But in an interview, Gates said that, public statements to the contrary, Obama did not believe in "the importance of success" in Afghanistan. "It's one thing to tell the troops that you support them," Gates said. "It's another to work at making them believe that (SET ITAL) you (END ITAL) believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it, that the cause is just, that what they are doing was important for the country, and that they must succeed. President Bush did that with the troops when I was Secretary. I did not see President Obama do that." The President "needed to acknowledge," wrote Gates, "that the (Afghanistan) war could take years but that he was confident we would ultimately be successful." But Obama did not.
Has a former secretary of defense ever leveled this kind of criticism against an incumbent wartime president? Veteran Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward called it "one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief. ... It is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president."
There's more. Gates claims that both Obama and Hillary Clinton admitted to him that their opposition to President George W. Bush's Iraq "surge" had been "political." Gates wrote: "Hillary told the president that her opposition to the (2007) surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. ... The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying."
Why now? Couldn't Gates wait until after Obama left office before writing the book? After all, some 43,000 troops still remain in Afghanistan. Gates, by almost all accounts, is a man of honor and integrity. He likely believes that Obama precipitously pulled troops out of Iraq and is determined to make sure the same thing doesn't happen with Afghanistan.
Voters now know the President misled them on Obamacare. But Obama, according to Gates, also deceived about Afghanistan. The good news for Obama is that, unlike Obamacare, the public dislikes the Afghanistan war as much as he does. A CNN poll finds the Afghanistan war is arguably America's most unpopular war -- ever. The bad news is that our enemies have not gone away.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chair of the House Intelligence Committee, both recently agreed that Americans are not "safer now than we were" a year or two ago, that "terror is up worldwide" and "there is huge malevolence out there" toward the U.S.
The specter of a commander in chief who "doesn't believe his own strategy" -- even as troops are being deployed -- is shocking, almost as much as a traffic jam on the GW Bridge.