Former Defense Secretary: Obama Distrustful of Military Leadership

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates 

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates is calling out President Barack Obama and the administration for being distrustful of military leadership, NPR reports.

In a new book that will be released Jan. 14, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Gates declares that he was “seething” and “running out of patience on multiple fronts” while he served in the Obama administration. The Washington Post and the New York Times have received copies of Gates’ book and are offering tidbits from it.


“All too early in the [Obama] administration … suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials—including the president and vice president—became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief and his military leaders,” Gates writes, according to reports.

An esteemed veteran who is credited with being an even-tempered team player, Gates, now 70, has served under every president since Richard Nixon, except for Bill Clinton. He became defense secretary in 2006 during the George W. Bush administration and resigned in 2011.

According to NPR, Gates says that Obama felt no ownership of the war in Afghanistan and wanted to leave as soon as possible. “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission,” he writes. Gates also delivered some harsh criticism of Vice President Joe Biden, accusing him of “poisoning the well” against leadership in the military.

The former civil servant described a 2009 meeting to discuss Afghan policy where he was “deeply uneasy with the Obama White House’s lack of appreciation—from the top down—of the uncertainties and unpredictability of war.” In the book he acknowledges feeling the strongest push to resign on that day than at any other time during his service.


National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden gave this statement in response to the book: 

The President 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. 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. The President wishes Secretary Gates well as he recovers from his recent injury, and discusses his book. The President disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment—from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day.


Read more at NPR.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter