Thursday, January 9, 2014

Getting Out

I think the last Washington insider memoir that I read was John Dean’s Blind Ambition back in the 1970’s.  Books like that have the shelf-life of a bottle of milk, and they’re mostly self-serving faux-humble tomes about how they saved the nation and collected anecdotes about famous people (did you know Richard Nixon put ketchup on cottage cheese?)  So the memoir from Robert Gates, who served as Defense Secretary under both President Bush and President Obama, isn’t going to show up in my Amazon shopping cart.

But this quote about the war in Afghanistan got my attention:

“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,” Mr. Gates wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Yeah, and…?  It wasn’t Mr. Obama’s war, the strategies weren’t working, Karzai has proven to be a world-class jerk, and getting the hell out of there was the plan all along.  President Bush, the guy who invaded it in the first place, had set up a timeline for withdrawal, and President Obama had campaigned on it.

If you want to get really fundamental about war and peace, peace is infinitely preferable, so if you go to war, you want to get out of it.  Not getting out of it would have been worse, and this would be more of a story if Mr. Gates had revealed that President Obama’s plan was to stay there indefinitely.