Posts Tagged ‘Gates’

Mueller reveals Manafort and Gates associate had Russian intelligence ties

March 29, 2018

Documents also state that Gates had admitted knowing the associate was a former officer with Russian military intelligence

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates, were in contact during the 2016 presidential campaign with a business associate known to have ties to Russian military intelligence, according to court documents.

The documents, filed late on Tuesday night by the special prosecutor Robert Mueller, also state that Gates had admitted knowing that the associate was a former officer with Russian military intelligence, the GRU.

The description of the associate, referred to as Person A in the court papers, closely matches the Russian manager of the Ukraine offices of Manafort’s former lobbying business, Konstantin Kilimnik.

Previous court documents filed by Mueller’s team have described Person A as “a longtime Russian colleague … who is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service”. These court papers go further, explicitly naming the GRU, and stating closely that the ties remained active during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Kilimnik has denied ties with Russian intelligence, but served in the army and attended a military foreign language university which is widely viewed as a training ground for GRU officers. Manafort was in touch with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign, offering to provide briefings to Oleg Deripaska, a Kremlin-backed Russian oligarch.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money-laundering and fraud charges related to work his business did for Moscow-backed politicians.

Gates, who was Manafort’s right-hand man in the Trump campaign and in the lobbying business, has struck a plea deal, admitting conspiracy and lying to the FBI, and agreeing to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into Trump campaign links with the Kremlin.

The court documents are a sentencing memorandum in the case against Alex van der Zwaan, a London-based lawyer who carried out work on behalf of Manafort’s lobbying efforts in Ukraine. He has pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts in 2016 with Gates and Person A.

The Mueller memorandum states: “That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation. Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents assisting the special counsel’s office assess that Person A has ties to Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.”

The document adds: “During his first interview with the special counsel’s office, Van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian intelligence officer with GRU.”


What Would Gates Do? A Defense Chief’s Plan for North Korea — “China is still the key no matter how you slice it.”

July 10, 2017

Robert Gates, the most seasoned senior U.S. national-security official of the last half-century, lays out a response

Image result for robert gates, photos

Robert Gates.  DoD photo by R. D. Ward.

July 10, 2017 10:33 a.m. ET?

Everybody who’s ever wrestled with the North Korean nuclear problem agrees on one thing: There are no good options for solving it.

That bleak reality grows ever more apparent as North Korea fires off increasingly sophisticated missiles that could one day carry a nuclear weapon. So the pressing question is: Among all the imperfect options for dealing with North Korea, what strategy holds the best hope?

Few are more qualified to offer an answer than Robert Gates, the most seasoned senior U.S. national-security official of the last half-century. He spent almost 27 years as an intelligence official, including a stint as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, worked in the White House for four presidents of both parties, and was defense secretary for both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

As it happens, Mr. Gates has a plan, which he explained in an interview. It’s worth listening to at a time when tensions are rising rapidly.

North Korea reached a milestone as it test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching Alaska. What could happen next, as tensions escalate? Here are some of the possible scenarios. Photo: Getty Images

The Gates proposal proceeds from several basic principles.  First: There simply is no good pure military option for attacking North Korea. The sheer destruction and danger of an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula take that idea off the table.

Second: “China is still the key no matter how you slice it,” Mr. Gates says. As has been noted by every recent American administration, China is the one country with sufficient leverage over North Korea to make a difference.

But Mr. Gates also says he agrees with President Donald Trump and his aides that it’s time to “disrupt the status quo” by trying a different approach with the Chinese.

Read More

  • Trump Jr. Met Russian Lawyer Who Claimed to Have Information on Hillary Clinton
  • Following Recess, GOP Health-Care Push Gets Trickier
  • Mitch McConnell Bobs and Weaves Through Health-Care Fight
  • Trump’s ‘America First’ Policy Proves to Be an Immovable Object at G-20
  • FDA Commissioner Seeks New Standards for Some Opioid Prescriptions

Which leads to the third principle: “It seems to me the need is for a comprehensive strategy you would lay out to the Chinese at a very high level, which would basically have both a diplomatic and a military component.” In other words, make a deal with China before you deal with North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, directly.

Under the Gates approach, the U.S. would make China the following offer: Washington is prepared to recognize the North Korean regime and forswear a policy of regime change, as it did when resolving the Cuban missile crisis with the Soviet Union; is prepared to sign a peace treaty with North Korea; and would be prepared to consider some changes in the structure of military forces in South Korea.

In return, the U.S. would demand hard limits on the North Korean nuclear and missile program, essentially freezing it in place, enforced by the international community and by China itself.

“I think you cannot get the North to give up their nuclear weapons,” Mr. Gates says. “Kim sees them as vital to survival. But you may be able to get them to keep the delivery systems to very short range.”

In addition, the U.S. would tell China that in any diplomatic solution the North Koreans would have to agree to invasive inspections that could insure a limited nuclear stockpile of no more than a dozen or two dozen nuclear weapons, as well as inspections to ensure they aren’t developing more weapons or further capabilities for delivery.

Crucially, the Chinese would be told that any diplomatic solution is one they would be expected to help enforce.

On the flip side of that offer, Mr. Gates says, the U.S. would present a tougher alternative for China: “If that is not an outcome you can accept, we are going to take steps in Asia you hate.”

Absent such an agreement, the U.S. would “heavily populate Asia with missile defenses.” That would include missile-defense buildups in South Korea, Japan and aboard additional American ships stationed in the Pacific. In addition, the U.S. would declare that it would shoot down “anything we think looks like a launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile” from North Korea.

In short, lacking a diplomatic solution, “whatever means we need to take to contain this regime, we will take.”

