Scorpions and Frogs

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ memoir won’t be released for another week, but it’s already being aired out as a partisan football. As Anne Laurie pointed out yesterday, Bob Woodward mines the book for evidence of the naive “Obambi” persona he projects onto the president (in contrast the the wily, all-knowing veteran Woodward imagines himself to be).

MSNBC’s Sarah Muller reviews some of the same passages Woodward highlights and provides excerpts that paint a slightly different picture:

“As I sat there, 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,” Gates wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.” He added, “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for the mission.”

Woodward breathlessly explains that this is “one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat.”

You know what else it is? A near-perfect reflection of the American people’s ambivalence about that benighted war. And subsequent events have proved Obama’s mistrust in both his commander and Karzai as prescient.

For some reason, Woodward didn’t cover this passage, which was highlighted by Muller:

Still, the former defense secretary praises Obama’s high-stakes choice to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound as “one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House.”

Let’s put on our thinking caps: Why would Woodward leave that part out?

Both Woodward and Muller’s accounts highlight Gates’ skewering of Joe Biden. Gates also had this to say about the White House staff in general:

“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.”

Poor babies. It sounds like Gates grinds an entire arsenal of axes. No surprise there: Gates is a Republican, and that is their nature. In a response to the book, here’s what an administration official said:

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden issued a response to reports about the book, saying that President Obama “deeply appreciates Bob Gates’ service as Secretary of Defense, and his lifetime of service to our country.”

“Deliberations over our policy on Afghanistan have been widely reported on over the years, and it is well known that the President has been committed to achieving the mission of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda, while also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war, which will end this year,” the White House response says. “As has always been the case, the President welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies.”

And that’s as clear an illustration of the nature of the Obama administration as you’re likely to find.

99 replies
  1. 1
    raven says:

    Gates opened the piece by writing that in the numerous times he testified before Congress, he found himself “tempted to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot” because of the “rude, insulting, belittling, bullying and all too often highly personal attacks” one has to endure during congressional testimony. He said if he had done so, he would have told Congress, “I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that

    .”

  2. 2
    raven says:

    “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for the mission.”

    Better than we got from LBJ.

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    “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.”

    Unprecedented!

  4. 4
    dmsilev says:

    Besides Bob Woodward, are there any people left who take Bob Woodward seriously?

  5. 5
    cmorenc says:

    The Faux News Wurlitzer was playing the Gates’ Working-Man-Blues Song as their number 1 hit last night, in a suite that also included the Fallujah Blues and “Dead Soldiers Dishonor”.

    At least for once they didn’t overplay the “Bengazi Blues”.

  6. 6
    raven says:

    This confusing, frustrating and sometimes fascinating book is best summed up by a pair of conflicting statements Gates uttered during his tenure.In a meeting with Obama’s national security team a few days before the president’s inauguration, Gates described being defense secretary as “the most gratifying experience of my life.” Only days earlier, in an e-mail to a friend, he confided: “People have no idea how much I detest this job.”

  7. 7
    eric says:

    Brutus was an honorable man.

  8. 8
    Redshift says:

    Gates opened the piece by writing that in the numerous times he testified before Congress, he found himself “tempted to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot”

    Most of us have had that reaction to a boss at one time or another. However, most of us would at least recognize that they *are* our boss, not just some guy we have to put up with.

  9. 9
    mai naem says:

    In his wiki bio, it quotes a Time article that he had become bffs with HRC. Yeah, the same BFF who goes out and stabs her in the back because more than likely she’ll be a Dem candidate for POTUS in ’16. I had forgotten he was head of the CIA during Bush Sr and was somewhat involved in Iran Contra but they couldn’t find enough evidence to indict him. He also worked under Bill Casey, he of the hospital ICU deathbed interview to Bob Woodward.

  10. 10
    Redshift says:

    Poor baby, democracy is hard!

  11. 11
    amk says:

    Obama’s judgment of petraeus, karzai and afghan war was spot on. That’s my take-away from this butthurt.

  12. 12
    Baud says:

    @Redshift:

    Yeah, I’m not a big fan of many Congresscritters, but Gates wasn’t elected to shit.

  13. 13

    “As I sat there, 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,” Gates wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.” He added, “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for the mission.”

    I would very much like someone in the Village to tell me what exactly the mission was.

    Because we stopped Saddam from creating mushroom clouds over New York (though it was impossible to begin with.) We ‘enforced’ the UN resolution. We oversaw elections and ‘brought Democracy’.

    I’d very much like to know what exactly about Iraq is worth the constant expenditure of US soldier’s lives and our tax dollars.

  14. 14
    Schlemizel says:

    copied from previous thread:

    Apparently their are 435 SOB that CAN talk to him like that. The little toady talks a good game but since he didn’t do it he obviously couldn’t do it.

    “I’da totally kicked that guys ass in the bar last night but then I remembered I had to be at work by 8 today & I didn’t want to sprain my typing wrist!”

  15. 15
    C.V. Danes says:

    The only sensible policy to pursue was to get out, and try and claim bin Laden’s scalp on the way. Anything else was to continue a total waste of blood and treasure.

  16. 16
    C.V. Danes says:

    @amk:

    Obama’s judgment of petraeus, karzai and afghan war was spot on. That’s my take-away from this butthurt

    Yup.

  17. 17
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I want to be the first to proffer the “team of rivals” excuse.

  18. 18
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    I would very much like someone in the Village to tell me what exactly the mission was.

    I’m not a “Villager” but I suspect that the mission was to pursue a war of choice in the name of American exceptionalism. And, no, it was not worth the constant expenditure of US soldier’s lives and our tax dollars. Not one drop of blood or one ounce of treasure.

  19. 19
    MomSense says:

    I love how Gates is upset by the President’s inappropriate calling out of Petraeus in a meeting but Petraeus wasn’t inappropriate in criticizing his CinC to the press??

    Really?

  20. 20
    geg6 says:

    @amk:

    Exactly. Where’s the scandal here? Karzai is a duplicitous asshole. So is Patraeus. And the Afghanistan war was a clusterfuck ever since Chimpy botched it. Obama sounds like the only adult in the room, not to mention the only one with a brain.

  21. 21
    Shortstop says:

    @MomSense: These guys really do think that Democratic presidents, perhaps especially this one, are illegitimate commanders in chief. They honestly don’t see anything wrong with what McChrystal, for example, did. The chain of command means something beyond a technicality only when the guy at the top shares their political sensibilities and their idea of masculinity.

  22. 22
    Cervantes says:

    Forget this empty, bureaucratic nothingness. “Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ memoir” — or indeed, any of his various publications — would be a damn sight more captivating if only he’d share juicy insidery stuff about selling missiles to the ayatollahs in Iran and buying guns for a gang of terrorists and rapists in Nicaragua.

    Where’s that book, Bob?

  23. 23
    Gin & Tonic says:

    This book will change precisely nobody’s mind on anything.

    I predict it’ll be on the remainder shelves before the end of 2014.

  24. 24
    MomSense says:

    Anyone else remember that when the Petraeus affair scandal broke, there was a Friday afternoon news dump saying that he was being investigated for something unrelated to the affair when they discovered the emails to his mistress?

    I would certainly like to know what that investigation was about.

  25. 25
    amk says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Yup. This story by itself comes with use-by-this-friday expiry date. All admins have internal squabbles. Obama, Biden, gates, hillary … are not exempt.

  26. 26
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    I think the scorpion and the frog framing is perfect. My only criticism of Obama on this one is his obsessive trusting of Republicans to not revert to the lockstep, daddy-seeking war mongers that they have to be by nature, and appointing one to his cabinet. It’s been interesting to watch him wise up over the first term.

    Edit: What Cervantes said

  27. 27
    WaterGirl says:

    @MomSense: This reeks of “don’t you know who I am??”

    Okay, so you’re president, and yeah, you’re commander in chief, on paper at least, but we are the generals and mr president, you are not deferring to us on all masters, you do not show us enough respect.

    Hubris.

  28. 28
    Citizen_X says:

    @Redshift: Congress ain’t the Sec’s boss. Obama is.

  29. 29
    Elizabelle says:

    Sounds like the Gates memoir is a mirror, much like the Bible, where what you get out of it says a lot about what you went in with.

    Obama Derangement Syndrome folks: doing the screaming now.

    Some of Gates’ memoir might be spot on, and competently observed. A CiC who sees Afghanistan for the clusterf*ck it was from the outset, and doesn’t want to go “All In”?

    That would be who I voted for.

  30. 30
    WaterGirl says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: I agree with you about the scorpion and the frog. But I don’t know that President Obama had any illusions about these guys. I believe he kept some of them in place to give him cover while he maneuvered to make a lot of changes.

    Edit: I am about to put my coat &:boots on so I can see if my car will finally start. It wouldn’t do a thing when we were -17, I didn’t even try yesterday, but now we are up to 15 degrees above. Wish me luck!

  31. 31

    @Comrade Dread: The neocons want an Empire.

  32. 32
    Cacti says:

    @MomSense:

    I love how Gates is upset by the President’s inappropriate calling out of Petraeus in a meeting but Petraeus wasn’t inappropriate in criticizing his CinC to the press??

    How in the world is it inappropriate to for the CinC to call out a subordinate?

    Truman relieved MacArthur’s arrogant ass, and he was held in far greater esteem by the American people than Petraeus could ever hope to be.

  33. 33
    JPL says:

    Norah O’Donnell on CBS This Morning, told me most of the book was complimentary towards President Obama and Hillary Clinton. whoops, she went off script. The books is suppose to be quite harsh towards Biden and Congress. Maybe it was personal and he wanted to make sure Joe didn’t challenge Clinton.

  34. 34
    geg6 says:

    And I want to thank former Secretary of Defense Gates for the resounding endorsement he gave to VP Biden and the slap in the face to former Secretary of State Clinton. The fact that he thinks Clinton is awesome, for me, tells me I really don’t want to be forced to vote for her. And the fact that he thinks Biden is always wrong about everything tells me that I really want to vote for Biden in 2016.

  35. 35
    Cacti says:

    @WaterGirl:

    But I don’t know that President Obama had any illusions about these guys. I believe he kept some of them in place to give him cover while he maneuvered to make a lot of changes.

    I figured he kept Gates around as a way of keeping the previous administration’s fingerprints on the wars it started and failed to resolve before leaving office. A cold political calculation, but not an unwise one. I don’t think he had any illusions about Gates being a team player.

  36. 36
    piratedan says:

    wow, Bob Woodward cherrypicking quotes and taking them outta context, who wouldda thunk it?

  37. 37

    Since Fallujah has fallen to AQ, means that the surge touted by Petraues and his media flunkies did not really work. So what do those flunkies have to say now?

  38. 38
    JPL says:

    @geg6: That was my takeaway after listening to CBS This Morning. Hillary is a neo-con.

  39. 39
    Cervantes says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: What do you make of the Hagel appointment?

    (I wonder what sort of book he’s making notes for as we speak.)

  40. 40
    Shortstop says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Someone should ask McCain that. Even now, he turns purple and lets flecks of spittle fly every time someone says the surge didn’t work. It’s entertaining to watch — at least, as entertaining as his continual doubling down can be in light of all the people who died for his folly.

  41. 41
    Cacti says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Since Fallujah has fallen to AQ, means that the surge touted by Petraues and his media flunkies did not really work. So what do those flunkies have to say now?

    McGramps and Graham have said that the President needs to revise his Iraq policy. When asked about this Jay Carney more or less said, “The President doesn’t feel that US troops should still be fighting and dying in Fallujah, but if certain members of Congress do, they should come out and say so to the American people.”

  42. 42
    Shortstop says:

    Meh, Biden ain’t running if Clinton is. He’s not saying so until she confirms she’s in.

  43. 43
    Harold Samson says:

    @WaterGirl:

    It’s Colonel Jesseps all the way up.

    At some point we will have to accept that our military thinks it knows better then the citizens and politicians do.

    We’re reluctant to accept that for a lot of understandable reasons.

  44. 44
    Shortstop says:

    @Cacti: That was rather neatly put. The Sniper Twins won’t have the stones, of course, and being asked to put up or shut up only renders Gramps more impotently apoplectic.

  45. 45
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Elizabelle:

    Some of Gates’ memoir might be spot on, and competently observed. A CiC who sees Afghanistan for the clusterf*ck it was from the outset, and doesn’t want to go “All In”?

    That would be who I voted for.

    Yeah, pretty much. I would have preferred folding the tent immediately upon the demise of bin Laden, but hey, no one elected me. The WSJ has a lengthy excerpt of Gates’ memoir here. The 5th paragraph and following ones give his take on the contrast between the Shrub and Obama administrations’ handling of the wars, and it largely rings true, except where he says he had fewer issues with Bush (who was wrong about every fucking thing) and dings Obama as inexperienced (if inexperience results in getting it mostly right, more please).

  46. 46
    amk says:

    @Cacti: carney really said that? hot damn.

  47. 47
    ryanayr says:

    The scandal is Obama hired someone who wanted us to stay in Afghanistan

  48. 48
    TAPX486 says:

    So Obama had second thoughts about the Afgan surge and was skeptical of the advice he was getting from his generals. Any one with an ounce of sense should have been skeptical of the surge in Afghanistan. I didn’t think it would work but we were out of better ideas so give it one last shot. Who knows it might just work.

    Given the advice that they have given over the past 60 years, starting with dugout Doug’s the Chinese won’t intervene, I think Obama has every right to be skeptical. Look the generals are loyal Americans who have seen combat and know the nature of war but like the carpenter with only a hammer the entire world looks like a nail. I’m sure we can make the same charge at the folks at state with their screwdriver/diplomacy. The president has to take a wider view.

    Of course we could follow ‘stay the course’ George W and hope for the best. It seems that Gates admired Bush for making a decision and then never looking back. That worked out so well in Iraq. What is that definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    I’ve read in several places that Eisenhower was not particularly popular at the Pentagon because he knew all of the tricks and dodges that the generals would come up with, so they couldn’t b/s him. Failing that insider knowledge, skepticism is a good approach.

  49. 49
    Chris says:

    Poor babies. It sounds like Gates grinds an entire arsenal of axes. No surprise there: Gates is a Republican, and that is their nature.

    The last time Gates was in government service, it was to serve as CIA director in the aftermath of the Iran-contra scandal. Combine it with his SecDef position (where he was brought in after Rumsfeld and the neocons had wreaked enough disaster to cost the Republicans the House and Senate in 2006), and it seems pretty clear that he’s the GOP’s one man clean up crew, brought in for damage control after they’ve fucked up so completely that the public is starting to notice.

    Sticking it to the next president would, I suppose, just be one more aspect of the Republicans’ PR/damage control strategy.

  50. 50
    TAPX486 says:

    @Betty Cracker: Other than running a couple of oil companies into the ground, exactly what ‘experience’ of W’s is Obama missing?

  51. 51
    Roger Moore says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    So what do those flunkies have to say now?

    It’s all Obama’s fault for getting us out.

  52. 52
    MomSense says:

    @Cacti:

    How in the world is it inappropriate to for the CinC to call out a subordinate?

    Truman relieved MacArthur’s arrogant ass, and he was held in far greater esteem by the American people than Petraeus could ever hope to be.

    It’s not! I was thinking of the quote by Truman “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the president. That’s the answer to that. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”

  53. 53
    Roger Moore says:

    “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 me, offended Secretary Clinton as much as it did me.”

    FTFY, Mr. Gates.

  54. 54
    Chyron HR says:

    @ryanayr:

    So we’re just going to pretend that Gates was an Obama appointment, rather than a Bush holdover whom Obama replaced during his first term in office? Okay then.

