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The Quiet Fury of Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Unknown Lamer posted about 8 months ago | from the a-bit-blunt dept.

United States 341

An anonymous reader writes "Activities, technologies, equipment, or other matters regarding the U.S. Department of Defense are a common topic on Slashdot, both as stories and in discussions. Despite that, we seldom see stories regarding the senior leadership of DoD as we do for technologists, the political branches, and lately the NSA. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served under both Presidents Bush and Obama, has released a rather biting memoir of his tenure as the Secretary of Defense. The Wall Street Journal has an excerpt: '... despite everyone being "nice" to me, getting anything consequential done was so damnably difficult — even in the midst of two wars. I did not just have to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq and against al Qaeda; I also had to battle the bureaucratic inertia of the Pentagon, surmount internal conflicts within both administrations, avoid the partisan abyss in Congress, evade the single-minded parochial self-interest of so many members of Congress and resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House, especially in the Obama administration, to bring everything under its control and micromanagement. Over time, the broad dysfunction of today's Washington wore me down, especially as I tried to maintain a public posture of nonpartisan calm, reason and conciliation. ... difficulties within the executive branch were nothing compared with the pain of dealing with Congress. ... I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.' — More at The Washington Post."

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in other words... (5, Insightful)

zzottt (629458) | about 8 months ago | (#45898907)

Nothing surprising.. basically he is just telling us what we already know about US politics in the modern age.

Re:in other words... (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 8 months ago | (#45898991)

Still, he has a rather unique perspective, having been a senior member of both a Republican and a Democrat administration. I'm pretty keen to see his observations

Re:in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899109)

His perspective is not unique, any number of higher-ups have the same view.

Which is clouded by their own myopia and cataracts.

Re:in other words... (0)

demonlapin (527802) | about 8 months ago | (#45899847)

The basic inability to get things done was lamented by Nixon. In his case, he used the full might of the presidency and it still took over a year to get a temporary building erected on Pennsylvania Avenue in WW2 for the Navy torn down.

Re:in other words... (0)

alen (225700) | about 8 months ago | (#45899039)

and how is this different from every other time in this nation's history?

Re:in other words... (2, Interesting)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 8 months ago | (#45899065)

The US government has never had the amount of technology, money, and laws to it's favor than any time before this, that is what is different.

"Governs least governs best" - it is time to shrink the Federal government and pull it's teeth by pulling the purse strings tight.

Re:in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899379)

Well, they obviously aren't governing much at all. That is the problem. If they want to feel like they are, they take over reaching actions, which is at least something happening even if it is stupid.

Re:in other words... (0)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 8 months ago | (#45899691)

Is this a great country, or what? When grand-pa can make bank by calling his bosses a bunch show-offs, and making bank on it.

Re:in other words... (4, Interesting)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 8 months ago | (#45899835)

The US government has never had the amount of technology, money, and laws to it's favor than any time before this, that is what is different.

"Governs least governs best" - it is time to shrink the Federal government and pull it's teeth by pulling the purse strings tight.

That's off-topic, though.

Basically, he's saying that the biggest detriment to his job was beauracracy and the antics of the Congress and the Administration.

I doubt it was any different 200 years ago.

Re:in other words... (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#45899407)

and how is this different from every other time in this nation's history?

Technology has made it worse. There is a joke about the GAO doing a study of how the photocopier has affected government efficiency, and after careful analysis, determined that if the photocopier had been around in 1940, we would have lost WW2. Technology has an especially pernicious effect on military bureaucracy. Military officers are given annual "fitness reports" and most are rated as "outstanding" (the highest possible grade). A few "excellent" ratings, or a single "above average" can end an officer's career. This "zero defect" mentality leads to a fear of rocking the boat, or making any big changes, and it gets worse the further up the ranks you go. So the generals and admirals at the top, when confronted by a flood of data, are caught in an "analysis paralysis" and muddle through by defaulting to the easy decision of maintaining the status quo and blocking reform. Technology may improve the weapons, but it makes the bureaucracy worse.

Re:in other words... (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 8 months ago | (#45899721)

and how is this different from every other time in this nation's history?

Technology has made it worse. There is a joke about the GAO doing a study of how the photocopier has affected government efficiency, and after careful analysis, determined that if the photocopier had been around in 1940, we would have lost WW2. Technology has an especially pernicious effect on military bureaucracy.

So like we need to go back to say, 1600?

Re:in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899325)

Same as it ever was.

Re:in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899417)

Same as it ever was.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvM6TxUnCDE [youtube.com]

Re:in other words... (1, Troll)

tchdab1 (164848) | about 8 months ago | (#45899735)

Yes! This guy's job is to overcome inertia and work through the bureaucracies at the top in order to get things done that need to be done - with paid administrative staff and budgets and great health care, transportation, etc. And he just whines about how much work there is to do and how hard it is. What a complete baby!
I have no sympathy for an elite bureaucrat who does nothing but complain about how much work his super-perked job actually is and how his superiors are incompetent (his job is to get things going). He can work just as hard at 2 -3 jobs at near-minimum wage and forget about having any real effect on society, like millions of people that he is actually working for.

