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Melvin A. Goodman returns to our podcast with sharp, knowledgeable criticism of Robert Gates' service as Defense Secretary, as recounted in his new best seller, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.Click here for free audiobook download from Audible, and generate $15 to the PBC Podcast!
Goodman's most recent book, National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism, followed his critical look at the agency he served for decades, Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA--which included accounts of Goodman's lobbying and testimony against Gates during his failed confirmation as CIA Director in 1987, and his narrow confirmation as CIA Director in 1991. Goodman also lobbied Senators against confirming Gates as Defense boss in 2006. You can read Goodman's written review of the Gates book here.
In this wide-ranging, no-holds-barred look at Gates' service under Bush and Obama, Goodman starts with the story of his first meeting with Gates in 1968, when he sized him up as an ambitious opportunist and a "wind sock" who would always follow the prevailing political winds. We discuss how is book is rich with unimportant detail as he presents contradictory comments (especially about Biden and Obama) and spins or ignores many of the critical issues under his watch. We talk about the "surge" in Iraq, where Gates talks only about US troop increases while ignoring our payoffs to Sunnis and use of ethnic separation. We talk about the "surge" in Afghanistan, and note that Gates talks little about drone strikes, night raids, the Parwan prison. We talk about other major issues downplayed in the book, like the crisis of sex crimes in the military, commanders who publicly opposed Obama and others who violated standards of behavior.
One major omission in the book: Gates doesn't offer any insight about why he thinks Obama retained him from the Bush administration. And he shows no interest in examining blowback from our blunders.
Gates does offer some interesting stories about his opposition to the air strikes in Libya, and repeatedly says that he and Hillary Clinton are in agreement on most issues.