For China, he says, the meaning of such a plan would be clear: “All those measures you will see as hostile to China. Your military response will cost you billions.”

In reality, the U.S. would be threatening only to take military steps that would be inevitable in the absence of a negotiated solution in any case: “If option number one doesn’t work, option number two is what you’d need to do anyway.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would present this proposal to the Chinese. If Beijing signed on, only then would direct talks with North Korea begin.

Mr. Trump already has accepted the idea of a diplomatic approach when he said he would be “honored” to meet Mr. Kim “under the right circumstances.” Mr. Gates offers a smarter way than that to get onto the diplomatic track.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at

Trump’s Losing Debate Strategy — Trump Must Change or He’s “A Loser” — Trump Making This Look Easy For Hillary Clinton

September 28, 2016

If he had a plan to win the debate against Clinton, it remains as secret as his plan to defeat ISIS

The Republican nominee Sept. 27 during the debate at Hofstra University.
The Republican nominee Sept. 27 during the debate at Hofstra University. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

If you are Donald Trump, and six weeks before Election Day most voters still view Hillary Clinton as the safer Oval Office choice, you head into the first presidential debate with a simple objective. You must show people that you have the knowledge and temperament for the job.

You know that average voters aren’t the only ones who remain skeptical of your qualifications. So are your peers. Top business executives at the nation’s largest companies backed Mitt Romney in 2012 but are sitting out this year’s campaign or supporting Mrs. Clinton. Well-regarded national security experts, such as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, are also skeptical. Mr. Gates described you in these pages as “stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform.” You know that the first debate will draw tens of millions of viewers and provide the best opportunity between now and the election to prove the doubters wrong.

But you also know what’s in store. You know you will be asked about unreleased tax returns, high-profile police shootings and your repugnant birtherism. You know that Mrs. Clinton will come prepared with facts and figures and details and that it would be wise for you to do the same. You know the first female nominee of a major party is likely to bring up, among other things, your past remarks about women. You know she will provoke you but that you shouldn’t take the bait.

If Mr. Trump had a strategy for winning Monday night’s face-off with Mrs. Clinton, it remains as secret as his plan to defeat Islamic State. The Republican nominee looked and sounded frighteningly unprepared. Split-screen shots showed him shifting his weight, rolling his eyes, impatient. Then he would open his mouth and make matters worse with rambling, self-centered responses that often trailed off into incoherence.

The one thing everybody already knows about Donald Trump is that he’s very rich, yet the candidate couldn’t stop reminding us of this fact throughout the evening and no matter the context. Asked about recent racial unrest following police shootings around the country, he began, “When I look at Charlotte, a city that I love, a city where I have investments . . . .”

While discussing gun violence in Chicago, Mr. Trump noted that he owns properties there as well. He even found a way to plug his new hotel, the Trump International in Washington, D.C. And he assured voters that he’s “extremely underleveraged” and has “tremendous income.” The developer said he’s not bragging, just citing his credentials. “It’s about time that this country has somebody running it that has an idea about money,” he said. Apparently, Hillary Clinton is too poor to be president.

Asked why he won’t make his tax returns public, Mr. Trump cited, as he has before, an ongoing audit but said he would release the returns as soon as his opponent “releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted” from a private server. When Mrs. Clinton asserted that Mr. Trump had taken advantage of loopholes to reduce his tax burden, he interjected, “That makes me smart.” Maybe, but saying so aloud in a nationally televised debate is a rather dumb way to appeal to economically distressed voters searching for a candidate who can relate to their predicament.

Mr. Trump did nothing Monday to help his standing with the women and minority voters who are likely to decide the election. When confronted with past sexist remarks, he remained silent or said the women “deserved” it. Democrats deserve criticism for their treatment of black voters, but it’s hard to take it seriously coming from a man who seems to have discovered black America about 15 minutes ago. Someone on Team Trump ought to inform the candidate that the vast majority of black people in the U.S. are neither unemployed nor living in poverty.

Viewers knew what to expect from Mrs. Clinton, and it’s what she delivered. Her goal was to paint her opponent as reckless, ignorant, petty and tone-deaf, and Mr. Trump went out of his way to help her. When she brought up a Justice Department racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Mr. Trump in the 1970s, he explained that he had settled the case without admitting guilt, not that he hadn’t discriminated against minority tenants. When she accused him of not paying workers what he owed them, including an architect who designed a club house at a Trump golf course, Mr. Trump didn’t deny the charge and responded, “Maybe he didn’t do a good job and I was unsatisfied.”

Trump supporters no doubt felt that way about their candidate after watching the first debate. The surprise is not that Mrs. Clinton prevailed but that she made it look so easy.


Also from Jason Riley:

Jason Riley

Mr. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Journal contributor, is the author of “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” (Encounter Books, 2014).

Bill Gates Q&A on Climate Change: ‘We Need a Miracle’

February 23, 2016

Bloomberg News

The Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist penned a letter with his wife about why children are our energy future.

By Ashlee Vance

All we need is an energy miracle. No pressure, kids.

So came the call from Bill Gates on Monday evening with the release of his annual letter. It tackles heady subjects with the billionaire’s usual optimistically sober tone. Unlike letters past, Gates aimed this year’s missive at teenagers instead of adults, arguing they’re our best shot at solving the world’s energy crisis.

The genesis of the note was a conversation the Microsoft co-founder and his wife Melinda had with a group of high school students in Kentucky. The students wanted to know what cereals the Gates family preferred and if Bill knows how to dance the Nae Nae. They also wanted to know which superpower Bill and Melinda would pick, and that question struck a particular chord.

