So, Why Didn’t Gates Resign from the Obama Administration?

The Gates Book has political wonks all abuzz, including the question of, why Gates didn’t resign if he felt as he did?

I do not have an answer to that question, there are so many dynamics involved in every decision, but it have seen a similar situation. During the Vietnam War I was aboard a Submarine  that was deploying to the area where we would be doing secret and very sensitive work.

We had been through training, but we had subsequently received a lot of new Sailors and Officers who had not gone through the training. When we arrived in Pearl Harbor, and our CO received our orders I actually saw him break down with tears in his eyes — “Al, if I would not be replaced with some CO who would just add to the number of those not trained, I would resign!. We are not currently trained well enough to complete this mission successfully.”

He was right, and he would have been replaced with a CO who was not as well trained. As it happened, our CO was a great CO (just as an aside, he was politically liberal and once banned me, briefly, from discussing politics in the wardroom), he worked us to death enroute to our patrol station, and although we had some close calls, we survived and completed our mission successfully.

All military officers either get in these provisions, or consider the circumstances in their minds as a “What if…” I knew a retired Major General in the Marines who prepared himself to resign should he be asked to compromise his ethics by developing a fall-back career as a college professor. He never had to make that decision and finished his career.

Gates must have considered what he might be replaced by — and, considering that Gates has a long record of outstanding service to his country. In all honesty, Gates was right to accept the job and right to stay. Whomever the president might have selected — considering the low quality of appointees he has made across the board — they would have been worse (MUCH worse) than Gates. Gates remaining, even in an administration where he was surrounded by lesser lights, was an act of patriotism.

It must have been terrible strain not to grab some of those in his meetings by the collar, but then that is why we have civilian leadership of the military although most high-ranking military officers are more political and les military. Mid-level officers are more military and less political, and that is why in case of war it is wise to retire all the top brass and find the Colonels and Commanders for wartime leadership.

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One Response

  1. Once again your experience and political savvy are fully tuned in. I cant comment as to Gates and why he stayed. Maybe it was to try to guide the President and his civilian cronies. Maybe he was trying to be the adult supervision for the military command structure. Who knows, but you hot the nail on the head when you said that the military upper leadership should be replaced in times of war.

    By the way, I am glad your CO stuck around. It is always nice to have a CO that knows what he is doing. I hope all is well with you and your family.

    I saw a new book out about the Pueblo Incident, I skimmed it and was very happy to read another perspective of your involvement. You and your wife are true heroes. Thank You again!

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