President Obama on Monday wouldn’t wade into the firestorm created by Robert Gates’ book and instead lauded the former defense secretary’s service.
“During his tenure here, Secretary Gates was an outstanding secretary of defense, a good friend of mine and I’ll always be grateful for his service,” Mr. Obama said. He took questions following a meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and was asked about Mr. Gates’ book, “Duty.”
In the memoir, the former defense secretary — appointed by President George W. Bush and kept on by Mr. Obama — said that both the president and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted their opposition to the Iraq surge had been motivated by politics. Mr. Gates also took pointed shots at Vice President Joseph R. Biden, saying the former Delaware senator has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy issue of the last 40 years.
In one of his most direct shots, Mr. Gates said that Mr. Obama often appeared to lack “passion” for military action and sometimes seemed to doubt whether his own policy in Afghanistan would succeed.
Mr. Obama avoided responding to those and other criticisms.
“What’s important is that we got the policy right [in Afghanistan], but that this is hard and it always has been. Whenever you’ve got men and women that you’re sending into harm’s way, after having already made enormous investments of blood and treasure in another country, part of your job as commander in chief is to sweat the details on it,” Mr. Obama said. “War is never easy.”
Mr. Obama also did not comment on whether Mr. Gates should’ve waited until 2017 to publish the book. Some lawmakers have suggested the former defense secretary should have held off until Mr. Obama leaves office.