The answers to the superpower question—Bill chose more energy, and Melinda chose more time—seem straightforward at first blush. They were the kinds of things that any adult desires. In the letter, however, Gates focuses not on being peppy for a tennis match but instead on the world’s mounting energy crisis. Melinda likewise issues a global call for improvements in gender equality that would give women more time to pursue those things they care about most.

Bill Gates. Photograph by Tim Sloan, AFP, Getty Images

On the energy front, the most crucial part of the letter centers on an equation cooked up by Gates: P x S x E x C = carbon dioxide. He shows that changes to P (the world’s population), S (services used by each person) and E (energy) will not be dramatic enough to get carbon dioxide production down to zero—something that has to happen, according to Gates, to avoid catastrophic consequences from global warming. The factor that matters most is C (carbon dioxide produced by energy).

Gates has talked quite a bit in the past about the need to come up with new energy technology beyond solar, wind, nuclear and all the rest. We’ll need a major development if the world is really going to change its energy equation. In the letter, though, he puts a very fine point on the idea. “In short, we need a miracle,” Gates writes.

When I say “miracle,” I don’t mean something that’s impossible. I’ve seen miracles happen before. The personal computer. The Internet. The polio vaccine. None of them happened by chance. They are the result of research and development and the human capacity to innovate.

In this case, however, time is not on our side. Every day we are releasing more and more CO2 into our atmosphere and making our climate change problem even worse. We need a massive amount of research into thousands of new ideas—even ones that might sound a little crazy—if we want to get to zero emissions by  the end of this century.

Ever the optimist, Gates expects just such a miracle to arrive within the next 15 years, and he expects it just might come from one of today’s teenagers.

In the interview below, Gates expounds on his energy ideas and faith in the world’s youth. The letter goes into more detail on that subject as well as Melinda Gates’s thoughts on gender equality.

Why did you aim the letter at the teenage audience?

I think this younger group has a lot of advantages. They will tend to take a long-term view of things. They’re more scientific oriented and more interested in opportunities they can dream about where our generation hasn’t solved the problem, and, therefore, they can take up and surprise everybody by what they are able to do.

With scientific innovation, you see that people in their 20s get a depth of knowledge and a willingness to look at things in a different way. So, I would say it’s likely that if an energy miracle comes in the next 15 years, key participants will be the teenagers of today.

Why are you confident that there will be a breakthrough?

What we need to get that probability up to be very high is to take 12 or so paths to get there. Like carbon capture and sequestration is a path. Nuclear fission is a path. Nuclear fusion is a path. Solar fuels are a path. For every one of those paths, you need about five very diverse groups of scientists who think the other four groups are wrong and crazy.

Throughout history, it seems like we’ve turned to war and competitions with massive prizes to bring about major advances in a field. Where is the motivation to come up with this energy miracle going to come from?

Scientific problems don’t generally just yield at the time someone comes up with a prize or something equivalent. It is true in war that if one country funds research and gets ahead of the other on ballistic targeting or machine guns, they get an advantage. So you will take whatever is on the scientific frontier and try to get an edge by financing that.

In the energy space, there is no equivalent of when JFK said, “Let’s go to the Moon.” At that time, people understood they needed a certain kind of rocket, recovery system and landing system. There was a very straightforward path where the probability of success, given all the new technologies, was like 95 percent. They needed to integrate everything together in a super reliable way.

This is more like the invention of the automobile. You had risk takers working on steam-powered cars and electric cars. Then, there was this dark horse where they were exploding things in these metal boxes called internal combustion. They kept blowing things up, but because of the energy density of gasoline, the private market weighed the relative merits, and two out of three approaches are footnotes in history.

There is a $3 trillion market per year for buying energy that is bigger than any prize anyone can come up with. But the time it takes to develop this technology means you need slightly more patient capital. The normal venture capitalist model that has worked for biotech and worked for software is not quite right here.

I do think with some tuning, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition group that we’re putting together will have some characteristics of a venture fund to invest in these breakthrough ideas.

Are there riskier things along the lines of geoengineering that we should be trying at this point?

Geoengineering is, at best, a backup strategy to buy ourselves time, if we don’t move quickly enough and things like the ice melting and methane release are happening in a nonlinear way that we don’t expect. I support research on geoengineering and a dialogue on geoengineering. But it really is like a fire extinguisher that puts the flames out for decades as opposed to a real solution.

The word geoengineering also covers another class of things, like the free air capture of carbon. There is a Harvard professor named David Keith who has a startup company called Carbon Engineering that is working to build a prototype plant. The cost per ton you pull out of the air is still super high. And it is not clear that will ever become cheap.

(Gates is an investor in Carbon Engineering.)

That idea that energy companies tend to take a long time to develop and are not ultimately profitable seems like a hard sell for a youngster looking to make their way in the world.

Well, they have a long time frame. And the science is pretty cool and interesting. As a percentage of young people, we don’t need a huge, huge percentage. We need less than, say, the NFL needs.

Science in general has so many spin-off benefits in terms of what we are going to do in materials and basic understanding. We have environmental problems other than climate change, too—species extinction and lots of things going on in the ocean. There is plenty of room for science that is not quite as daunting as being the person that makes the energy breakthrough.

Who would you hold up as a role model for teenagers these days?

I think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page—some of the IT people that took a risk and did amazing work that has changed the world. A few dozen more people like Elon Musk would be great.

I don’t think that kids know enough about the people who are doing the medical breakthroughs. Hepatitis C went from being a terrible liver disease that is likely to kill you—now we have not one but multiple cures for that. The heroics and amazing work in the biology space, including medicines for poor countries and rich countries, I don’t think those get the visibility they should. But there are plenty of scientists and others that have taken on those causes.

For the young people right now, they probably know the historic figures better than they know the present-day innovators.

In the letter, you mention that The Martian was your favorite movie last year. What in particular did you like about it?

