Gates Is No Rumsfeld (Updates)

Bob Gaes

UPDATE III:

The Hill reports that President Obama is downplaying the charges his former Secretary of Defense makes in his memoir.

Obama dismissed questions about his commitment to the war in Afghanistan, after Gates wrote in his book that Obama did not believe in his own war strategy.

“Just as I have continued to have faith in our mission, most importantly, I’ve had unwavering confidence in our troops and their performance in some of the most difficult situations imaginable,” Obama said.

“And that job is not yet done. And I do think it’s important for Americans to recognize that we still have young men and women in harm’s way, along with coalition partners who are continuing to make sacrifices, and we need to see this job all the way through,” he said.

Obama also sidestepped a question about whether Gates should have waited to publish his memoir until the conclusion of his presidency.

“During his tenure here, Secretary Gates was an outstanding secretary of Defense, a good friend of mine, and I’ll always be grateful for his service,” Obama said.

UPDATE II:

Here is a funny tidbit from Gates’ memoir which — disclaimer alert — I haven’t read yet as the book is not available yet.

Commenting on Gates’ “matter-of-fact, frills-free” writing, “the kind who can write with no irony…” David Weigel at Slate describes a 2010 meeting with the president and top brass on which Gates writes in his “Duty” memoir:

I was put off by the way the president closed the meeting. To his very closest advisers, he said, “For the record, and for those of you writing your memoirs, I am not making any decisions about Israel or Iran. Joe, you be my witness.” I was offended by his suspicion that any of us would ever write about such sensitive matters.

To this, Weigel quips, “Yes, what would give the president that idea?”

Priceless.

==

UPDATE I:

One of the repeated threads in Gate’s memoir seems to be, according to several reviews (Disclaimer: I have not yet read his book), that he was frequently “seething,” running out of patience,” hating every minute of his job, asking himself “what am I doing here?” But, POLITICO says, “he kept almost everything behind the poker face he’d learned to wear during decades in the spy business.”

POLITICO continues, “Robert Gates’ tenure running the Pentagon might go down as the greatest performance in acting history” and that, according to Gates himself, “The temptation to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot recurred often.”

As mentioned below, my disappointment with Gates is, if he was having such serious concerns about our nation’s policies and strategies in pursuing two wars, why he did not speak up and, if not listened to, why he did not resign — instead of just “seething,” keeping up that poker face, keeping up “the greatest performance in acting history.”

Philip Ewing, in his “The secret life of Robert Gates,” attempts to answer that question without much success, in my opinion. So, I will have to read the book to see if I can answer that question.
==

Original Post:

When Donald Rumsfeld came out with his “Known and Unknown,” a score-settling, I-know-it-all-even-the-unknowable memoir, I immediately did a non-review — I never read the book — by providing three excerpts from those who had the stomach to actually read the book.

Well aware of the unfairness of doing so, I did make the following apology: “I know that ‘reviewing’ or discussing a book without reading it is the epitome of arrogance, ignorance and so many other ‘ances’” and proceeded to do the non-review.

My non-review was easy because I did not like the man and I despised his views and policies. The word “respect” or rather “disrespect” comes to mind when discussing Rumsfeld, but I will leave it that, after having written numerous pieces reflecting the latter. For example read here.

Now that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has also published his memoir “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary At War,” the former word “respect” comes to mind, but also “surprise,” “disappointment” and “sadness.”

I have always respected Mr. Gates.

I have respected him, a Republican, for his bipartisanship and for being a team player; for his support for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (although Gates now claims in his book that Obama had “blindsided Admiral Mullen and [him]” by rushing the announcement); for controlling the Pentagon’s budget and many other issues and achievements.

Most of all, I respect Mr. Gates for what I believe is his genuine love and respect for the military. Greg Gaffe describes a 2010 meeting with the troops at a “bare-bones combat outpost in the violent mountains of eastern Afghanistan”:

…speaking to troops clustered around him, Robert M. Gates was overcome by an uncharacteristic flood of emotion.

The soldiers in their dirt-splattered uniforms had been ordered to stop whatever they were doing and listen to the defense secretary, who, with his neatly parted white hair, khakis and starched button-down shirt, looked as if he had helicoptered in from another planet. “I feel a personal responsibility for each and every one of you,” Gates said. “I feel the sacrifice and hardship and losses more than you’ll ever imagine. I just want to thank you and tell you how much I love you.”

That is the Robert M. Gates I respect.

At a more personal level, I was — and still am — disappointed that Gates did not support awarding the so clearly well deserved Medal of Honor to Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta .

But I am more than disappointed, more than surprised, at the former Secretary’s attacks on the Obama administration’s Afghanistan and Iraq policy — a policy of which he was part.

Gates apparently disagreed with the President’s policies and decisions affecting sending our forces into combat, policies and decisions that were in fact life-and-death decisions affecting thousands upon thousands of our troops — the most grave decisions that a Secretary of Defense can be part of making.

Apparently, Gates had serious doubts about the commander-in-chief’s commitment to the wars — the “good” and the “ bad” one — and about the President’s “support for [the troops'] mission”; had serious disagreements on strategy and serious concern over the course of those wars.