Re:in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899333)

Democrats are Control Freaks.

the old "I'm right and everyone is wrong" view (1)

alen (225700) | about 8 months ago | (#45898927)

the system is not perfect, but it would be a lot worse if we allowed one person to have to much power and make too many decisions without input from stakeholders

Cranky for a military takeover, are we? (-1, Redundant)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 8 months ago | (#45898935)

But then, the takeover by the military industrial complex has already happened more or less. Look what happened when we tried to simpley reduce funding for the military during the last self-induced "crisis."

Re:Cranky for a military takeover, are we? (3, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45898997)

We actually did reduce military funding. Twice even. It's not completely politically untenable like taxes that target the plutocratic class as much as the working and middle classes.

Re:Cranky for a military takeover, are we? (-1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | about 8 months ago | (#45899321)

These much hated plutocrats must not be very effective considering they pay by far the highest effective _rate_ (as a percentage of income) in the country. Even Romney's "15%" is higher than most Americans, and he's an aberration.

Re:Cranky for a military takeover, are we? (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45899383)

That's upper middle class high "income" earners, who pay out the ass. Plutocrats pay less than you, since their new money for the year is (almost)entirely capital gains.

Re:Cranky for a military takeover, are we? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899851)

Capital gains tax rate is 15% - 20%. I'm in the 1%, and my effective total tax rate (both state and federal combined) is about 28%. You're thinking about municipal bonds, which can have a zero tax rate, or carried interest, which is taxed at a much lower rate.

I'm not opposed to zero tax rate on muni bonds, as this results in (a) rich people investing in their local communities and (b) local communities having to pay a lower interest rate on their bonds (because of the zero tax rate on munis, investors can price that in and expect a "smaller" return on investment, because the after-tax earnings are then theoretically the same as for a high-grade corporate bond.)

Low tax rate on carried interest just seems... stupid.

Re:Cranky for a military takeover, are we? (1)

Fesh (112953) | about 8 months ago | (#45899611)

When they actually pay that rate without using dodges and loopholes... Let's be honest here. The middle class doesn't have the same access to accountants and lawyers, so appealing to the rate is meaningless if you're trying to argue that the plutocrats are paying just as much as the average worker.

Re:Cranky for a military takeover, are we? (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 8 months ago | (#45899707)

By "most Americans", I take it you refer to the dirt poor, who have nothing to pay, and to the filthy rich, who simply do not pay.

Working stiffs pay 25 to 33%. Note the word "working". People who WANT TO WORK, but can't find anything better than a minimum wage job only pay 15% - like Romney. People who fall into the 35% bracket are no longer "working".

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/tax-brackets.aspx [bankrate.com]

Please don't sing Romney's praises to me, for paying 15% taxes. I pay considerably more than that. Worse, like any other politician, he makes his money at our expense, THEN cheats on those taxes!

Re:Cranky for a military takeover, are we? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899231)

the takeover by the military industrial complex has already happened

Any time the govt hands out money, a feedback loop is created in which the recipients of tax dollars feed money and resources back into the political system in order to keep the money and favors flowing. The military industrial complex is only one of those feedback loops. A much, much bigger loop is the welfare/bureaucracy complex. Other loops involve labor unions, the education system, non-military corporate welfare, stockmarket pumping, ag subsidies, highway construction subsidies, foreign aid, mass transit subsidies, loose laws governing personal injury lawsuits, abortion industry subsidies, ...

The professional left NEVER talks about any of the feedback loops besides the military one, though, for partisan and ideological reasons. I'll take the complaints seriously when the left starts complaining about teachers unions as well as military contracts. Military contracts are at least Constitutional.

Quiet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45898939)

I don't think that word means what you think it means.

waah waah waah (4, Insightful)

cellocgw (617879) | about 8 months ago | (#45898945)

He knew what it was like long before he got that post. What was he expecting, a sudden influx of invisible pink unicorn poop?

Re:waah waah waah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899107)

If it's invisible, how can you tell that it's pink?

Re:waah waah waah (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 8 months ago | (#45899161)

Should we explain the rest of the joke to you also?

Re:waah waah waah (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about 8 months ago | (#45899267)

If it's invisible, how can you tell that it's pink?

It's only invisible when nobody's looking. Just like the Invisible Hand.

Re:waah waah waah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899251)

Well, the DOD did a war simulation to prepare for a influx of invisible pink unicorn DOODY once.

Re:waah waah waah (5, Insightful)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 8 months ago | (#45899461)

What was he expecting, a sudden influx of invisible pink unicorn poop?

Probably not, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a problem or that it's unreasonable of him to point it out.

This is a guy who managed to get himself appointed as director of the CIA a number of years back, so he's familiar with the culture of Washington and how the political game is played there. He served as the president of a major university (my alma mater, and while I was there, in fact, during which time he was VERY highly regarded by both the students and faculty...I've heard a number of firsthand accounts from other students who had personal interactions with him that were beyond the call of Gates' duty, and some of which would have put a significant drain on him and his time), which means dealing with legislators, boards of regents, and all sorts of other bureaucracy. This is also the guy who was asked to become the first Director of National Intelligence (a.k.a. Intelligence Czar) by Bush, but declined the offer for the position so that he could continue where he was (the position later went to John Negroponte).

More or less, he knows what politics look like and knows enough to survive them for several decades while still getting the stuff done that needs to be done, and yet, despite that, he thinks that the stuff he's seen in these last two administrations is dysfunctional enough that it's worth calling out specifically. Wouldn't you agree that that's a fair assessment of the current state of American politics? There's a reason that polls indicate over half of Americans are in favor of firing EVERYONE in Congress.

Kudos to him for calling them out. Shame on you for crapping all over someone who is publicly pointing out the sad state of affairs.

Re:waah waah waah (1)

imikem (767509) | about 8 months ago | (#45899715)

Too bad those >50% don't actually bother to vote "EVERYONE" out of Congress.

Re:waah waah waah (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 8 months ago | (#45899841)

That's because, sadly, too many people fall for the "I might be bad, but that person's worse" fallacy. They think not voting for the major party that claims to best represent their views is essentially voting for the major party that doesn't claim to best represent their views. Since (once you buy into this fallacy) having "That Guy" in office seems so horrible, voting for "This Guy" is all but ensured. Add in campaigns geared to demonize "That Guy" and gerrymandering designed by the winning party designed to keep the winning party in office and it's not hard to see how Congressfolks keep their jobs.

Re:waah waah waah (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 8 months ago | (#45899739)

I allowed half of my mod points to expire. I wish I still had a +1 insightful for your post.

Re:waah waah waah (5, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 8 months ago | (#45899567)

You're shooting the messenger. The point is not "feel bad for me," the point is "Your government sucks. They're not making you secure or being strong on defense, which is why a lot of you voted for them in the first place. They're making you less secure. Vote for less blowhards."

Not sure his message is going to get anywhere, seems to me that most voters know how bad politics in Washington are, they just think that THEIR incumbent who they voted for is one of the good guys.

Re:waah waah waah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899569)

if it's invisible.... how do you know it's pink?

how is this news? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45898947)

doesn't news imply new information?

are there really literate adults who don't realize washington is an open sewer? and politicians are all corrupt socipaths?

oldnews.gif

Re:how is this news? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45898971)

My name is Anonymous Coward and I have non-specific cynicism to contribute to the discussion! Look at how helpful I'm being!

Re:how is this news? (3, Funny)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 8 months ago | (#45899493)

The news is that he was recently interviewed in WaPo on this subject.

but yes i think members of congress should be limited to 3 terms 2 in office and 1 in prison

i also think that if a member of congress gets money from an industry group then they should be BANNED from working in that industry for 15 years (not counting any prison term).

Re:how is this news? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 8 months ago | (#45899775)

EXCELLENT!!

I got to "3 terms" and I start thinking "what a dumbass". "2 in office and 1 in prison" makes my day though!

Re:how is this news? (4, Interesting)

imikem (767509) | about 8 months ago | (#45899859)

I wonder if we shouldn't go the other way. Term limits have long been discussed, and have asymptotically-approaching-zero chance of passage since those who benefit from the system as-is would have to give up something. How about making Congress a LIFETIME elected position? At least then the non-stop campaigning and pandering would have no reason to continue. As it is, with re-election rates as they are (somewhere well north of 90% I believe), this wouldn't even represent much change in the institution.

Maybe then people would also pay closer attention to whom they are voting in. Okay, sorry, don't know what I was thinking there.

I really have a hard time (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45898953)

I have a hard time taking what I've read of the criticism online already seriously. Is it really so damning the Obama didn't consider Afganistan "his war", and "wanted to get out"? Or be "skeptical" of the plans put in place by the military leadership?

I mean it sounds like what we heard in the 2000s from the bush administration where enough patriotism and "believing in the troops" was what it took to make a war work. Expecting that from the common person is annoying and immature, but expecting it from the president sounds extraordinarily naive.

Re:I really have a hard time (4, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 8 months ago | (#45899147)

>> Is it really so damning the Obama didn't consider Afganistan "his war"

I think it is, for a different reason. A lot of folks elected Obama to get us out our middle eastern wars as fast as possible. The fact that Obama's been dragging his feet on that front, even starting new wars (e.g., Libya), suggests (reaffirms?) that Obama has been a spineless president, bullied into more military action by his military advisers, Gates included.

Re: I really have a hard time (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899301)

People elected Obama to get us out of the wars, but it was clear from his campaign statements in 2007 that he would pull out from Iraq and escalate in Afghanistan. Remember at the time Afganiatan was still the "good" war that Nush had abandoned for his Iraq folly. I recall informing my Obama-voting friends of this at the time (with references) but they were too ecstatic about winning to let anything mess up the internal narrative.

Re: I really have a hard time (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45899517)

I was an Obama voter who understood this. He was always a less-bad center-right choice. He also wasn't behind gay rights at the time, which was wrong.

Re: I really have a hard time (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899751)

Center-right? Sheesh, you must be really far to the left if you think Obama is center-right.

Re:I really have a hard time (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45899311)

Well, I can't speak to what people perceived when they voted for Obama in 2008, but I at least recall the content of the McCain Obama debates well enough to remember his general military foreign policy positions at the time:
A. Increased use of targeted drone warfare(promise too well kept, good god)
B. Out of Iraq(yeah, sorta)
C. Refocus Afganistan to be about Al Qaeda(kinda bogus, because "focusing" wars is political BS)

Re:I really have a hard time (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45899585)

C. Refocus Afganistan to be about Al Qaeda(kinda bogus, because "focusing" wars is political BS)

Especially since it's been focused on the Taliban as far as I can tell, the whole time

Re:I really have a hard time (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | about 8 months ago | (#45899337)

A lot of folks are complete idiots, oblivious to the realities of the world.

Re:I really have a hard time (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about 8 months ago | (#45899199)

Is it really so damning the Obama didn't consider Afganistan "his war", and "wanted to get out"?

Yes yes its damning. Obama ran on getting us out of Iraq but he never really ran against the Afghanistan effort. If he really wanted out and though that continuing the war was a bad idea he should have had the courage to end it. He should have order the general to being an orderly retreat with the single objective of getting as many of ours home as quickly and safely as possible. No more traning native forces, no more pacifying Helmont (sp?) nothing.

I can't think of much worse in the way of moral depravity than to have your soldiers fighting and dieing for a war, not to mention those of the enemy, for an objective you don't think possible or a cause you don't believe in.

Seriously if he really felt that we he should have run on "if elected, I will withdraw our forces for Afghanistan" and let the people decide.

Re:I really have a hard time (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45899363)

Seriously if he really felt that we he should have run on "if elected, I will withdraw our forces for Afghanistan" and let the people decide.

But he didn't, and at first left it to military leaders, who he came to doubt. That's exactly the narrative Gates provided here. He should have run on it in 2012, but didn't, because foreign policy apparently stops mattering the moment someone is concerned about the debt.

Re:I really have a hard time (4, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45899509)

Is it really so damning the Obama didn't consider Afganistan "his war", and "wanted to get out"?

His implication is that Obama should have either committed to winning the war, and won it; or given up directly and saved lives. Instead (according to Gates), he waged the war half-heartedly, which didn't resolve anything. Choose a course of action and do what it takes to accomplish it, that's what Gates feels Obama didn't do.

Or be "skeptical" of the plans put in place by the military leadership?

This is an attack on the competency of Obama, saying he didn't have the skills to assess the plans. It's one thing to be skeptical if you have a reason, it's another to be skeptical for no reason. A comparison here is being skeptical of evolution: it's generally a sign of ignorance, but an expert with knowledge might be skeptical of the idea that humans descended from reptiles, or other similar.

These are the interpretations of those statements from Gates; whether they are justified or not, I don't know.

Re:I really have a hard time (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45899573)

Which I guess is fine. It's just kind of obnoxious to put things down to 1 dimension like that. There were clearly unresolved core goals in Afghanistan when Obama entered office(like al qeada's leadership structure, which proved to be in Pakistan). Are there still now?

Re:I really have a hard time (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45899709)

There were clearly unresolved core goals in Afghanistan when Obama entered office(like al qeada's leadership structure, which proved to be in Pakistan). Are there still now?

Ultimately, the question is, what goal do we have in Afghanistan? Is our goal to make sure they have a (relatively) stable society when we leave? Is our goal to get out as quickly as possible? I'm not really sure the answer to this question, but it's kind of crucial to answer it. As commander in chief, it is probably Obama's job to answer it.

Re:I really have a hard time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899525)

Is it really so damning the Obama didn't consider Afganistan "his war", and "wanted to get out"?

It is when he thought it was a waste, wasn't going to be committed to doing anything good about it, and then commit 30,000 more troops.

When you send 30,000 troops into a war zone for purely political reasons, yes that is about as damning as you can get as president. Not sure what a president is allowed to do that could possibly be worse.

Re:I really have a hard time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899571)

As Commander in Chief it was his war as soon as he took office.

The problem was/is that he doesn't step up and take responsibility, he just waits for something to happen - if it's good he takes credit, if it's bad he point fingers. No leadership at all.

Welcome to life bro (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45898961)

This is the problem of everyone who tries to work with other people, it's something you see at every job where your interests are not aligned perfectly with everyone else's. If you think that's bad, try dealing with an HOA.