I thought it was pretty educational, and the science-related aspects were fun. Unlike a lot of science things, they struck me as actually realistic. Usually, movies dumb down the book so much that you are almost disappointed when you see the movie. It didn’t have the full content of the book, but I thought they did a good job.

How do you stay optimistic?

Our deep scientific understanding of how to design alloys, how to pick catalysts on a rational basis—our ability to do science is accelerating. Science has taken us from a situation where more than a third of all kids died to a situation where 5 percent of kids die. In the next 15 years, if we do our job right, we will get that down to 2.5 percent.

If you zoom out a little bit, and you look at the acceleration of science over the past 100 years, and the basic understanding we have gained and the tools we have, and the percentage of people in the world getting literate and getting engineering degrees, those numbers are on the constant rise.

I think it is irrational not to be optimistic, but I admit I am disposed to be optimistic. So maybe I would misconstrue the facts if they were against me. But I think, honestly, you have to be optimistic. Look at what we are doing with food production. Look at what we are doing with health. Would you rather have cancer 10 years ago or 10 years from now?

My favorite book is The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker. As he says, there is only one thing that has gone down faster than violence, and that is our tolerance for violence. Ironically, at the period where violence is lower than ever, our disgust to how much violence there is at an all-time high.

When the U.S. was poor, we polluted our rivers so badly. We made such a mess of this country. And then we got rich and said, “Oh God, we have to clean up the Potomac. We even have to clean up the stupid Hudson.” I mean, my God, we’re getting so picky.

Being rich has allowed us to get disgusted at this mess that we made. We are more tasteful about things that bother us. That is the leading indicator of things that we will change. We will change our energy economy. We will change our gender imbalance because we are kind of unhappy about it.


U.S. Has No Global Strategy

February 2, 2016

The former defense secretary on U.S. gains forfeited in Iraq, America’s rudderless foreign policy and the ‘completely unrealistic’ Donald Trump.

Robert Gates (right) and President Obama. (Associated Press) Photo by: J. Scott Applewhite

New York

Many Americans probably had misgivings when U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq in 2011, but even the most pessimistic must be surprised at how quickly things went south.

Turn on the TV news: Western Iraq, including the Sunni triangle that the U.S. once worked so hard to pacify, is in the hands of a terrorist group, Islamic State, radiating attacks as far as Paris, Jakarta and San Bernardino, Calif.

The battlefield where the U.S. spent most of its blood has become swept up into the chaos of next-door Syria. Refugees from the region are destabilizing Europe. Proxy forces, shadowy groups and national armies representing half a dozen countries are fighting on the ground and in the air. The world seems one incident away from World War III in the vacuum U.S. troops left behind—as when NATO member Turkey recently shot down a Russian jet.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates occasionally meets veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars in his travels. What their effort bought seldom comes up. “We don’t really talk about where we are today,” he says. “You have to assume it’s very painful for a Marine who lost a buddy in Fallujah to see an outfit like ISIS in charge of Fallujah again. Was the sacrifice worth it?”

Mr. Gates, along with President George W. Bush and Gen. David Petraeus, was a prosecutor of the troop surge, a decision unpopular even in the Pentagon to double down on the Iraq war in 2006. His 2014 memoir, “Duty,” which a New York Times reviewer called “one of the best Washington memoirs ever,” makes clear that the suffering of U.S. troops weighed more and more heavily on him as he served under President Bush and then re-upped under President Obama.

Today, if the mess in Iraq comes up, he tells those who served there, “You accomplished your mission. It was the Iraqis that squandered our victory.”

But Mr. Gates also believes the outcome could have been different if the U.S. had kept troops in place. Islamic State wouldn’t have spread its influence across the border from Syria. More important than firepower, he says, was having a four-star representative of the U.S. military present who could “bring Sunni and Kurdish and Shia leaders together, make them talk to each other. When that process disappeared, all the external brakes on Maliki”—Iraq’s then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Mr. Gates blames for the unraveling—“disappeared.”

In 2008 the Bush administration gritted its teeth and reached a Status of Forces Agreement with Mr. Maliki, keeping U.S. troops in place through 2011. Whether a second agreement was in the cards we may never know. “It was clear from the Bush experience that it was going to take the deep involvement of the president, really working the phones and twisting arms. And my impression is that that didn’t happen.”

Mr. Gates, 72, is making the rounds on behalf of his new book, “A Passion for Leadership,” drawing on his experience reforming large institutions, including the CIA under the first President Bush, the Pentagon and, his favorite job, as president of Texas A&M University from 2002-06.

As we settle at a table at the bar in midtown Manhattan’s London hotel, Mr. Gates, the freshly minted author of a management book, appears less than impressed with the greatest management book of all time (by its author’s own estimate), “The Art of the Deal.”

Donald Trump “brings the same skill set to leadership in the public sector that I would bring to the New York real-estate market,” he says. “The skills don’t transfer. When he talks about making other countries do things, it’s just completely unrealistic.”

Mr. Gates says he likes some of this year’s candidates, but the ones he likes aren’t getting traction. Both parties could learn from Ronald Reagan. “The country was in real trouble in 1980. The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. Interest rates were in the high teens. Inflation was in the teens. But Reagan ran on a campaign of optimism—better days are coming.”

The Journal’s own reviewer said Mr. Gates’s book is one all the candidates should read. Mr. Gates himself says, “People are fed up with their daily encounters with bureaucracies. It’s just one hassle after another. The candidate who can say ‘we can fix it’ would be tapping into another deep vein of frustration.”

