Gates Insulted Obama Predicted Gates’ Actions

Dave Weigel has identified "The funniest part of Robert Gates' very serious new memoir."

Dave Weigel has identified “The funniest part of Robert Gates’ very serious new memoir.”

So: It’s the fall of 2010, and Gates is meeting with the president and top brass. ”Biden, Mullen, Jones, Donilon, Brennan, and Tony Blinken, the vice president’s national security adviser, were there.” The subject: how to be ready if a conflict between Iran and Israel ignites. Gates worries that the particulars have not thought the scenario through, and advises the president to deploy a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf soon, just in case. The meeting ends.

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.

Dave snarks, “Yes, what would give the president that idea?”

Without reading the passage, it’s not obvious in how much detail describes the “sensitive matters” at hand or implies that the president made decisions about Israel or Iran. From my sense of Gates, he didn’t reveal anything he thought should remain private.

Regardless, it’s amusing—not only because Gates did in fact go on to chronicle this in his memoirs but because it seems obvious that the president was making a joke, not covering his ass.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    What he was actually most insulted about was that Obama trusted Biden as a witness more than he trusted Gates.

  2. Mr. Replica says:

    Did he call the book “Duty” because it’s just a bunch of whiny crap?

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Really, really, really … petty.

    Another book soon to be found remaindered – at the price of $0.99 – at many of the fine remaining bookstores across the country. I may be able to download it for free at Amazon.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    I really wish someone had sat Mr. Gates down and explained to him that this book would damage his reputation. The guy was an excellent public servant. This was not the way to go out.

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    Harvard Business Review published early by “accident” their interview with Gates this week(It was supposed to be published this Monday). Well, I listened to it, since I subscribe to their podcasts. Gates is far from being dismissive to Obama, and he says that he admires his style, that he admires that Obama analyses everything before taking any decision.

    The only that´s being here insulted is our intelligence. Another faux scandal from the Beltway Media.

  6. Jeremy R says:


    From my sense of Gates, he didn’t reveal anything he thought should remain private.

    I don’t know. My impression is there’s a lot in there that should have remain private. I saw a reporter on CBS previewing an interview with him, and like Andre above, it sounded like he was quite complimentary of Obama, and said nice things about how he cared deeply about the troops, etc. But he had to know his stream of consciousness, rambling memoir would be quote mined, and what we’d be left with is Fox & pundits, for the last number of days, telling their viewers Gates says the commander in chief hates/disrespects the troops. Seems like a pretty straight forward way to undermine morale in the military.

    Worse still are his claims about how Richard Holbrooke & Karl Eikenberry went out of their way to legitimize Karzai’s election opponents by calling for personal security for them, for election transparency, and by making appearances with many of them. Gates claims they were intentionally trying improve the other candidates chances against Karzai, and that that somehow forced Karzai into massive vote rigging, intimidation and corrupt deal making. Eikenberry’s senior advisor, who was in Kabul with him at the time, says Gates’ beliefs/claims are total BS, but it doesn’t really matter since Gates just publicly just reinforced one of Karzai’s pet conspiracy theories while our troops are still deployed in his country.

  7. Grewgills says:

    I’ll be interested to see all of these quotes in context. From what little I know of Gates, these snippets don’t tell the same story he is likely telling.

  8. Obama’s entire presidency is a joke.

  9. anjin-san says:

    Obama’s entire presidency is a joke.

    That’s deep man. Deep.