Re:Welcome to life bro (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899239)

Someone I know referred to HOAs as "Candy-coated Nazism". The trim lawns and uniform landscaping look tasty from the outside. Once you're in though, you have to deal with the Nazi flavored filling. Up here we have "Historical (Hysterical) Societies" there's no candy coating, just white paint... and Nazis.

Frustrating... (4, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 8 months ago | (#45898963)

The most frustrating part of this to me is that people die - both combatants and not - as a consequence of decisions made by these clowns.

Re:Frustrating... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899385)

While I don't disagree with your sentiment I'd like to know if you've got a viable alternative?

That's How It's Supposed to Work (1)

littlewink (996298) | about 8 months ago | (#45898987)

SNAFU = " "Situation Normal: All Fucked Up".

Anyone who expects to gain pleasure or be appreciated for serving in our political system is making a big mistake.

Why is this a surprise? (1)

TWX (665546) | about 8 months ago | (#45899003)

Washington is a bunch of Type-A, borderline personality disorder sociopaths, as that's what it generally takes in order to claw one's way up to that level. Arguably that pressure-cooker is present in any group of political elite, from the Politburo to the King's Court.

This whining reminds me a bit of a civilian telecom contractor that went to Iraq to serve military needs, that complained that when some soldiers offered to give him some rudimentary weapons training on the range if he could get the ammo, complained about how hard it was to get ammo. In one of the most heavily armed bases in the world. Sure, he'd probably have to scrounge or scavenge or "borrow" ammo, but as a civilian it was not their job to supply it to him, and they were being nice by offering to give him some training at all.

This guy should have known what internal battles he'd face up there, that's part why Presidents visibly age so dramatically while in office. It's rough on top.

Re:Why is this a surprise? (2, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 months ago | (#45899539)

Arguably that pressure-cooker is present in any group of political elite, from the Politburo to the King's Court.

Are you intentionally limiting this to politics for some reason? I wonder what Larry Ellison and Donald Trump have to pay their secretaries to put up with them. The fact that we have any separation of power at all between the economic, political, and religious realms is a relatively recent and welcome innovation IMHO. The natural state of humanity is a bunch of slaves under a hierarchy of masters with one at the top. That is what things revert to unless we work continually against it.

On the other hand (1)

geopsychic (932419) | about 8 months ago | (#45899005)

Robert Gates for President!

Off Topic, Despite Prolegomena (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 8 months ago | (#45899021)

I've never been the one to raise the "How is this News for Nerds?" cry. In fact, I'm often the one trying to explain how it could interest a nerd. But I'm really at a loss here. The lampshade [tvtropes.org] hung over the first two sentences didn't help.

Who died and made Obama god? (0, Troll)

paiute (550198) | about 8 months ago | (#45899035)

resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House, especially in the Obama administration, to bring everything under its control

Jesus, just by winning a couple of elections that guy thinks he's in charge.

Re:Who died and made Obama god? (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 8 months ago | (#45899123)

My the universe bless you with a micromanaging supervisory chain with matrix organization thinking.

Re:Who died and made Obama god? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 8 months ago | (#45899357)

One would think the US would have had micromanagement of war, with the real intent of controlling PR, beaten out of it in Vietnam. Oh, let's not bomb Hanoi or supply trails in Laos. Let's have extra US soldiers die instead.

But one would also think the US would have similarly learned you need hundreds of thousands of troops to do this, with 40,000+ for decades afterwards.

Oh, look. Cities in Iraq are falling. Any guesses how long until Saigon, I mean Ho Chi Min City, I mean Baghdad falls?

Re:Who died and made Obama god? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899471)

resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House, especially in the Obama administration, to bring everything under its control

Jesus, just by winning a couple of elections that guy thinks he's in charge.

The US is not a dictatorship. Winning the Presidency does not mean you get to be in control of everything. A petulant diva like Obama, a man who never did anything and never displayed any leadership tendencies before his short stint in politics, has trouble accepting this. First time managers frequently act like dictators because they have no experience with getting buy-in and persuading people to pursue the manager's goals.

Re:Who died and made Obama god? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899731)

Harry Truman had a sign on his desk.. "The Buck Stops Here." Which is a reminder of what the Presidency is. As president he's chief executive officer of the nation and has to set the agenda and tone for how we conduct our affairs and what legislative initiatives should be priorities with congress. He's also responsible for drafting a budget that congress should amend/approve. Unfortunately this president, despite his activist past, can't seem to motivate both sides of the aisle while a misguided ex-governor from Alaska can somehow generate more turmoil and generate more partisanship than the president can overcome. If you're going to put on the big boy pants and decide to lead a nation, your job is to lead, not blame everybody else because you're now in charge. We've collectively voted for this inexperienced dupe twice and he and his counterparts have spent a lot of money in the name of Keynesian economics leading to the worse economic recovery in history. Eventually that will all come home to roost on the next leaders we elect who will have to unfuck the mess he and all his cronies in congress have left us with. The Republicans have equal blame here too because they haven't come up with a competent, organized agenda of their own rather they have just said "NO" to everything without offering ideas of their own. This has left retarded Democrats to come up with hair-brained schemes like obamacare which is going to fuck a lot of families and small businesses in this nation for decades to come. That idiot Pelosi and her statement "you have to pass it to know what's in it" still goes down as one of the most retarded statements ever made by any politician yet she still gets re-elected by those bunch of morons in her district. My suggestion is that next election, don't vote for the incumbent vote for the other guy and give them a chance, that goes for Republicans and Democrats and will let both parties know that we're fed up with their over-spending and whining bullshit.