His book is full of cogent advice and war stories, most testifying to one of life’s less-advertised facts: The higher you go, the more power is about persuading, cajoling and stroking “people you don’t like.” Mr. Gates’s minimal high regard for Congress is evident, as it was in his earlier book, which recorded frequent revulsion at Congress’s partisan pettiness while American troops were dying in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His own upbringing in 1950s Kansas was “idyllic,” he says. His early life revolved around family, church, school and the Boy Scouts of America (an organization, incidentally, he now heads). He eventually became a grad student, specializing in Russian and Soviet history. He aimed to teach but on a lark signed up for a CIA interview. “I was amazed when they offered me a job.”

The offer was a chancy one. The agency couldn’t dispense draft deferments, but it had an arrangement with the U.S. Air Force: If he survived officer-candidate school and obtained his commission, he would eventually be seconded to the CIA. “If you failed out, you went straight to Vietnam.”

Mr. Gates’s mandatory Air Force stint took him to the “Palm Beach of missile bases,” a Minuteman facility 60 miles from the attractions of Kansas City. Responsibility came quickly, he jokes, because he was the only one who could “pronounce the names of our targets.” Later, as a young CIA analyst, he would earn a Ph.D. in his off-hours, a degree that came in handy exactly once in his career. “I think it helped tip the balance” when Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, chose him to work in the White House.

Mr. Gates has served under eight presidents. He was a protégé of both Mr. Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. Foreign-policy types would label him a “realist.”

He doesn’t believe the U.S. can solve the world’s problems, but it had better be ready to take the lead in managing them. He laments that, after the first Iraq war in 1991, the Iraqi army didn’t use the opportunity to overthrow Saddam: Instead Shiites and Kurds staged a revolt that the U.S. was not going to assist.

In supporting the second Iraq war, he gave a speech saying that if 100,000 U.S. troops were still in place after six months “we’ve made a disastrous mistake.”

Unbidden, he mentions today that, along with the entire Obama national-security team, he opposed the president’s insistence that Hosni Mubarak of Egypt step down. The White House was also unwise, he adds, to publicly insist that Bashar Assad must go after the Syrian uprising. “I don’t think presidents should commit to things that they have no idea how to make happen,” he says.

“The administration got caught up in the Arab Spring. They misread it pretty badly. There were no institutions to support the kind of reform efforts that the street demonstrators were calling for in the overthrow of these authoritarian governments.” Worse, it sent a message to friendly regimes facing potential instability: “If you have demonstrations in your capital, the U.S. will throw you under the bus. So it disconcerted the Saudis and all our Arab allies.”

Mr. Gates offers a mixed assessment of the Iran nuclear deal, but his biggest complaint is its missing corollary—the lack of a strong signal that the U.S. remains committed to Iran’s geopolitical containment. “We cut deals with the Soviets [on nuclear weapons] but at the same time pursued very aggressive policies” to counter Soviet meddling around the world. “I don’t know why we didn’t do the same things with Iran.” The result, he says, is that allies like the Saudis and Israelis now fear the U.S. is deliberately acquiescing in Iran’s emergence as the new hegemon in the region.

Mr. Gates’s up-close association with nuclear weapons early in his career, and his long professional association with the intelligence community, have not left him in any doubt about the value of either. The presence of Iran, North Korea and Vladimir Putin on the world stage shows why nuclear deterrence remains essential to keeping Americans safe.

Covert capability has proved its worth too, he says. American presidents need to understand that the capability must be maintained so the president is not “just throwing the dice” the next time a hostage rescue is called for. As to the controversial eavesdropping capabilities of the National Security Agency, he says with a laugh, “Google and Amazon know a hell of a lot more about you than NSA does, because they actually care.”

Where he faults the intelligence agencies is their record in failing to anticipate events. “The intelligence community is no better at predicting the future than a crystal ball. During the Cold War, human spies played a big, constructive role in getting us information on enemy weapons systems still in development. Where human spies provide very little help, historically, is on what the other fellow’s intentions are. Through the whole Cold War, we never had a source inside the Kremlin who could tell us what was going on inside Politburo meetings. I don’t think the Soviets had anything comparable on our side.”

Nowadays Russian President Putin, himself a former KGB operative, never tires of claiming that the U.S. is the fount of global disorder—as if Saddam’s 19-year career of making war on his neighbors and his own people was “stability,” as if the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt, Syria and Libya were stimulated by Jen Psaki’s State Department press briefings.

Mr. Gates says the real problem with U.S. policy has been the absence of any clear strategy like the one that guided the U.S. in the Cold War. “We all implicitly accepted [George] Kennan’s view that if we contained the Soviets long enough, their internal contradictions would finally lead to their collapse, even if nobody had any idea when.

“If you accept the premise that we face a generation-long period of turbulence and violence in the Middle East, the lack of an overarching strategy for how you react to a region in flames is a problem. Are there fires we should just let burn out? Who are our friends? Who should we support?”

The answers might not be the right thing to tell a Marine mourning a buddy lost in Fallujah. But if Mr. Gates’s time in the hot seat should have taught us anything, it’s that we need better answers to these questions.

Mr. Jenkins writes the Journal’s Business World column.


Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates: Obama, and His White House Staff Did Not Trust U.S. Military

October 16, 2015

By Ian Hanchett

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said President Obama distrusted the military, and “this was particularly true in Afghanistan” in an interview that was taped earlier in the week and broadcast on Thursday’s “Special Report” on the Fox News Channel.

Gates after discussing his doubts that President Obama believed in the mission in Afghanistan, and micromanaging of the military by the Obama administration was asked about the president’s suspicion of the military. He stated, “I think this was particularly true in Afghanistan, and I think there were people in the White House, and I don’t want to name any names, who were constantly goading him and saying the military is trying to box you in. the military is trying to trap you. the military is trying to bully you. The military is trying to make you do something you don’t want to do.”

Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testifies regarding the Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2012 budget request before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 15, 2011. (Associated Press)

When asked if Vice President Joe Biden was one of these people, Gates answered, “I think so. And I was told so. And I think — but he was not alone, and you can argue with the options that they were putting forward, as President Bush did.  you can disagree with them, as President Bush did. I — that’s totally fair, in my view. But, to think that they are trying to mousetrap you, I think is a — if I were the president and i truly believed that, I would replace those commanders that I felt were trying to trick me. So, I just — I worried a lot that he was hearing from people, things that made him worry that the military was consciously trying to thwart his will, consciously trying to be insubordinate, and I never believed any of that for a second.”

Gates also stated that Vladimir Putin, “if resisted, will stop.”

He added that Putin filled a power vacuum, and, “I do think that the president saw us try and shape events in Iraq, and fail. Try and shape, in his view, fail, tried without much success to do the same in Afghanistan, tried without any success to do it in Libya, and frankly, I think thrice bitten, twice shy. I think he wanted nothing to do with Syria, because he saw no — my guess is, he saw no good outcome for the United States by intervening directly there.”

Gates concluded, “I think that our role should be limited. I would not put ground troops in Syria. I do think that a safe haven is an achievable thing. I think the idea of training somebody from the outside and sending them in is nuts, it’s just not going to work. The only way you can stanch the humanitarian flow, the humanitarian disaster, is through some kind of a safe haven and I think that that’s achievable.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


Plan to Train Syrian Rebels Was “Nuts”

Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON — A doomed US plan now on hold to train Syrian rebel fighters outside the country to fight the Islamic State was “nuts,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

President Barack Obama’s administration has suspended its $500 million train and equip effort in the latest embarrassment concerning a Syria strategy that has stumbled from one setback to the next.

Pentagon officials say that instead of training rebel units, the US military would dole out weapons to favored commanders already on the ground.

“I think the idea of training somebody from the outside and sending them in is nuts, it’s just not going to work,” Gates said in an interview with the Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” aired Thursday.

“The only way you can staunch the humanitarian flow, the humanitarian disaster, is through some kind of a safe haven and I think that that’s achievable.”

Gates, a former CIA director who served as Pentagon chief under both Obama and his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, argued that the US role in the drawn-out Syrian war “should be limited.”

“I would not put ground troops in Syria,” where a brutal civil war has raged since 2011.

Two small groups of US-trained fighters have crossed into Syria from training centers in Turkey or Jordan this year, but they did not last long.

The first broke up after coming under attack from the Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda franchise.

The other surrendered much of its equipment, perhaps a quarter of its trucks and guns, to Al-Nusra.

Last month CENTCOM commander General Lloyd Austin admitted that after the debacle only “four or five” Pentagon-trained rebels remain active in Syria.

Gates also said Obama distrusted the military, which was “particularly true in Afghanistan.”

“I think there were people in the White House, and I don’t want to name any names, who were constantly goading him,” Gates said.

When asked if Vice President Joe Biden was one of these people, Gates said, “I think so. And I was told so…”

He said those people were saying “the military is trying to box you in. The military is trying to trap you. The military is trying to bully you. The military is trying to make you do something you don’t want to do.”

Obama appears to be seeking a more forceful Defense secretary — Two Top Candidates Withdraw

November 26, 2014


U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “Fired” By President Obama — “He Was Not Up To The Job”

November 24, 2014


White House insiders have told Jennifer Griffin of Fox News that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was “fired” by President Barack Obama.

The senior White House sources is quoted as saying, “Hagel was not up to the job.”


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will step down, a senior administration official confirmed this morning to Fox News.

Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported on “America’s Newsroom” that the move had been discussed between President Obama and Hagel in recent weeks.

The resignation is being described as mutual by the administration, but Griffin reported that Hagel has been under pressure to leave.

She pointed to recent reports about Hagel standing up to National Security Adviser Susan Rice about the strategy against ISIS.

Meantime, Fox News’ James Rosen identifies some possible replacements as Michèle Flournoy, Ash Carter and Jack Reed.

National security analyst K.T. McFarland weighed in after the news broke, saying she believes Flournoy or Carter would be confirmed easily.

Stay tuned to Fox News for continuing coverage of the developing story.

Read more from AP:

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, senior administration officials said Monday, following a tenure in which he has struggled to break through the White House’s insular foreign policy team.

Hagel is the first senior Obama adviser to leave the administration following the sweeping losses for Obama’s party in the midterm elections. It also comes as the president’s national security team has been battered by multiple foreign policy crises, include the rise of the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

A senior defense official said that Hagel submitted his resignation letter to Obama on Monday morning and the president accepted it. Hagel agreed to remain in office until his successor is confirmed by the Senate, the official said.

The official said both Hagel and Obama “determined that it was time for new leadership in the Pentagon,” adding that they had been discussing the matter over a period of several weeks.

Obama was to announce Hagel’s resignation Monday. The president is not expected to nominate a new Pentagon chief Monday, according to one official.

The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name ahead of Obama’s official announcement.

Hagel is a Republican who served as senator from Nebraska and became a critic of U.S. involvement in Iraq. Obama nominated him to succeed Leon Panetta as Defense Secretary in his second term.

Hagel served in the Vietnam War and received two Purple Hearts.


Chuck Hagel criticised for India-Afghanistan remarks

Former Republican senator is likely to remain in his post until his successor is appointed Photo: GETTY

Gates and Panetta Blast Obama for Micromanaging Military

Former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta have joined in accusing President Obama and the White House National Security Council staff (NSC) of micromanaging the military to the point of attempting to set up direct lines of communication to combatant commanders.

