Sunday, January 12, 2014


Even before being published, the former Secretary of Defense book is creating a political storm. Robert Gates was considered to be the perfect civil servant who showed nettle serving under the Bush and Obama administrations.  It is premature to judge a book on the "leaks" which have appeared, but I am of the opinion that the overblown comments are out of place and time.

Gates is entitled to share his opinions which, by the way, only confirm the rumors that have prevailed in the various corridors of power.  That President Obama was a reluctant actor in the Afghan saga was known to all.  The tensions between the Pentagon and the White House belong to a tradition of colliding cultures, political versus military.  Besides, Gates has positive comments regarding both Obama's and the former secretary of state's analytical skills.  His critical assessment of Vice-President Biden does come as a surprise because it appears to be almost vindictive.  The commentators now have more to chew on than endlessly reboot of Governor Christie's troubles with his "Ponte dei sospiri".

I find the known parts of the book regarding the political climate in Washington D.C. far more interesting.  Gates exposes his despise and disgust for the workings (?) of Congress and writes like a prosecutor who smells blood.   His evaluation is merciless and will certainly fuel the alienation which lives in the public opinion toward a Congress which looks like a ship of fools.
The political conversation in the United States takes place in camera, as if the myriad of sophisticated books and publications were written for Gogol's "Death Souls."  Gates is right in his outrage but why did he wait so long to express it since he alludes more than once to the temptation to slam the door and quit the sinking ship?

There remains a structural main weakness which might become clearer.  When Emile Zola wrote his "J'accuse",   he put himself in the middle of a scandal which was undermining the French establishment.  Gates choose to wait for his moment, remaining his Stoic self, posed and respected (rightly so), but also waiting until the powder was dry to fire his shot.  Motive and intent do not always overlap.

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