Terms are too short (1)

MikeMo (521697) | about 8 months ago | (#45899053)

I know, everyone is thinking term limits will solve the problem. I think that's backwards: with term limits, you have a perpetual stream of newcomers coming into congress who haven't a clue what is going on but who are determined to "fix things". With short terms, you have congress critters spending an inordinate amount of their time, attention and money on getting reelected, and making political and strategic choices for the country with reelection as the goal rather than making the country better.

We can't get money out of politics, but we can lessen it's importance. Give 'em job security, I say.

Re:Terms are too short (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 8 months ago | (#45899191)

Maybe slightly longer terms but limited to one. That's long been suggested for president.

Newcomers determined to fix things are better then old timers determined to protect their turf.

Re:Terms are too short (2)

DaHat (247651) | about 8 months ago | (#45899355)

you have a perpetual stream of newcomers coming into congress who haven't a clue what is going on but who are determined to "fix things".

You really need to look into the re-election rate of incumbents.

Yes, there is a trickle of new-comers... but the bulk of them remain unchanged year-to-year.

Re:Terms are too short (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 8 months ago | (#45899683)

ou have a perpetual stream of newcomers coming into congress who haven't a clue what is going on but who are determined to "fix things".

You really need to look into the re-election rate of incumbents.

Yes, there is a trickle of new-comers... but the bulk of them remain unchanged year-to-year.

You should have included the whole sentence you quoted, rather than just the part that reversed the meaning.

Here's the original sentence:

I think that's backwards: with term limits, you have a perpetual stream of newcomers coming into congress who haven't a clue what is going on but who are determined to "fix things".

Do note the "with term limits" clause. It's important.

No, there is no proficiency test (1)

Marrow (195242) | about 8 months ago | (#45899447)

You solution would just result in unsuitable people being there longer. The real solution is to make their job much less important. To re-distribute those powers that congress has amassed and push them back out to the states. Let the states be responsible for their own roads and bridges. Let the states be responsible for their own housing and medical/health. They could do it better...if they were collecting the majority of the tax revenue instead of the Federal government.
The problem with congress is that they have centralized too much power and responsibility and they cannot do it well.
The states aren't children anymore. They need to grow up and become little countries of their own.

Re:No, there is no proficiency test (2)

Fesh (112953) | about 8 months ago | (#45899793)

Living in Alabama, I have to wonder if some states have the maturity to be responsible for their own governance... I'm convinced that the only reason we have Interstates is that the Feds paid for all of it. And I say that as a believer in States' Rights... I just don't know how to let states have completely free rein and still have a decently uniform standard of living across the nation. Heck, we don't even have a uniform standard of living now...

Re:Terms are too short (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#45899635)

The experience in California is that term limits don't work. What happens is the staff become more important, more powerful and more entrenched. And they aren't elected, even once.

Military folk do go through a lot of crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899079)

Barbra Boxer [youtube.com] and Hank Johnson [youtube.com] (although neither of these involves Gates, the point remains).

Re:Military folk do go through a lot of crap (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 8 months ago | (#45899783)

I have a Son who's a Marine and the stuff he tells me about training cancellations and guys becoming retired early from service has me worried. You can't replace the experience of senior leadership with new recruits and the incessant bullshit from congress and micro-managing the military budgets via the sequester isn't a way to protect the nation. The sequester came about as everybody will recall because both parties couldn't agree on how to reign in spending even though you had a bi-partisan effort in the Simpson-Bowles plan. [wikipedia.org]

id argue congress is just fine. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 8 months ago | (#45899103)

sure, you have politics in the military industrial complex that is the pentagon. its how the mess hall gets halliburton contractors and your usual patrols are augmented by blackwater; its not going anywhere. but the tits-up congress is actually a pretty recent concoction.

in the face of a progressive president who shows signs of championing some popular reforms like wealth equality, immigration and healthcare, i'd say turning congress into a total clusterfuck with the addition of some well funded tea-based fringe group was a very tactically minded decision on the part of americas plutocrats. If the bus is going in the wrong direction, slash the tires and damn the consequences i say.

Re:id argue congress is just fine. (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 8 months ago | (#45899807)

If the bus is going in the wrong direction, slash the tires and damn the consequences i say.

Can't we just burn the bus down? That way we can be sure the bus never goes that way again.

Good Stuff (2)

folderol (1965326) | about 8 months ago | (#45899119)

This is actually quite interesting. We have now moved from 'everyone knows' to someone has actually spelled it out.

There are a lot of ordinarly people out there who are not in the 'everyone' category and may now become aware of this.

Re:Good Stuff (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 8 months ago | (#45899459)

It's been spelled out for at least 10 years. My problem with Congress is how a lot of members are making decisions with bad information; not that a Congressman might be self-serving.

War in Afghanistan, Al Qeda, Iraq, and Congress (1)

mandark1967 (630856) | about 8 months ago | (#45899171)

No one will ever need more than four wars...

Why couldn't he say this 10 years ago? (5, Insightful)

EMG at MU (1194965) | about 8 months ago | (#45899179)

I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.

He never said any of this publicly while holding his position because he didn't want to lose his job. I feel that most politicians and cabinet appointees feel this way, but they always hold it all in until they leave office and are ready to author their "tell all" memoir. Maybe if someone actually spoke the truth while in office the problems plaguing our government would have a better chance of being addressed.

Of course since they are all "prone to put self (and re-election) before country" they would never dare to challenge the party line. Robert Gates included.

Opening apologetic statement (-1, Flamebait)

ichthus (72442) | about 8 months ago | (#45899197)

Yeah, nice try. This is not news for nerds, or even stuff that matters. This does not belong on Slashdot, because this is not Breitbart.com.

it's just the usual nature of the beast (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 8 months ago | (#45899279)

I did not just have to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq and against al Qaeda; I also had to battle the bureaucratic

An article about commanders fighting each other about plans and egos, it mentioned during WWII Gen. Marshall arrives at his office early in morning. During the day he has to fight the British, fight the Soviets, fight the French, fight the Belguims, fight the Dutch, fight the Aussies, fight the Canadians,. Then late at night when Marshall returns home, his wife reminds him that he needs to fight the Germans.

sounds similar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899281)

. I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.

. I saw most of [insert big corporation] as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic corporate responsibilities (such as reasonable deadlines and funding), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, and prone to put self (and promotion/ambition) before teamwork and progress.

Really? (2)

locust (6639) | about 8 months ago | (#45899291)

Its news that human beings are self interested, ignorant, and vain? How did this ingenue become secretary of defense?

Here's a news flash for Bob Gates: People in Washington, running the gov. are no better/worse than the general populace. People don't suddenly become 'better' because they get elected to office, or go work for a congressman, or the white house. When you take the job of Secretary of Defense, you get paid for three things:
1. Up holding your duty to the constitution
2. Setting an example for your subordinates
3. Navigating the politics of government

If you don't want to compromise yourself, these things are all thankless arduous tasks. They wear you out. It goes with the territory. Cry me a river Bob Gates.

No NDA here (1)

OffTheLip (636691) | about 8 months ago | (#45899297)

As a US citizen Mr. Gates is free to speak his mind as dictated by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. He can also now expect to come under "friendly fire" as the political wheels churn but he knew that before writing the book. I see this is a useful debate as candidates are vetted for the coming elections. He may have his biases but as an longtime insider I'd like to hear what he has to say.

I don't work for the DoD (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about 8 months ago | (#45899397)

I don't work for the DoD... But it sometimes sure feels like it.

This is why... (4, Insightful)

erp_consultant (2614861) | about 8 months ago | (#45899409)

we can't get competent people to run for public office in this country. Over the years I have worked many times with local, state and federal government agencies. Almost universally, the experience Gates had has mirrored my own. Incompetent management, grandstanding, petty interdepartmental feuds, smothering regulations and endless meetings. If I could sum up the entire experience in a single word it would be this: frustration. Is it any wonder that we can't get talented people to run for public office? High achievers are used to getting things done. Some of them come to Washington thinking that they can cut through the rubbish that slows everyone else down. Good luck with that. I'm sure that many in the press will paint Gates as some sort of grumpy malcontent. But he's actually doing us a favor.

Re:This is why... (5, Informative)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 8 months ago | (#45899897)

Gates used to be the President of Texas A&M University. I was a student when he took up the position, and I was still one when he resigned his position to become the Secretary of Defense (after having previously turned down the then-new position of Director of National Intelligence, a.k.a. Intelligence Czar).

I had a couple of friends who had personal interactions with him. For instance, Gates was, at one time, the director of the CIA, and I had a friend who was interested in working in intelligence. Gates actually set aside time to mentor my friend one-on-one on several occasions, even though my friend was just a random student out of the 45,000 or so that were there at the time. Another example of the sort of guy he is: A&M has a tradition that involves students gathering at midnight on the night before any football game. Gates never missed a single one of those in his entire time there, even though he was under no obligation to attend any of them (the President that followed him certainly didn't attend them on a regular basis). I even recall seeing him at one after he had injured his leg (broken it? can't recall). He hobbled out to the stadium on crutches at midnight and climbed into the stands with the rest of us. He sent out regular e-mails to the student body that you could tell he hadn't simply put his signature on, and he addressed campus problems that came up head on, rather than tiptoeing around them and promising to "look into them" or "form a committee".