“It was micromanagement that drove me crazy,” Gates said at the Reagan National Defense Forum at President Ronald Reagan’s library in California over the weekend.

Leon E. Panetta, right, and his predecessor Robert M. Gates, share a laugh during the ceremony to unveil a portrait of Gates at the Pentagon, Oct. 29, 2012. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

Leon E. Panetta, right, and his predecessor Robert M. Gates, share a laugh during the ceremony to unveil a portrait of Gates at the Pentagon, Oct. 29, 2012. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

Gates said he had to deal with members of the NSC staff who directly called four-star generals on matters of strategy and tactics. The White House also attempted to make direct contact with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Gates said.

“I told JSOC if they got a call from the White House you tell them to go to hell and call me,” Gates said to a round of applause from the audience.

Gates said the Obama White House too often let politics influence the policy when it came to the Defense Department.

“I think when a President wants highly centralized control at the White House, that’s not bureaucratic, that’s political,” said Gates, a Republican.

At the same forum, Panetta, a Democrat, had similar criticisms of Obama and his staff on military matters, and singled out the current campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in which Obama has ruled out the use ground combat troops.

“Never tell your enemy what the hell you’re going to do,” Panetta said.

Panetta and Gates were essentially renewing the criticism they aimed at Obama in their recent books – Panetta in “Worthy Fights” and Gates in “Duty.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who was on the panel with Gates and Panetta, charged that the White House was picking targets to be bombed in the airstrikes against ISIS.

“We’ve seen this Vietnam movie before,” McCain said in a reference to former President Lyndon B. Johnson picking targets in Vietnam.

Gates also made a brief reference to Johnson, in whose administration he had his first government job.

Of all the presidents he served, Gates said, Obama and Johnson were the most inclined to micromanage when it came to the military.

The White House pushed back hard when the Gates book was published, sending surrogates on the talk shows to dispute Gates’ criticisms on Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This rush to do books by people who leave an administration while the administration is ongoing, I think is unfortunate,” former Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley said on the CBS’ “This Morning” program.

“It’s one thing as historians look back on an administration, but in the middle of it, when you’re pursuing a war at the same time, and one that is very controversial with the American people and been very difficult on our military, I think it’s just a disservice, to be very frank with you,” Daley said.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s resignation was expected to be announced by President Obama on Monday. Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Hagel Said to Be Stepping Down as Defense Chief Under Pressure

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and the struggles of his national security team to respond to an onslaught of global crises.

The president, who is expected to announce Mr. Hagel’s resignation in a Rose Garden appearance on Monday, made the decision to ask his defense secretary — the sole Republican on his national security team — to step down last Friday after a series of meetings over the past two weeks, senior administration officials said.

The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

Read the rest:


Rift widens between Obama, his war commanders

September 19, 2014


Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Washington Post

Flashes of disagreement over how to fight the Islamic State are mounting between President Obama and U.S. military leaders, the latest sign of strain in what often has been an awkward and uneasy relationship.

Even as the administration has received congressional backing for its strategy, with the Senate voting Thursday to approve a plan to arm and train Syrian rebels, a series of military leaders have criticized the president’s approach against the Islamic State militant group.

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who served under Obama until last year, became the latest high-profile skeptic on Thursday, telling the House Intelligence Committee that a blanket prohibition on ground combat was tying the military’s hands. “Half-hearted or tentative efforts, or airstrikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility,” he said. “We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.”

James Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general and the former head of Central Command. (Chris Kleponis/AFP via Getty Images)

Mattis’s comments came two days after Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took the rare step of publicly suggesting that a policy already set by the commander in chief could be reconsidered.

Despite Obama’s promise that he would not deploy ground combat forces, Dempsey made clear that he didn’t want to rule out the possibility, if only to deploy small teams in limited circumstances. He also acknowledged that Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander for the Middle East, had already recommended doing so in the case of at least one battle in Iraq but was overruled.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testify during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State on Capitol Hill in Washington September 16, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The White House and Pentagon have scurried this week to insist there is no hint of dissent in the ranks, though in some cases their efforts have focused only more attention on the issue.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tried to reassure the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that civilian and military leaders at the Pentagon were in “full alignment” and in “complete agreement with every component of the president’s strategy.”

Some lawmakers were skeptical. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, suggested that Obama should listen more closely to his commanders. “I think it’s very important that he does follow the advice and counsel that he receives, the professional advice of the military. They are the ones best suited to do that.”

“I realize he’s commander in chief, he has the final say and the final obligation and responsibility,” McKeon added. “I would also request that he not take options off the table.”

Obama’s strategy received a boost with the Senate’s passage of his plan to train and arm about 5,000 Syrian rebels to help fight the Islamic State, a jihadist movement that controls large parts of Iraq and Syria and has threatened to destabilize much of the region.

The 78-22 vote in the Senate came just a day after the House approved its own measure.

Since Aug. 8, the U.S. military has launched 176 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. Obama has signaled the military will expand the strikes into Syria, but it is unclear when that new phase will begin.

Hagel testified Wednesday that he and Dempsey had approved a plan to conduct strikes against the Islamic State in Syria, and that Obama had received a briefing from Austin that same day at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa.

When asked if the president had endorsed the plan, however, Hagel acknowledged that Obama had not but did not elaborate.

Flight deck crew member confirms the deck is all clear before a F/A-18C Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-87) take offs the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), in the Gulf August 12, 2014. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Divisions between Obama and his generals have become a recurring feature of his presidency. In 2009, shortly after Obama took office, Pentagon leaders pressured the new president — who had run on a platform of ending the war in Iraq — to deploy a surge of troops to Afghanistan to rescue the faltering fight against the Taliban.

