Fmr. Def. Sec. Gates says Washington Post Got it Wrong: Obama Did NOT Send Troops to Afghanistan Believing Plan Would Fail

Robert Gates waves and President Obama claps at the then-defense secretary's farewell ceremony in June 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters /Landov)

Robert Gates waves and President Obama claps at the then-defense secretary’s farewell ceremony in June 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters /Landov)

David Green talks to Steve Inskeep about his upcoming interview with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates has a new book out titled, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.

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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been making news all week with his forthcoming memoir. Gates recounts his years leading the Pentagon under both Presidents Bush and Obama during a time of two wars. Yesterday, Gates sat down with Steve. It was his first interview since his book exploded in the headlines, and he’s arguing that the book is being misconstrued. We will be broadcasting the interview Monday, but thought we’d take a chance to preview it with Steve here in the studio.

And Steve, give us a preview here and a sense for what Gates says is wrong with the news coverage so far.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Well, this book has been described as just hammering President Obama and his administration. And let’s be clear: I’ve read the book. It does hammer President Obama and his administration.

GREENE: Mm-hmm.

INSKEEP: But it also praises the president. Gates actually compares the president to Abraham Lincoln in his decision-making style, and Gates is arguing that some of the early reviews and news articles just kind of get his facts wrong in subtle, but important ways.

GREENE: Like what? Examples?

INSKEEP: Well, particularly the war in Afghanistan. The Washington Post wrote about this in a way that implies – if you read the article a certain way – that you might see that as saying President Obama approved a strategy to add troops in Afghanistan in 2009, believing the strategy would fail.

GREENE: A serious charge.

INSKEEP: That would be incredibly cynical for a president to do that. Gates says I never wrote that. I never believed that. I don’t think the president ever did that. Gates says what happened here, really, was the president approved a strategy in 2009, added troops in Afghanistan, thought and hoped it would work, but became skeptical later on. And other people in the White House staff hammered on him and stoked his doubts, and that he became less and less confident in his strategy.

Overall, this is a nuanced picture of the president, part of a book of more than 500 pages, although it does accuse the president of a lack of passion in promoting the war in Afghanistan, and a lot of other things.

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SOURCE: NPR: Morning Edition

More from NPR Below:

Reports this week about former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new book have implied that he thinks President Obama approved a 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan “believing the strategy would fail,” as NPR’s Steve Inskeep said on Friday’s Morning Edition.

That would have been “incredibly cynical” of the president, Steve added.

But Gates says his words have been misconstrued, Steve says. In an interview with NPR on Thursday, the former Pentagon chief said (and here, Steve is paraphrasing, not directly quoting):

“I never wrote that. I never believed that. I don’t think the president ever did that.”

According to Steve, “Gates says what happened here really was the president approved a strategy in 2009, added troops in Afghanistan, thought and hoped it would work but became skeptical later on.”

In the book, says Steve, Gates “does hammer President Obama and his administration” at several points — but also “praises the president,” comparing his decision-making style to that of Abraham Lincoln.

Gates, a Republican, became defense secretary under President George W. Bush in 2006. Obama asked him to stay on, and Gates did until late June 2011.

During the interview, Gates defended writing the book while a president he served is still in office. He sees himself, says Steve, as a historian and a writer who’s had an experience that should be told now — while questions of war and peace are being debated — rather than later.

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SOURCE: NPR: The Two-way


  

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