Bob Woodward writes that, according to the notes of a participant at a meeting where Obama laid out the rationale for the Afghan surge and withdrawal time table and “asked everyone involved to sign on, signaling agreement,” Gates is quoted as telling the President, “You sound the bugle…Mr. President, and Mike [Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and I will be the first to charge the hill.”

Well, Mr. Gates, here is where we come to the “sadness” part.

I am saddened that you, Secretary of Defense, the highest-level person in the country next only to the Vice President, having such serious doubts and disagreements on our nation’s war-and-peace policies, did not speak up loudly, did not offer to resign if not listened to, but rather chose to listen to the bugle and charge the hill — and are now second-guessing that bugle call.

Mr. Gates, you are no Rumsfeld, and I say this in an affectionate manner, I still respect you, but I am truly saddened.

         

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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49 Comments

  1. Quite.

    If Gates had waited until after 2016 to publish his memoirs I would not be so critical. He has a right to his opinion, however hypocritical, and a right to voice it. However by doing so whilst President Obama – his commander in chief – is still in office, he seeks to enrich himself to the detriment of the nation.

    The most apposite word I can think of is “dishonorable”.

    PS – aren’t NSC meetings classified? If gates still has a clearance – now would be a good time to revoke it.

  2. without being present during the controversial meetings at which Gates, claimed to clearly oppose the opinions expressed by the commander in chief as well as of others, it is confusing me as to why he didn’t openly speak out at those meetings. Isn’t that part of the job required of each Secretary of Defense?

    Speaking just as someone who knows very little about what motivates military strategy, and how politics affects them, haven’t Obama’s plans for Iraq and Afghanistan ALWAYS favored an eventual withdrawal? So, wouldn’t it be understandable if the President was primarily focused on such a goal throughout his Presidency? And doesn’t the fact that he did not bring home all the troops immediately after the 2008 elections (more than 5 years ago) indicate that he was indeed, attempting to be mindful of the troops as well as the eventual effects a withdrawal would have on citizens of Afghanistan? So, aren’t Gates criticisms basically much ado about nothing? If not, why did he never display a backbone and openly challenge the President at cabinet meetings?

  3. “Well aware of the unfairness of doing so, I did make the following apology: “I know that ‘reviewing’ or discussing a book without reading it is the epitome of arrogance, ignorance and so many other ‘ances’” and proceeded to do the non-review.”
    DDW, Could be that you are “reviewing” Gates’ life in a similar manner in your last two paragraphs.
    For the record, my opinion is that members of the cabinet should not spill the beans, but if they do, let a decent amount of time pass, say ten years.

  4. All good questions, Petew.

    Especially the last one: “why did he never display a backbone and openly challenge the President at cabinet meetings?

    That’s what is so puzzling — infuriating, perhaps — about a man who I respected and still do, but much less.

  5. DDW, Could be that you are “reviewing” Gates’ life in a similar manner in your last two paragraphs.

    For the record, my opinion is that members of the cabinet should not spill the beans, but if they do, let a decent amount of time pass, say ten years.

    Could be, on the first one.

    Agreed on the second one.

  6. During the holidays watched the movie; The Butler. It is a historical fiction drama based on the real life story of Eugene Allen, that served 34 years tenure, which covered 8 different presidents as White House butler. One of the predominate themes was directly translatable by Paul Laurence Dunbar’s famous poem called We Wear The Mask.

    Dorian i wonder about the military mask with Robert Gates…The military place where a mask is deeply programmed into the culture? So am not surprised something entirely different is revealing beneath RG’s Mask…

    If this is what Robert Gates needs to do to reclaim authenticity of being and soul, whether i agree with him or not politically, i truly respect. Is that not more important than even military honor? Perhaps there is a poignant similarity with Robert Gates and Eugene Allen who lived a life with a mask then found the courage to take it off? Unlike Generals John Allen and David Petraeus that had their masks ripped off by scandals…???

    Am left with open questions more than any kind of judgments concerning this unmasking…

    We Wear the Mask

    WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
    And mouth with myriad subtleties.

    Why should the world be over-wise,
    In counting all our tears and sighs?
    Nay, let them only see us, while
    We wear the mask.

    We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
    To thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile
    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
    But let the world dream otherwise,
    We wear the mask!

    (1872-1906)

    The above poem appeared in Dunbar’s first professionally published volume, Lyrics of Lowly Life, in 1896 by Dodd, Mead, and Company.

    “We Wear the Mask” is a lyric poem about oppressed black Americans forced to hide their pain and frustration behind a façade of happiness and contentment. Dunbar published the poem in 1896 in Lyrics of Lowly Life (Dodd, Mead, and Company)……..Dunbar was believed to be the first black American to earn national recognition for his writing. He gained attention after selling a published collection of his poems to riders on the elevator he operated in a building in Dayton, Ohio. …….Dunbar was the son of slaves, Matilda and Joshua Dunbar. His father escaped slavery and served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

  7. One more poem about Masks..

    Please Hear What I’m Not Saying

    Jester mask Don’t be fooled by me.
    Don’t be fooled by the face I wear
    For I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
    Masks that I’m afraid to take off
    And none of them is me.

    Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me,
    but don’t be fooled,
    for God’s sake don’t be fooled.
    I give you the impression that I’m secure,
    that all is sunny and unruffled with me,
    within as well as without,
    that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
    that the water’s calm and I’m in command
    and that I need no one,
    but don’t believe me.

    My surface may be smooth but
    my surface is my mask,
    ever-varying and ever-concealing.
    Beneath lies no complacence.
    Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
    But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it.
    I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
    That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
    a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
    to help me pretend,
    to shield me from the glance that knows.

    But such a glance is precisely my salvation,
    my only hope, and I know it.
    That is, if it is followed by acceptance,
    If it is followed by love.
    It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself
    from my own self-built prison walls
    from the barriers that I so painstakingly erect.
    It’s the only thing that will assure me
    of what I can’t assure myself,
    that I’m really worth something.
    But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare to. I’m afraid to.

    mask I’m afraid you’ll think less of me,
    that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
    I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing
    and that you will see this and reject me.

    So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game
    With a façade of assurance without
    And a trembling child within.
    So begins the glittering but empty parade of Masks,
    And my life becomes a front.
    I tell you everything that’s really nothing,
    and nothing of what’s everything,
    of what’s crying within me.
    So when I’m going through my routine
    do not be fooled by what I’m saying.
    Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,
    what I’d like to be able to say,
    what for survival I need to say,
    but what I can’t say.

    I don’t like hiding.
    I don’t like playing superficial phony games.
    I want to stop playing them.
    I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
    but you’ve got to help me.
    You’ve got to hold out your hand
    even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.
    Only you can wipe away from my eyes
    the blank stare of the breathing dead.
    Only you can call me into aliveness.
    Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
    each time you try to understand because you really care,
    my heart begins to grow wings –
    very small wings,
    but wings!

    With your power to touch me into feeling
    you can breathe life into me.
    I want you to know that.
    I want you to know how important you are to me,
    how you can be a creator–an honest-to-God creator –
    of the person that is me
    if you choose to.
    You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
    you alone can remove my mask,
    you alone can release me from the shadow-world of panic,
    from my lonely prison,
    if you choose to.
    Please choose to.

    Do not pass me by.
    It will not be easy for you.
    A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
    The nearer you approach me
    the blinder I may strike back.
    It’s irrational, but despite what the books may say about man
    often I am irrational.
    I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
    But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
    and in this lies my hope.
    gold mask Please try to beat down those walls
    with firm hands but with gentle hands
    for a child is very sensitive.

    Who am I, you may wonder?
    I am someone you know very well.
    For I am every man you meet
    and I am every woman you meet.

    By Charles C. Finn

  8. “hating every minute of his job”? “seething”? ” wanting to slam the book down and walk out”? IMO, What a bunch of BS. If he were honestly feeling like that, he would have resigned. Many who disagree with a president’s positions have done exactly that through the years. So what motive could he have had for writing this book?

  9. I believe that Gates was most disturbed by the Congress and their kangaroo court tactics and personalized insults.

  10. @OS:

    Interesting poems about “masks.”

    Gates was “in the military” (an Air Force officer) only for a couple of years at a very young age.

    If anything, his “mask” may have come from his many years service with the Central Intelligence Agency.

  11. Its a given that we all hide behind masks during our lives, but Gates was not a victim of Jim Crow oppression. Instead, he was a military leader. I would think part of his job would be to openly reveal his criticisms or reservations about any particular policy from the Obama administration. Do military leaders, who epitomize such resolve and effective decision making usually hide behind a mask which conceals their true stand on issues (not just personal feelings, but support or rejections of specific policy issues)—I may be wrong, but isn’t this possibility very rare?

  12. petew:

    Again, as I mentioned to OS, Gates was not a military leader. He was a civilian member of the president’s cabinet, who only had a very brief two-year stint in the military when he was very young. (this is not to say that some military leaders may have worn or may be are wearing the so-called mask, but with Gates that is not germane here)

  13. However by doing so whilst President Obama – his commander in chief – is still in office, he seeks to enrich himself to the detriment of the nation.

    The most apposite word I can think of is “dishonorable”. – epiphyte

    That pretty well captures my own feeling too. It seems Gates isn’t really the person many of us thought he was.

  14. Dorian,

    I get your point, but does the fact that Obama also has no prior military experience outside of becoming Commander in Chief, mean that we can overlook some of the criticisms concerning faults that he may have? It seems to me that when anyone arrives at the political level of being a cabinet member in a particular administration we have a right to expect certain things from that person—honesty and intellectually courage usually being among them.

  15. Dorian what are the rules and regulations called on how to address officers above one in the military? Such as not back-talking someone higher up? I know it is not called Code of Conduct but is there a document that outlines the rules of right relationship? Sorry do not have the words to ask the question properly, but maybe you can see what i trying to ask? I think of the Special Service and how they wear a ‘military’ mask when it comes to concealing what is going on within….

  16. I said it in another thread, I think we all need to back off a little on this until more is known.

    From what I’ve read in various other sources it sounds like Bob Woodward cherry picked without including context throughout his review of the book.

