of the Congress and the Administration.

    I doubt it was any different 200 years ago.

  • Re:how is this news? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by imikem ( 767509 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:25PM (#45899859) Homepage

    I wonder if we shouldn't go the other way. Term limits have long been discussed, and have asymptotically-approaching-zero chance of passage since those who benefit from the system as-is would have to give up something. How about making Congress a LIFETIME elected position? At least then the non-stop campaigning and pandering would have no reason to continue. As it is, with re-election rates as they are (somewhere well north of 90% I believe), this wouldn't even represent much change in the institution.

    Maybe then people would also pay closer attention to whom they are voting in. Okay, sorry, don't know what I was thinking there.

  • Re:in other words... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LandDolphin ( 1202876 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:38PM (#45900035)
    The main difference 200 years ago was the their wasn't a large bureaucracy because the Federal Government didn't do much. The Antics of Congress and the Administration was probably about the same.
  • Re:waah waah waah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheloniousToady ( 3343045 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:44PM (#45900107)

    I'm with ya, bro. Now that America has revert to a single political party - the Incumbents - I plan to vote against every member of that party in the next election, be they nominally Republicans, Democrats, or anything else. (That last part was just for completeness - more of theoretical possibility than anything. Luckily, Ralph Nader never joined the Incumbent Party.)

  • Re:in other words... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:44PM (#45900109)

    A bit strong. I'd start by making it illegal to air condition any federal buildings in DC.

  • Re:in other words... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @02:59PM (#45900251) Homepage Journal

    Still, he has a rather unique perspective, having been a senior member of both a Republican and a Democrat administration. I'm pretty keen to see his observations

    Pretty much what Colin Powell went through, though he internalized more of the stresses and didn't feel the need to dump on everyone. I don't disagree with Gates, I think a lot of these people (particularly Congress) need some dumping on. Congress members will feel affronted for a few days and then go back to being arseholes.

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @03:32PM (#45900539)

    He never said any of this publicly while holding his position because he didn't want to lose his job.

    I feel the need to come to Mr. Gates' defense here. Let's put his situation in context: the Secretary of Defense is directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of human lives. Gates' predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, had fucked up so egregiously that the United States was on the verge of losing the war in Iraq, and had already wasted thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives through his arrogant blundering.

    Somebody had to clean up that mess and make the best of the situation. Gates was the one President Bush picked. If you were in that situation, with hundreds of thousands of lives hanging in the balance and no option that could create peace quickly or with certainty, the future of two countries at stake, wouldn't the responsibility of your position weigh just a teensy bit more heavily on you than where your next paycheck was coming from?

    I am not sure I would have the balls to take that job, even if I were competent to do it. Staying on as president of Texas A&M sounds like a much easier career option.

    I submit to you that Gates may have wanted to keep his job, not out of pure self-interest, but because he had accepted the duty and felt obligated to see it through.

  • Re:in other words... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:10PM (#45900885)

    Some ideas...

    Cap the salary at twice the federal "median household income" according to the U.S. Census.

    Business deductions would be allowed, but should be made public along with the receipts as proof.

    12 year term limits in Congress. 6 years as a Representative, 6 years as Senator would be fine. But, if you spend 8 years as a Representative, you'd be ineligible to become a Senator since that would put you at 14, unless you're filling in part of a term, then that'd be okay as long as it doesn't tip you over 12 years.

    Automatic pensions for anyone who serves a full-term in Congress, no matter the length. I'm thinking pensions equal to the per-capita income and not a cent more.

    A budget must be passed. If anyone leaves the House before a bill is proposed, too bad, they forfeit their vote, save for medical emergencies and using the restroom. Yes, it'd go overnight until a budget bill is passed.

  • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @05:25PM (#45901561)

    1) Nixon was not impeached. He quit before that inevitably would have happened. Back in those days Republicans were against Nixon because party loyalty didn't blind them so easily as it does today.

    2) Nixon did many criminal things, only a few of which were being looked into at that time and some never were investigated like they should have been. Impeachment wasn't about the war.

    3) The knowledge Nixon was a TRAITOR by conspiring with North Vietnam to prolong the war for his own personal gain was known BEFORE he was elected but Johnson was too much of a political coward to prosecute a presidential candidate fore treason (plus it would then be used as justification in the future as a political tactic by the unscrupulous.) This information wasn't known until the declassification of the Johnson tapes a few years ago... very few people knew about it. Yes, Johnson started that tape recording tradition which died with Nixon. Providing battle plans is treason, providing political plans and altering plans to aid the enemy is far far worse than say, telling them how to make a nuke.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.