Whatever else he is or is not, Mr. Bob Gates, formerly American Secretary of Defence, is no gentleman. He pursued his career (I was going to write that 'he worked' but I don't think that quite describes his determined climb up the slippery pole) from the Air Force to the CIA to the top military/civilian post in the US government below that of the President. He worked for 'Dubya' and was the only senior appointee kept on by Obama. He resigned 'amicably' in 2011 and graciously accepted the highest civilian award from President Obama. He then set about writing a book, just published, which according to reports somewhat resembles a smooth, placid lake but with some exceedingly nasty 'floaters' on the surface! Shit sticks, as they say, and much of Gates' shit will stick to Obama, Joe Biden and this administration. Personally, I am always glad to have some inside information to counter the secrecy of governments because I may not live long enough to read the history books but that does not mean that I always admire the snitches.
All politics is squabbling! Even those who share the same ideology squabble with each other because beneath the 'apparent' high ideals lies low human reality in the form of ambition, envy and a conceit in one's own opinion. So there is no surprise that in what I might call the Obama HQ there was considerable disagreement over matters military. War sharpens the squabbles like no other because even the most cyncial of men are uneasily aware that their own brethren are fighting and dying at their behest. Obama, of course, entered the White House with absolutely no clue concerning geo-politics and grand strategy, let alone operational matters. Like any 'Leftie', he had an inbuilt suspicion of the top brass and, given recent American history, he was quite right to have it. Likewise, of course, the brass would have viewed this young whipper-snapper with much the same regard they might hold for a new recruit. Thus the stew began to bubble nicely!
There was nothing new in this civilian/military antagonism. Relations between Churchill and his Chiefs during the war were at times downright poisonous but, and it's a big 'but', no matter how fiercely Churchill attempted to ram home his ideas on strategy he never once over-ruled his Chiefs. Another big difference between now and then is that today politicians lack the know-how to think their own thoughts and stand on their own two feet, they needs must be surrounded by a host of eager, opinionated, ambitious 'children' to advise them. In matters of war and peace that is a recipe for noxious disaster. Obama may lack military know-how but he has and had, I suspect, some severe doubts concerning America's involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In his ignorance and uncertainty he would have found it difficult to define his policy in practical terms and then steer it through to a conclusion. And all the time, of course, men were being killed and maimed!
I do not like President Obama's politics and I think that on the whole his administration has been almost totally malignant but on this issue I do have some sympathy for him. Not the least of his problems, it is now clearly to be seen, is that he was served by ingrates like Bob Gates who lacked the courage to resign and state their opposition publically (thus foregoing any chance of honours!) but who, once they are safely retired out of office, do not have the courtesy to at least wait until the administration ends its term of office before speaking out. In retrospect and for different reasons, the American intervention in both Iraq II and Afghanistan were unmitigated disasters. Seen from a distance, Obama's soft-shoe shuffle towards the exit is entirely right.