    An American Conservative article points out real well (with various quotes both from the book and from Woodward’s take on it) the errors of Woodwards ways.

    And here is Robert Gates in an excerpt from his new memoir Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War I, due out Jan. 14:

    difficulties within the executive branch were nothing compared with the pain of dealing with Congress. Congress is best viewed from a distance—the farther the better—because up close, it is truly ugly. 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.

    I was more or less continuously outraged by the parochial self-interest of all but a very few members of Congress. Any defense facility or contract in their district or state, no matter how superfluous or wasteful, was sacrosanct. I was constantly amazed and infuriated at the hypocrisy of those who most stridently attacked the Defense Department as inefficient and wasteful but fought tooth and nail to prevent any reduction in defense activities in their home state or district.

    I also bristled at what’s become of congressional hearings, where rude, insulting, belittling, bullying and all too often highly personal attacks on witnesses by members of Congress violated nearly every norm of civil behavior. Members postured and acted as judge, jury and executioner. It was as though most members were in a permanent state of outrage or suffered from some sort of mental duress that warranted confinement or at least treatment for anger management.

    I continue to worry about the incessant scorched-earth battling between Congress and the president (which I saw under both Bush and Obama) but even more about the weakening of the moderate center in Congress. Today, moderation is equated with lacking principles and compromise with “selling out.” Our political system has rarely been so polarized and unable to execute even the basic functions of government.

    Even more striking, Bob Woodward, who in a preview-precis of Gates’ new book relentlessly overemphasizes the negative in Gates’ judgment of Obama, quotes Gates saying with respect to Obama’s core choices in Afghanistan, ““I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”

    Yet Gates harshly criticizes Obama’s mode of making and executing decisions, complaining that the White House and National Security staff micromanaged, mistrusted and undermined the military, and suggesting that politics played an inappropriate role in policymaking. It awaits a read of the whole book to see how Gates weighs Obama’s apparently getting much of the policy right with allegedly getting the process wrong.

    The Times’ Thom Shanker, also afforded a preview, provides a seemingly more balanced account than Woodward of Gates’ judgment of Obama. My impression from Shanker’s review is that systemic dysfunction dominates Gates’ narrative: the book may portray a collective tragedy, a nation that can no longer govern itself effectively. As Shanker notes, Gates does not spare himself from criticism. There’s a dysfunctional Congress, a dysfunctional Pentagon, and two administrations that went severely awry, in his telling, in different ways. Contrast this collective dysfunction with his earlier portrait of five or six administrations that tacked left and right but ultimately hewed to a successful Cold War consensus strategy.

    I await the full narrative.

    I think it would behoove all of us to do the same.

  17. Thanks SteveK… sounds like there are more shades…

    Dorian these are more the words i was trying to find to ask about; part of the military vales seems to be to maintain professionalism and loyalty to ones subordinates, superiors, the command, and the Commander in Chief….I doubt if anyone openly criticizes the Commander in Chief directly?

    This is not likely a valid comparison except when looking at power protocols it is not unusual to wear a mask… Commander in Chief and Secretary of State that would be an interesting power relationship.

  18. Petew:

    My comments both to you and previously to ordinary sparrow had of a two-fold purpose:

    First, and more semantics than anything else, to clarify that Robert Gates was not a “military leader” while Secretary of Defense (he may have been a very young military leader when he was a commissioned officer early in his career in the Air Force for two years). He did lead the military establishment as civilian Secretary of Defense (as part of the Constitutional civilian oversight of our military). Just as the Service Secretaries of are in charge (“lead”) their respective Services. They also may or may not have been military leaders in their earlier careers. Again, it is semantics and if you or anyone else disagree with this, fine.

    However, on a more substantive note,I was addressing ordinarysparrow’s comments about a “military mask” worn by Gates and allegedly attributed to such “masks” being “deeply programmed into the military culture.”

    To this my answer is the previous: Gates, as SecDef was not a mlitary leader, nor was he,in my opinion, long enough in the military to acquire such a “mask” if that is what one acquires in the military culture, which is an entirely different topic not germane to the discussion of Gates.

    Gates may had had all kind of masks, but not a military one.

    That’s all.

    Thanks for your comments.

    PS: OS, I hope this answers your questions, too. If not let me know.

    Thanks.

  19. I just saw your newest comment OS.

    part of the military vales seems to be to maintain professionalism and loyalty to ones subordinates, superiors, the command, and the Commander in Chief….I doubt if anyone openly criticizes the Commander in Chief directly?”

    I believe there are ways to provide constructive criticism in the military, as well as in civilian life, without being insubordinate or breaching protocols.

    Then again, many powerful generals’ (military leaders) careers have come to an abrupt end because of the nature, the way and the validity or not of the criticism, especially of the commander-in-chief. But this brings us back to Gates: Many military leaders have been fired or have resigned because they spoke their conscience, truth to power. Gates apparently did not, but instead “seethed.”

    This is not likely a valid comparison except when looking at power protocols it is not unusual to wear a mask… Commander in Chief and Secretary of State that would be an interesting power relationship.

    Don’t really understand the question — if a question.

    Thanks again.

  20. Thanks Dorian that helped….After this discussion on TMV i want to read the book…

  21. Dorian what are the rules and regulations called on how to address officers above one in the military? Such as not back-talking someone higher up?

    I am sure there are rules and many more guidance and protocol publications on this, and I can try to look some up if you wish.

    But, without even doing that, I believe that, as in any environment — family, casual, business or military – if one uses common respect and manners, one should be OK.

    That has been my experience, both as enlisted and as an officer. Others may have had different experiences.

  22. Dorian you did answer my question, for i wondered how much one could oppose anyone that is higher up in a military or government level position in relation to the President… no need to spend anymore time much clearer on this now … thanks ….another aspect i wondered about when referring to mask is how often times one will hear soldiers say; ‘my duties as a soldier comes before my personal politics’, Or more aligned in this situation when Cabinet members say; “I serve at the pleasure of the President”.

    It could well be the layperson’s misunderstanding, but have long viewed those in the military as giving up a certain amount of individual rights (?),opinion and behaviors because of guidelines dictated by rank and command structures to insure teamwork and a committment for a greater good…

    Thanks again for your patience in this discussion…

  23. It could well be the layperson’s misunderstanding, but have long viewed those in the military as giving up a certain amount of individual rights (?),opinion and behaviors because of guidelines dictated by rank and command structures to insure teamwork and a commitment for a greater good…

    I invite you to read “Rights of Military Members” here.

    In it you will find that military members have the same rights as civilians, conditioned by the nature of military service “to meet certain demands of discipline and duty’”

    “(The Supreme Court of the United States) has long recognized that the military is, by necessity, a
    specialized society separate from civilian society…(t)he rights of men in the armed forces must perforce
    be conditioned to meet certain overriding demands of discipline and duty.”

    Fundamental Rights

    1. Equal protection under the law regardless of race, religion, culture, national
    origin, gender or political affiliation, is a recognized fundamental human right for
    all people, including military personnel.

    2. “Equal opportunity shall be afforded to all on the basis of individual effort,
    performance, conduct, diligence, potential, capabilities and talents without
    discrimination as to race, color, religion, creed, sex or national origin. Naval
    personnel shall demonstrate a strong personal commitment to stand on these
    principles and carry them out”

    etc, etc. There are some qualifiers/exceptions such as:

    Freedom of Expression

    Most societies with a republic as a form of government guarantee the right to free expression for
    their citizens. The right of free expression includes the right to express opinions orally, in writing,
    and at group meetings. Freedom of expression may differ, however, for military personnel.

    A. Balancing Test

    1. Support for right to freedom of expression

    a. open discussions about important issues are healthy for any democracy.
    Free debate and free exchange of ideas bring about many good ideas
    that may be helpful for society.

    4 Rights of Military Members
    b. free expression ensures that the leaders of government become aware
    of the desires of the people, so that they may be responsive to the will of
    the people.
    c. citizens will be more likely to obey the decisions of the government
    leaders if they believe the government is listening to them.

    2. The proper balancing of a service member’s right to express himself and the
    need for operational readiness will depend largely upon the calm and prudent
    judgment of the responsible commander.

    3. In applying a balancing test, punishment after unlawful speech has taken place is
    preferred over prior restraint of expression.

    B. Freedom of Speech

    Service members, like other citizens, have a right to express themselves. However, the
    right to engage in free speech does not provide an absolute immunity from subsequent
    punishment if the speech violates a criminal law. In the military, such criminal laws
    include:

    1. Disrespectful speech toward superiors;

    2. Use of words or gestures that might provoke a fight;

    3. Disclosure of classified information;

    4. Discussing official matters outside of the military without proper authorization.

    As to serving at the pleasure of the President,” yes, all commissioned officers do.

    See below commissioning document:

    President of the United States of America
    To all who shall see these presents, greeting:
    Know Ye that, reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of ………………, I do appoint ["him" or "her"] a ["Second Lieutenant" or "Ensign"] in the [name of service] to rank as such from the …. day of …….. …… This Officer will therefore carefully and diligently discharge the duties of the office to which appointed by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging.
    And I do strictly charge and require those Officers and other personnel of lesser rank to render such obedience as is due an officer of this grade and position. And this Officer is to observe and follow such orders and directives, from time to time, as may be given by me, or the future President of the United States of America, or other Superior Officers acting in accordance with the laws of the United States of America.
    This commission is to continue in force during the pleasure of the President of the United States of America for the time being, under the provisions of those Public Laws relating to Officers of the Armed Forces of the United States of America and the component thereof in which this appointment is made.
    Done at the City of Washington, this …. day of …….. in the year of our Lord ……………. and of the Independence of the United States of America the ……….
    By the President:

  24. Thanks Dorian this is helpful…

  25. Sorry, OS.

    Left out restrictions on Peaceful Assembly, Unions and Political Activities

  26. Dorian,

    “of the Constitutional civilian oversight of our military). Just as the Service Secretaries of are in charge (“lead”) their respective Services. They also may or may not have been military leaders in their earlier careers. Again, it is semantics and if you or anyone else disagree with this, fine.”

    I brought up military experiences, as an effort to counter what seemed to me as your implication that, the issue of military leaders wearing a mask, may indeed, somehow modify their convictions about telling the truth and prevent them from openly speaking their minds. OS referred to the lead character in “The Butler” as needing to wear a mask just to survive in a harsh and repressive environment. In response I pointed out that Gates had way more options and a lack of such stifling social codes which might prompt him (necessarily) to wear such a mask. My belief is that such deception is not a necessary, or conducive requirement, for anyone who serves effectively as a cabinet member and as a Presidential adviser.

    It seemed that, you brought up the actually lack of Gate’s military service, as a way to defend his possible need to wear such a mask when dealing with the President. But the fact that Obama had absolutely no military experience prior to being elected, is not a matter of semantics, it is a matter of fact. And, the fact that civilians may lead the military in certain capacities, is no more an excuse to cop out of accurately representing ones beliefs and opinions, or having the courage to express them—anymore than anyone else having a military history should be able to use that history as an excuse.

    I have read in major publications such as TIME magazine (before the 2008 elections and after them) that Obama projected an air of authority that even leaders like Petraeus could respect and respond to (regardless of any scandals that happened later) even though the President had no personal military experience. I have also read that The President does not want to be surrounded merely by a bunch of “yes men,” who are afraid to disagree with him. And, while he is a fair leader who values input, he will eliminate those who screw up in incompetent ways, without hesitation.

    Because of these things I have heard, I think any effort to excuse Gates, because he somehow had no recourse but to wear a mask, or thought he had no recourse, is just an easy cop-out that gives him a pass on his own failures.

    Perhaps I am wrong to get that impression from other comments on this thread, and if so, I will try to understand where I am in error—either about something you said, or that others have said.

    SteveK, brings up some very interesting takes on the book, which may not be apparent to anyone who hasn’t read it, which would include me. Perhaps the musings of Gates and his impressions of the Obama Administration are not as inconsistent and puzzling as some of us now think—nor are they meant to be as scathingly critical as the impressions I currently have from reading ABOUT the book—rather than from reading the book itself.

  27. I hesitate to even attempt to explain further… It is obvious Robert Gates from the post waited to express his thoughts and feelings about the Administration after he left office…Simply put that would be a masking of his underlying position…..My original point was not about right or wrong, but rather when viewed from a stand point of Robert Gates, this revealing is authentic expression. Whatever interpretation others want to give that is their own, i am sure this like 99 percent of other issues this one will be polarized and politicized depending on partisan leanings and individual judgments of character…

    I simply stated he masked and then unmasked as did the Butler and only hope that now he feels more integral with his own soul…And the conversation with Dorian was helpful and clarifying concerning Gate’s service in CIA rather than a long military career….

    For me there are some things more important than politics…

  28. if ‘woodie’ got it wrong and cherry picked it, surely gates by now would be steaming and holding press conferences. Just as an aside re publishing with the ‘big five’… trust that gate’s publishers are relishing the controversy and if not outright encouraging silence so the fire will rage on, surely not carrying water to douse it. The behind the scenes of much of publishing is not pretty. Not even close.

  29. To clarify my coments about Gates, I do not contest the possibility that he wore a mask during his service in the Obama administration, only that I think it was a cop-out on his part, not to reveal his true feelings while in office. From all I’ve read, the President has always signaled that he welcomes diverse opinons from those on his cabinet.

  30. It’s interesting how sometimes these longer threads wind up sounding like a discussion among psychologists.

  31. Good Morning OS and Petew,

    Let me try again, once more in the light of a new day:

    Nowhere did I say that Gates may not have been wearing a “mask,” As a matter of fact in one of my comments I said, “If anything, his “mask” may have come from his many years service with the Central Intelligence Agency.”

    I also said, “Gates may had (sic) had all kind of masks, but not a military one.”

    My entire “nitpick” is with the fact that Gates, when he was SecDEf, was not a “military leader but rather that he led the military establishment.

    The statement, “It seemed that, you brought up the actually lack of Gate’s military service, as a way to defend his possible need to wear such a mask when dealing with the President.” is inaccurate. Nowhere do I defend Gates conduct, mask or not. All I said, if he wore a mask it may have been a CIA mask. I said: “Gates may had had all kind of masks, but not a military one.”

    “It seemed that, you brought up the actually lack of Gate’s military service, as a way to defend his possible need to wear such a mask when dealing with the President.”

    Nowhere do I defend Gates not standing up to Obama on core issues, prior military service or not, mask or not.

    “And, the fact that civilians may lead the military in certain capacities, is no more an excuse to cop out of accurately representing ones beliefs and opinions, or having the courage to express them—anymore than anyone else having a military history should be able to use that history as an excuse.”

    Where do I state the contrary? Quotes, please.

    “I brought up military experiences, as an effort to counter what seemed to me as your implication that, the issue of military leaders wearing a mask, may indeed, somehow modify their convictions about telling the truth and prevent them from openly speaking their minds.”

    Where do I state or imply otherwise. Quotes please.

    Thank you.

  32. I humbly bow out of this conversation… due to my inability to share an observation concerning what appears to me as Robert Gates not revealing his true persona(masking) while in service to the President as Secretary of State, then appears to remove that mask in his book… I am sorry it was stated in a way that lead to it not being seen for what was intended. I take full responsibility for this lack of clarity….Sorry

    dduck, perhaps each one of us bring into this space our own orientation…And it is highly likely that i will always lean more towards understanding someone than attempting to tar and feather them….

  33. I humbly bow out of this conversation… due to my inability to share an observation concerning what appears to me as Robert Gates not revealing his true persona(masking) while in service to the President as Secretary of State, then appears to remove that mask in his book… I am sorry it was stated in a way that lead to it not being seen for what was intended. I take full responsibility for this lack of clarity….Sorry

    Absolutely nothing to apologize for, or to bow out of the conversation for– which I have enjoyed — OS.

    I have just been “arguing” about the semantics of a “military leader” perhaps obsessively so, and, thus, if anyone needs to apologize it is me.

    I agree with everything else you have said about Gates. Please don’t “bow out,” and I say this very sincerely.

    Dorian

  34. Thanks Dorian….

    In general this discussion took me into questions about relationships of the powerful in positions such as the Cabinet, the President, FBI, Social Service, CIA, top positions in the Military concerning the balance of diplomacy, power, free expression when is it furthering and when is it non-furthering…

    We see those in the House of Representative such as Cruz where anything that comes to their mind is spat out and we can agree that is all too often non-furthering…In the comment you provided it talked of Balancing Test, that spoke directly to what i was pondering…

    Having brought up The Butler i hope you have or will see that one…It is a thoughtful movie that stays with one…

  35. It seems that Mr. Gates has finally talked about his new book and the brouhaha surrounding what he “wrote” in it.

    Harvard Business Review – Interview with Robert Gates January 9, 2014

    This is a very interesting 19 minute telephone interview (no written transcript yet) but here’s a small portion taken with 08.06 remaining in audio

    HBR – How would you characterize his (Obama’s) leadership approach?

    Robert Gates – “One of the things that surprised me, that I write about, is that for a guy that had never run anything I found him very decisive. He liked to analyze things very thoroughly when he had the time to do so. He would tell me time and again that “If I don’t understand it I can’t explain it,” and so he would take a lot of time on these issues but at the same time when he had to make an immediate decision, often in matters of life and death, he did not hesitate in making those decisions… And never looked back so I found, for somebody who had not been an executive he took to being an executive and making tough decisions quite quickly.”

    I strongly recommend that anyone wanting information regarding what Mr. Gates said, and the context he said it in, to take the time and listen to this interview.

  36. Have not listened to it yet, but read your excerpt.

    Interesting, to say the least.

    Thanks Steve.

  37. SteveK — That’s what I’ve heard from those who have actually taken the time to read the book as well. Fox is focusing on the few mild criticisms Gates made of Obama (he didn’t implicitly trust the military without questioning and verifying, etc), doing what they do to spin anything possible anti-Obama that they can, but overall the book is supposed to be quite complimentary of the president, as well as of Clinton.

  38. Thanks Steve K…. that is a good interview that shows Gates very different that the some of the reviews before the book even comes out… It is not scheduled to go on Amazon sale until the 14th…

    How strange is this comment made at Fox News….

    Let’s not mince words here: Robert Gates has just betrayed the president who appointed him and gave him the Medal of Freedom. Fox News

    If appears we have entered “Foxgate” ….

  39. @Ordinarysparrow

    I went back and re-read Finn’s masks poem — this time slowly and thoughtfully.

    It is probably up to every individual to imagine who the person is behind that mask.

    When I read it again — and having had some related and very personal experiences with this issue — to me, the person behind the mask, desperately seeking consolation, love and support is the young boy or girl who realizes he or she is gay and is now terrified of all the “consequences” that await him or her, the worst of all the possible disapproval — condemnation even — by his parents, and possibly having to wear the mask for who-knows how long.

    Those thoughts just break my heart.

    Thank you again.

  40. Thanks Steve K…. that is a good interview shows Gates very different than some of the reviews before the book even comes out officially… It is not scheduled to go on Amazon sale until the 14th…

    So true Dorian… i will re-read at that level too… Thank goodness time are slowly but progressively changing for many…

  41. And that’s not all… ( ;) )

    NPR – Gates Memoir Could Prove Helpful To Hillary Clinton In 2016

    In his new memoir, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a fairly serious charge against Hillary Clinton that likely will hound her if she decides to run for president in 2016: that she admitted in his presence that there were political considerations in her opposition to the U.S. military surge in Iraq.

    As soon as the first excerpts of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War surfaced, many Republicans pounced on Gates’ recollection of the Obama-Clinton Iraq surge conversation.

    “Can we trust someone to be Commander-in-Chief when she misrepresented her position on a war because she wanted to be president?” said a statement from Tim Miller, a spokesman for the Republican opposition research group called America Rising. You can already envision the ads from America Rising and a number of other conservative groups.

    [...]

    Still, the Gates book swings both ways. He also offers up some of the best praise Clinton is likely to receive from a Republican. If she does eventually decide on another White House run, she’ll be hard-pressed to find a presidential running mate (assuming she wins the nomination this time around) who can outdo Gates’ praise.

    “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” is how he [Gates] described the former secretary of state.

    [...]

    - – -

    USA Today – Robert Gates hits ‘incompetent’ Congress: Our view
    His differences with Obama pale in comparison with his scorn for Capitol Hill.

    [...]

    But by his own reckoning, Gates’ differences with Obama pale in comparison with his utter scorn for Congress.

    A partial list of his descriptive words includes: uncivil, incompetent, parochial and hypocritical. And for someone who spent most of his life in public service, he delivers the ultimate rebuke. Members of Congress, he says, routinely subordinate the national interest to their own.

    Perhaps a man saying harsh things about an institution whose approval rating hovers near single digits is not enough of an aberration to be considered news. One need not stop the presses for someone calling Kim Jong Un a tyrant.

    But it brings up the question of what kind of world we live in when one of the most respected public servants in a generation can positively ream the legislative branch and hardly anyone notices.

    Gates is the type of person increasingly in short supply in Washington. He started as an Air Force officer, moved over to the CIA, worked his way up to the directorship and ultimately became Defense secretary under presidents of both parties. He is motivated not by ambition but by dedication to service, love of country, and deep concern for the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way.

    What he has to say is important. It matters, unlike a lot of the opinions that echo through Washington. His book might best be seen as a primal scream from a famously level-headed man sickened by the pettiness and dysfunction in the capital of the greatest nation on earth.

    [...]

  42. Encouraging.

    Thanks, Steve.

  43. Dorian,

    Just wanted to say that I re-read the comments you made way back in this thread, and I realize I did misunderstand your statements. Gates may well have worn a variety of masks during his career, but you were not surmising that this possibility excused him from speaking his mind as one of the President’s advisors.

    What has us all interested in this issue is not that Gates definitely has some important knowledge to convey about his time as Secretary of Defense but by the supposed anti-Obama remarks that have been mentioned as being part of his memoires. Not only is it unbecoming to say things like this while a President is still in office, but it is shocking to think that Gates could criticize the President in such an unflattering way.

    However, as has been mentioned by SteveK and others, news outlets like FOX, have been focusing on certain portions of Gates remarks in order to overplay the idea that the President is somehow an unlikable and incompetent leader. However, steveKs revealed portion of Gates interview with Harvard Business Review, reinforces my understanding that the President is indeed, a strong and decisive leader—even without personal military history.

    The truth is that, Gates appears to have offered us much more of a mixture of praise and criticisms, that is more believable, because it doesn’t really condemn the President alone for being responsible for our countries failures, but rather paints him, along with both Democrats and Republicans, as well as Congress itself, as all falling short of their responsibilities because of the dysfunctional nature of Capitol Hill itself.

    Sorry if I misunderstood. I am also in total agreement with OS that much of the brouhaha might be a side-effect of the latest propaganda in the “fox-gate” caper! But, The people in charge of this particular news outlet undoubtedly took delight in stating that Gates betrayed the President—but only because (in their views)he deserved it—at least I would guess that this is their angle. To think they would negatively condemn Gates for abandoning the President makes absolutely no sense, unless, I suspect, until we read between the lines.

  44. Thanks. Petew. We all misread each other at one time or another, but not many of us acknowledge such.

    Peace,

  45. His book might best be seen as a primal scream from a famously level-headed man sickened by the pettiness and dysfunction in the capital of the greatest nation on earth.

    Dude. We are ALL screaming that scream.

  46. JSpenser… hahahaha….Maybe we need to have a TMV simultaneous collective primal scream from time to time ….We could start with Ted Cruz or Fox…. :)

  47. His book might best be seen as a primal scream from a famously level-headed man sickened by the pettiness and dysfunction in the capital of the greatest nation on earth.
    Dude. We are ALL screaming that scream.

    I get that. But to reiterate the point of the first post on this thread – unless he believes the President has done something which merits impeachment, it is inappropriate for Gates, a previous member of Obama’s cabinet, to publicise his opinions and observations on the conduct of the president, until he is no longer in office. To do so is detrimental to the interests of the United States.

  48. I had some respect for Gates as a competent, low-key guy in an insane world of egos and profiteering that is Washington. But then I listened to an excellent, up-close interview with him on NPR this morning in which he told us, without blinking, that he “wept” every day over the losses in war even as he recounted his efforts to send more troops while the White House was trying to pull America back from its 40-year+ quagmire of military engagements that are hard to justify.

    Even though civilian control of the military is what we have a right to expect, there have been plenty of occasions in my lifetime when civilian control has been questioned and challenged to a scary degree.

    So a guy who looked like a serious and faithful small-d democrat doing his job now comes off as partisan and petulant though he has been troubled enough by the reaction to his book to make clear respect for the president that seems genuine. Though in the end I think it would be fair to ask “Who is the Real Robert Gates?”

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetw.....ious-staff

    http://www.npr.org/2014/01/13/.....can-troops

  49. I always had, and still do, have a great deal of respect for Gates. He stands out among the grand-standers and political hacks ever dependent on positive polls and grandiose platitudes. But, I also think it was poor judgement to come out too soon with his cathartic book.

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