by Ivan Eland
January 22, 2014

All the hoopla in the media over Bob Gates’ scathing criticism of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in his new memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, has missed the mark. Obama can be criticized legitimately for his deplorable policy of piling up even more bodies of U.S. soldiers in an escalation of the Afghan War that he evidently didn’t believe would work, yet this tidbit is not really news. In his 2010 book, Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward, after interviewing Obama administration participants in the decision-making surrounding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, alludes to this same troubling fact.

And the media seemed to describe this criticism as light compared to what Gates doled out to Vice President Biden. Gates criticized Biden for “poisoning the well” with the military and being “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

If Biden was wrong about advocating a rapid US withdrawal from Afghanistan (and Iraq) and Obama was wrong in adopting the Afghan escalation without believing it, then the only viable option left, according to Gates’ line of reasoning, was evidently escalating and being excited about it. When Obama took office, more than seven years of intractable war in Afghanistan already made this hard to do for anyone except the most gung ho in the military. Seven years after the escalation of the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon was winding it down and in the last stages of achieving a peace deal with the communists. The Afghan War is by far America’s longest conflict, and the military has had ample time to “win” it.

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