After a lengthy and tense internal debate, Obama did send more troops, but not as many as some commanders wanted. At the White House, Obama’s top aides privately expressed frustration that the Pentagon had tried to restrict his choices to get the result the military preferred.

At the Pentagon, military commanders expressed their own frustration last year as Obama weighed whether to take action in Syria following the determination that President Bashar al-Assad had employed chemical weapons against civilians. Although the Pentagon had internal disagreements about whether military action was warranted, there were widespread concerns that Obama was on the verge of ordering strikes without articulating goals or a clear strategy.

This time around, The White House and Pentagon agree on the basic outlines of a strategy to attack the Islamic State — one that centers on arming and training proxy forces, including Syrian rebels, Kurdish fighters and the Iraqi army, backed by U.S. and allied air power.

But the Pentagon is eager to retain the option of deploying small numbers of Special Operations forces to the front lines to help the proxy troops or to call in airstrikes from close range.

Mindful of the president’s campaign pledge to end the last war in Iraq, which led to the withdrawal of all U.S. military forces in December 2011, Obama and his aides have insisted since May that he will not send Americans back into combat there.

But as the conflict with the Islamic State has deepened, and 1,600 U.S. troops have deployed to fill advisory and other roles, the White House has struggled to reconcile that reality with its prior statements that Obama would not put “U.S. boots on the ground” in Iraq.

Military leaders have increasingly suggested that Obama’s political promises are restricting their ability to fight. On Wednesday, former defense secretary Robert M. Gates, still an influential figure at the Pentagon, bluntly criticized his former boss.

“There will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy,” Gates said in an interview with CBS News, adding that “the president in effect traps himself” by repeating his mantra that he won’t send U.S. troops into combat.

There are signs that the White House is becoming more flexible. Antony Blinken, the deputy national security adviser, allowed Thursday that “there may be cases where American advisers would go with some of the forces on the ground” or help “to call in some air power” — the kind of leeway the Pentagon wants.

In an interview with MSNBC, Blinken insisted that such deployments would not amount to combat “where Americans are on the ground leading the fight. That is not going to happen. That’s not part of this campaign. The president’s been clear about that.”

Craig Whitlock covers the Pentagon and national security. He has reported for The Washington Post since 1998.
Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden. Hayden said, “The reliance on air power has all of the attraction of casual sex: It seems to offer gratification but with very little commitment,”  Hayden said. “We need to be wary of a strategy that puts emphasis on air power and air power alone.” (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Image: Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno


Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee with other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on May 6. Odierno has said, “I would say, airstrikes in the beginning were necessary to stop the advancement and the gains that ISIS was making, it will not be the end-all solution inside of Iraq.” Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

Robert Gates: U.S. will need to put boots on the ground in ISIS fight — Obama has “trapped himself”

September 18, 2014

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey is not alone in thinking ground troops may be needed to handle the ISIS threat.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that President Obama will have to send in U.S. troops to fight the Islamic militant group.

In his first interview about ISIS, he told CBS News that while the president’s plan is sound, he does have several concerns.

“The reality is, they’re not gonna be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own,” Gates said. “So there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that [the U.S. won’t put boots on the ground], the president, in effect, traps himself.”

Gates also says Obama’s promise to “destroy” the group may be unrealistic.

“I’m also concerned that, the goal has been stated as degrade and destroy, or degrade and defeat ISIS,” he said. “We’ve been at war with al Qaeda for 13 years. We have dealt them some terrible blows including the killing of Osama bin Laden. But I don’t think anybody would say that after 13 years we’ve destroyed or defeated al Qaeda.

“And so I think to promise that we’re going to destroy ISIS, or ISIL, sets a goal that may be unattainable, as opposed to devastating it, or whereas the vice president would put it, ‘following ’em to the gates of hell’, and dealing them terrible blows that prevent them from holding territory,” Gates said. “Those are probably realistic goals.”

Includes video:


Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday said the U.S. will need troops on the ground to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and spoke out against President Barack Obama’s contention that the U.S. aims to degrade and destroy the group.

“The reality is they’re not going to be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air” or by relying on Iraqi or peshmerga forces, Gates said on CBS This Morning, using an alternate name for the terrorist organization.

While the president has contended that there will be no boots on the ground to fight ISIL, some defense experts and lawmakers have said that troops will be necessary in Syria to coordinate the airstrikes Obama pledged in a speech last week. On Wednesday, Gates said the president was boxing himself in with his rhetoric.

(Also on POLITICO: Obama’s dirty war)

“[T]here will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy,” he said. “And I think that by continuing to repeat that — the president, in effect, traps himself.”

Gates served as Defense secretary under both Obama and former President George W. Bush, before leaving his post at the Pentagon in 2011. In a memoir released earlier this year, the former top DoD official was outwardly critical of the Obama administration’s handling of foreign policy, saying the president didn’t listen enough to top military advisers and opposed the 2007 troop surge in Iraq for political reasons.

In Wednesday’s interview, Gates also took issue with White House rhetoric on ISIL. He said that Obama’s contention that the U.S. aims to “degrade and destroy” ISIL, a term the president has used repeatedly, was unreasonable. “I think to promise that we’re going to destroy ISIS or ISIL — sets a goal that may be unattainable as opposed to devastating it,” he said, adding that while the U.S. has not destroyed Al Qaeda in the 13 years since the 9/11 attacks, it was made major inroads.

(Also on POLITICO: House moves toward Syria vote)

He also directed an implicit jab at Vice President Joe Biden, who earlier this month pledged that the U.S. would follow ISIL “to the gates of hell,” calling such rhetoric unrealistic.

Gates reserved significant criticism for Biden in his memoir, saying the vice president and former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman had a “near-perfect record of being wrong about almost every major foreign policy question that the United States has faced in the past three decades.”.

Includes video:

Read more: