National Review editor probes the former defense secretary’s tell-all memoir

Rich Lowry of National Review shares with Politico readers his assessment of the new memoir from former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Robert Gates has roiled the Beltway with perhaps the least surprising bombshells ever to appear in a tell-all Washington memoir.

Did anyone believe that President Barack Obama was passionately committed to the Afghanistan war that he escalated at the same time he announced a withdrawal date?

Is there anyone who thought that Hillary Clinton in 2008 calibrated her position on the Iraq War based on the state of play in Anbar province rather than the Iowa caucuses?

Does anyone consider Vice President Joe Biden a thoughtful policy maven with a long history getting stuff right? …

… If what Gates tell us isn’t particularly new, it still packs a punch coming from such a highly placed, credible source. For Obama, Afghanistan is the insincere war. More than 1,500 troops have died there during his time in office—almost three times as many as under Bush —yet by early 2011 the president had lost whatever faith he had in the war, according to Gates.

In the telling of his former secretary of defense, Obama violated what should be the psychological Powell Doctrine: If you don’t believe in it, don’t fight it.

John Kerry famously asked during the Vietnam War: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? Now the secretary of state should pose a version of his long-ago rhetorical question to his boss. Obama evidently has been asking men to die for what he considers a mistake for years now.

As reported in the press, Gates describes a dawning realization at a March 2011 meeting in the situation room. “As I sat there,” he writes, “I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand 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.”

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