    Maybe Gates should have been tried for war crimes along with the rest of the Bush regime, despite not having been appointed until 2006, long after the criminal invasion of Iraq was orchestrated?

  55. 55
    Cervantes says:

    @Chris:

    The last time Gates was in government service, it was to serve as CIA director in the aftermath of the Iran-contra scandal.

    Not exactly. After the CIA, he went to serve as an administrator at Texas A & M.

  56. 56
    MomSense says:

    @Shortstop:

    Here’s the thing. I never thought McChrystal was organizing the coordinated leaks to the press in advance of the President’s decision in Afghanistan. He always seemed more bluster to me. I guess I always thought that it was Petraeus orchestrating that.

  57. 57
    raven says:

    @Cervantes: He was the president of A&M.

  58. 58
    hoodie says:

    @Roger Moore: I’m confused. I thought The Surge worked, allowing us to desurge, which Obama did. However, now it seems The Surge didn’t work. Or it was supposed to be unlimited, which doesn’t sound very surgy.

  59. 59
    Chris says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    he says he had fewer issues with Bush (who was wrong about every fucking thing) and dings Obama as inexperienced (if inexperience results in getting it mostly right, more please).

    There’s a quote from a now-inactive left-wing blog about the nature of “expertise” at the Pentagon that I’m reminded of every couple months;

    the fact is that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and others were the epitome of the foreign policy expert. Doug Feith points out in his book, I think correctly, that in fact the Rumsfeld wing of things was smarter and more “expert” than the Colin Powell wing. It just so happens that foreign policy expertise had and has a lot more to do with encyclopedic knowledge of weapons systems, expertise at bureaucratic infighting, and delineation of strategic contingencies in carefully bullet-pointed memos than it has to do with understanding human beings and the world.

    And, I would add, “expertise” in the upper echelons of the Pentagon seems to be defined also by “keep your head down, obediently recite all the mantras, prejudices and conventional wisdom that the people here think are true, no matter how badly they continue to fuck up, and once we’re sure you’re enough of a drone, we’ll promote you.” The defense sector is a self-selecting community that defines “expertise” as “agreeing with us” – like the media, like big business, like far too many of our current elites.

    “Inexperienced” is a feature, not a bug, when dealing with people like that. I mean, for fuck’s sake, how skewed does your perspective have to be to say you have less issues with Bush‘s management?

  60. 60
    Chris says:

    @MomSense:

    And while Truman was no Eisenhower (in the sense that TAP mentioned), he was a former soldier and a war veteran, which meant he knew what he was talking about. He’d probably seen enough incompetent superior officers to last him a lifetime. Ditto Kennedy when the joint chiefs were begging him to start a war.

  61. 61
    Cervantes says:

    @raven:

    He was the president of A&M.

    Yes, but first he was a dean there for two or three years (before he became president).

  62. 62
    WaterGirl says:

    @Cacti: I hadn’t thought about the fingerprints thing, but I completely agree. I am grateful every day that we have such a smart guy as our president. Smart in every way.

    Which isn’t to say that I like everything he’s done, or that I’m not angry and frustrated about some things, but I do believe we should count ourselves lucky every single day.

  63. 63
    Cervantes says:

    @hoodie: Best we not conclude anything yet about the effectiveness of the so-called “surge.” (Yes, AQ types are still powerful in Fallujah and Ramadi — an entirely predictable state of affairs.)

    For the US to invade Iraq at all was a mistake in many dimensions — this is what we know for sure.

    Or it was supposed to be unlimited, which doesn’t sound very surgy.

    Excellent point, succinctly put. I’m watching as the Republicans and their nitwit mass-media enablers continue to dance around it and wave their hands madly.

  64. 64
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Chris: Exactly.

  65. 65
    Roger Moore says:

    @hoodie:
    The Republican plan was for the surge to be followed by a reduction to pre-surge levels, which would be maintained indefinitely. Iraq was supposed to be a client state that would give us a permanent base in the Middle East from which we could conveniently invade Iran and Syria. Obama didn’t follow through on the keeping us in Iraq permanently and invading Iran and Syria, so everything bad that happens there is obviously his fault and has nothing to do with the impossibility of that vision or the inherent problems of Iraq as a state.