The faculty loved him too. Many of them had had the opportunity to talk to him directly, and when he said he'd get something done for them, he meant it. He instilled a strong sense of vision in the university, encouraging them to think way bigger than they had been thinking, while at the same time streamlining things and encouraging them to be frugal. All of this in 4 years.

In short, I consider him to be one of the "good guys" that we always lament about not being able to get into politics. I wish there were more people like him in politics, since we need more people there who detest the state of things.

Always refreshing insight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899425)

I think its always refreshing to hear from a non political person in Washington DC. A Defense secretary is a great person to get insight into what is and is not working under a administration. I think its almost common knowledge that most President use a political model when making military decisions. Its why a lot of our recent military missions have failed. No President really listens to what his military advisers are telling him. Its far more important to have a positive for the Presidents political future. I personally never thought the Bush administration or Obama's has had any decent people in foreign policy. The results of that show dreadfully on how the World now views America. It would not be so bad to have such a bad President who knows little about foreign affairs. But to put people in the Secretary Of State position of not having any more credibility then the President is even worse. No doubt in my mind that all the men and woman lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be for nothing. We will have gained no peace, made no friends in this part of the World and weakened the US military significantly as well as our economy.

Guy sounds like a whiner (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 8 months ago | (#45899437)

"Resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House"? Uh...idiot your job is to enforce the President's policies! If you find that your disagreements are that broad, you resign. You make your case, defend it as well as you can, and if the boss says "F it, I want to do it this way," you accept that as the way leadership works. The concerns of a President are larger than that of any Secretary. The top guy is the one ultimately responsible for outcomes so it's always easier for the junior officers to come up with daring, risky plans.

Crying about the self-interests of Congressmen? Uh...that's what Congress is!

While I agree with his complaints about how our government is functioning, he's not the one bearing the brunt of partisan warfare.

Re:Guy sounds like a whiner (4, Insightful)

tomhath (637240) | about 8 months ago | (#45899641)

your job is to enforce the President's policies

How the policy is carried out is not the same as ensuring it's carried out.

If Obama had said "Withdraw from Iraq/Afghanistan now" Gates would have done that or resigned. But being told to fight the war, then being second guessed on how to fight the war was the problem.

Re:Guy sounds like a whiner (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45899693)

What part of "Commander in Chief" does he not understand?

Re:Guy sounds like a whiner (1)

Artagel (114272) | about 8 months ago | (#45899703)

First of all, his oath of office (from Wikipedia)

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. [So help me God.

Nothing there about the President, though he does serve at the pleasure of the President. Obviously, maintaining the President's pleasure means keeping the policies. Oh, and the "White House" is lots of people who are not the President, so it is quite possible to not get drawn into White House inside politics and still maintain the President's policies.

Pedestrian. Surprise Me. (5, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 8 months ago | (#45899513)

"Duty" offers the familiar criticism of Congress and its culture, describing it as "truly ugly." Gates's cold feelings toward the legislative branch stand in stark contrast to his warmth for the military. He repeatedly describes his affection for the troops, especially those in combat.

Gee, he hates the career politicians who constrain his freedom to act, and loves the people in his chain of command? I'm stunned. Really. You could knock me over with a sledgehammer.

Gates's severe criticism is even more surprising -- some might say contradictory -- because toward the end of "Duty," he says of Obama's chief Afghanistan policies, "I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions." ... The sometimes bitter tone ... contrasts sharply with the even-tempered image that he cultivated during his many years of government service ... In "Duty," Gates describes his outwardly calm demeanor as a facade. Underneath, he writes, he was frequently "seething" and "running out of patience on multiple fronts."

So he's saying highly placed officials are under a lot of pressure, try to do what they believe is right, are often in highly contentious situations, have to suppress their emotional reactions, and on sober reflection ultimately support each other? My goodness, these exciting revelations have me so wound up I may go over to the couch and have a little snooze.

Pop media trying to turn pedestrian normality into sizzling drama. Yawn.

You want to do something interesting, Gates? Surprise me. Tell me about your fight against the F-35. Tell me about how hard you fought, the times you really put yourself on the line, to get that boondoggle cut. Oh, you didn't? That's why we're still paying for that stupid porkbarrel piece of shit that you opposed? So you're saying you talk the talk, but didn't walk the walk. You want to get me excited about your dedication to America, show me you took a risk for what you believed in when doing so had no upside for you. Don't just whine about how hard it was because everyone else were jerks; I can get that story from every single person on the planet.

OMG -- this can only mean... (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 8 months ago | (#45899745)

Congress really DOES represent the people!

were nothing compared with the pain of dealing with Congress. ... I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.

Has Gates considered blogger moderation and karma whoring to mitigate the dysfunction? I'm sure Ralph Reed might do something for extending unemployment benefits if we gave him a cookie.

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