    ETA: More importantly, the point of the surge was to make Iraq less of a clusterfuck for the 2008 elections. We were supposed to go in and get the civil war under control then get the extra troops out to keep casualties down, all by the next election cycle.

  66. 66
    Roberta in MN says:

    @MomSense: I think President Obama kept his enemies close at hand. If you pay attention, Hillary is no where to be found unless it suits her to do a little politicing for the future. I do not trust anyone that has left this administration to not do some kind of nefarious damage or at least to try to. President Obama is not dumb, he know the ropes and how it had been. I think Chuck Hagel will be is one really good asset along with Jay Carney. Jay has got to be the best, and I mean the best, Press Secretary eva.

  67. 67
    japa21 says:

    @Cervantes: There are two different surges being talked about. The first is Bush’s Iraq surge.
    The one hoodie is referring to, I think, is the Afghan surge that Obama put in place which some have said helped enough to allow us to start getting out of there. The actual effectiveness, if any, will probably never be known.

  68. 68
    TAPX486 says:

    The two thing I’ve come to realize in watching these things from Korea to Libya, are:
    1. the certainty of American policy makers that they can make major changes to the social/political structure of countries in which we do not know the history, speak the language or understand the social fault lines. All it takes is a few more troops, a couple of extra tons of bombs, a few painted schools and another trillion dollars.
    2. no matter how often this blows up in our faces, we move on to the next country just as certain that success lies just around the corner. It didn’t work in the last country because we didn’t sent enough troops, or drop those extra tons of bombs, and forgot to paint the hospitals.

    We had no idea what we were doing in Iraq so lets invade Syria. It is insanity.

  69. 69
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Roberta in MN:

    Jay has got to be the best, and I mean the best, Press Secretary eva.

    A lot of people seem to have that opinion. I don’t share it. I don’t understand the Gibbs hate nor the Carney love.

  70. 70
    Hebisner says:

    I wouldn’t dismiss Gates critique of the controlling nature of the Obama White House. Many people on the Democratic side and the press have complained about that as well. Its likely they are controlling. Given the terrible economic circumstances they walked into, a rabid GOP dedicated to ruining Obama’s Presidency even if they have to destroy the country to do it, and a beltway press wired to kiss the GOP’s ass, I think controlling and paranoid is the ONLY sane response.

  71. 71
    Corner Stone says:

    @WaterGirl: BREAKING: WaterGirl Slams Obama – “Which isn’t to say that I like everything he’s done, or that I’m not angry and frustrated about some things”
    /Bobby Woodward

  72. 72
    jonas says:

    Now that it’s clear that the Afghan surge — which Gates, and Obama, initially championed — has *not* worked, Gates is trying to make it sound like it failed because Obama just didn’t clap hard enough. What it looks like to me is that Obama soon realized that he had been mistaken and that Petraeus was a preening blowhard and Karzai was both inept and corrupt and that really just cutting our losses and getting the hell out was probably the best and only option left on the table. That’s called being a grownup. Gates’s book, like most political memoirs, should probably have been titled “If They Had Only Listened to *Me*”

    Also, he seems to confirm that Biden has a very, very difficult relationship with military brass. They all hate him. Is that because he doesn’t kneel to kiss their rings every time he talks with them? Or does he just frankly tell them he doesn’t trust them to make good decisions? Anyone have any insight on this?

  73. 73
    Chris says:

    @TAPX486:

    It’s yet another case of “it worked in World War Two, so it must always work.”

    Which has been the foundation stone of how Americans think about foreign policy since, well, World War Two. One wonders if it’ll ever end.

  74. 74
    Corner Stone says:

    @Betty Cracker: “Carney Love”
    Best name for a band or best name for an adult actress?

  75. 75
    Cervantes says:

    @Chris:

    There’s a quote from a now-inactive left-wing blog about the nature of “expertise” at the Pentagon that I’m reminded of every couple months

    Rahul is a good guy and a smart guy but I never found any basis for his ranking of Rumsfeld et al. as more expert in “foreign policy” than Powell et al. And his leaning on Doug Feith for this conclusion is as silly as asking Sarah Palin to make the judgment.

    But for what it’s worth, I’d say that Rahul’s larger point — and yours — is unexceptionable.

  76. 76
    Cervantes says:

    @japa21:

    There are two different surges being talked about. The first is Bush’s Iraq surge. The one hoodie is referring to, I think, is the Afghan surge that Obama put in place which some have said helped enough to allow us to start getting out of there. The actual effectiveness, if any, will probably never be known.

    OK, thanks. You may be right. I followed the thread back to the original comment (which is about Fallujah) but I could have missed something along the way.

  77. 77
    Cervantes says:

    @TAPX486:

    It is insanity.

    Not if you consider why it actually keeps happening.

    Cui bono?

  78. 78
    WaterGirl says:

    @Corner Stone: I wonder if even Berstein thinks he’s a total dick.

  79. 79
    WaterGirl says:

    @Corner Stone: Jennifer Love Hewitt is holding for you on line 1.

  80. 80
    TAPX486 says:

    @Chris: Yep. My thought exactly. It ignores the fact that there were a set of circumstances following WWII that are not likely to be repeated. Germany for example was a real country not like Iraq, which was put together by the Brits in 1923. We certainly had an advantage in which countries could chose to speak English (i.e. align with the US), or speak Russian, i.e. (take their chances with the USSR).

    The idea of American exceptionalism/shining city on the hill/gods gift to the world doesn’t lead to a realistic foreign policy either

  81. 81
    Corner Stone says:

    @WaterGirl: To get the band back together or does she want to do a test screening?

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    geg6 says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Carney gets in the faces of those asshats in the WH press pool, often throwing their own words or that of their network/newspaper back at them, and, because he was once one of them, they are speechless every.single.time. Gibbs is great at dealing with campaign issues, but is out of his depth with the Villagers and they know it. He never fared well when trying to fuck with them the way Carney does every day.

  83. 83
    Corner Stone says:

    @TAPX486:

    the certainty of American policy makers that they can make major changes to the social/political structure of countries in which we do not know the history, speak the language or understand the social fault lines. All it takes is a few more troops, a couple of extra tons of bombs, a few painted schools and another trillion dollars.

    For a second there I thought we were back to talking domestic politics.

  84. 84
    geg6 says:

    @WaterGirl:

    No need to wonder. They didn’t speak for years and it was only when Mark Felt decided to come out that they started speaking again. But I saw something on tv a few months ago and Bernstein basically said that Woodward is an egotistical dimwit who wouldn’t know a scoop to this day if Bernstein hadn’t taught him how to be a journalist. And I believe him.

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    TAPX486 says:

    @jonas: The brass and their civilian supporters didn’t much like FDR or Truman either. I doubt they liked any president with a ‘D’ after his name. It has only been a matter of degree

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    jonas says:

    @Hebisner: I think controlling and paranoid is the ONLY sane response.

    If they weren’t then we’d be getting concern-trolling from the press corps about the White House’s “lack of discipline” and “seriousness”.

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    WaterGirl says:

    @geg6: happy to see that, thanks!

  88. 88
    WaterGirl says:

    @geg6: happy to see that, thanks!

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    WaterGirl says:

    sorry, having trackpad issues on my computer.

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    Chris says:

    @Cervantes:

    As I understood it, it was a dig at how the system constructs “experts” who don’t know diddly-squat about their area of expertise. (Also what Krugman hammers on routinely in terms of Very Serious People being people who’ve been wrong on every fucking thing in the last decade from Saddam’s WMDs to Bush’s tax cuts to the housing bubble to the success of austerity).

    IMO, Rumsfeld and company were certainly more “expert” than Powell and company in the areas Mahajan outlines (or at least one in particular, “expertise at bureaucratic infighting”) – as you can see from their times in the Bush administration. The neocons may have botched the Iraq War spectacularly, but they were able to push it through in the first place, that and other changes on their agenda; what did Powell and his allies accomplish that was as consequential as that?

    Probably a similar point to be made on how successful Republicans have been in taking over the entire national security sector – to the point that Democratic presidents like Clinton and Obama have both felt compelled to keep on their predecessors’ senior advisers (Colin Powell, Robert Gates) and even inviting in other Republicans like Hagel.

    You’re the first person I’ve talked to who also knew Rahul Mahajan’s blog, also too. Any idea what the chances are of him going back into blogging full-time? (Right now he’s down to a post a year).

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    Mr. Longform says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    A lot of people seem to have that opinion. I don’t share it. I don’t understand the Gibbs hate nor the Carney love.

    and what about C.J. Cregg??

  92. 92
    Roger Moore says:

    @TAPX486:
    I think there’s long been a substantial portion of the brass, especially the upper brass, who don’t really believe in the idea of civilian control over the military. They may or may not believe in military control over the civilian government, but they really believe that civilians don’t know what they’re doing and should let the military do WTFTW. At least since WWII, the Republicans have been much more inclined to cede control to the military, so that clique has favored the Republicans. I think it’s way past time to downsize the military and make sure the officers who feel that way are the first to be let go.

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    Betty Cracker says:

    @Mr. Longform: Now you’re talking! CJ Cregg was the best press secretary ever, hands down! I bet Carney and Gibbs can’t do “The Jackal.”

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    dww44 says:

    @Shortstop: Exactly.! Too bad there’s no like button I could repeatedly click. I never ever forgot that Gates was a Republican, so I’m not really surprised by his book. None of the criticisms I’ve heard thus far warrant the reporting on the MSM evening news last nite that described Gates’ scathing critique of Obama, Biden, and his administration

    I do think it took Obama most of his first term to decide that establishing his C-I-C bona fides didn’t have to include civil servants and military commanders whose loyalties were always gonna tilt right.

  95. 95
    srv says:

    @Cervantes: Either Rummy was smarter or Powell and crew were just irrelevant. State hasn’t been out in front of anything in the ME.

    As was Hillary – most of FP is driven from the White House. Perhaps she’ll come out with a book too.

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    Chris says:

    @TAPX486:

    In the past, though, there was at least the cult of apoliticalness among officers. According to my dad, my grandfather (career Army) refused to sign up as a member of either political party for his entire time in the service. Some people took it even further, and refused to even vote.

    Quite a contrast with today, where if what I hear is correct, the officer corps is practically a Republican fraternity.

  97. 97
    Cervantes says:

    @Chris: I get (and enjoyed) the digs, etc., and (as I said) I agree with the larger point as well. It’s just that on the three specific components of “expertise” cited:

    It just so happens that foreign policy expertise had and has a lot more to do with [1] encyclopedic knowledge of weapons systems, [2] expertise at bureaucratic infighting, and [3] delineation of strategic contingencies in carefully bullet-pointed memos than it has to do with understanding human beings and the world.

    I’d give the first one to the Powell wing and the second to the Rumsfeld cabal — and I’d say the third one was a closely fought draw. Plus I stand by my comparison of Doug Feith to Sarah Palin!

    Re what Powell and company “accomplished,” I suppose it’s useful to recall that they helped Rumsfeld and company for decades — and then, much too late, tried half-heartedly to expose them — which is another way of saying they helped keep the worst secrets secret.

    Re Rahul himself: he’s been toiling in academic vineyards. Not sure about the old blog but if you are a connoisseur of radical media, you can still occasionally find him (and his brother) out there.

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    Cervantes says:

    @Roger Moore: By “let go” do you mean on the end of a noose?

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    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    Gates is a Bushie. Ergo, if he think’s you’re wrong on foreign policy, that probably means you’re right. The fact that Bob Woodward hasn’t figured that out yet doesn’t say much for his intelligence.

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