Sizing up Robert Gates’ criticism of Donald Trump

Sizing up Robert Gates’ criticism of Donald Trump

By Lawrence Sellin


In his September 16, 2016 Wall Street Journal commentary “Sizing Up the Next Commander-in-Chief,” former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates concludes that Donald Trump is “unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.”

My response is — compared to whom?
The secretary might be reminded that Barack Obama assumed office without any foreign affairs or national security experience, although he excelled in the use of a teleprompter and the cadence of speech delivery.
Together with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Obama Administration brought us such international triumphs as Benghazi, ISIS and the Iranian nuclear deal.

In fact, all the festering national security problems enumerated by Gates as serious challenges for the new President i.e. China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and the Middle East were inadequately addressed or aggravated during the tenure of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, according to Gates himself:

“Regarding Iran, whatever value Mr. Obama’s nuclear agreement has brought, the deal has led to no decrease in Iran’s aggressive meddling in the Middle East nor any lessening of its hostility to the U.S. Iranian naval challenges to U.S. warship operations in the Persian Gulf have nearly doubled over the last year.”

Were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton misinformed by their advisors or “stubbornly uninformed about the world” as he claims Trump to be or, more simply, did they fail because they possess a toxic mixture of incompetence and ideological delusions?

Have they not been the contentions of the Obama Administration that climate change causes terrorism and ISIS arose from a lack of employment opportunities?

Gates writes:

“The world we confront is too perilous and too complex to have as president a man who believes he, and he alone, has all the answers and has no need to listen to anyone. In domestic affairs, there are many checks on what a president can do; in national security there are few constraints. A thin-skinned, temperamental, shoot-from-the-hip and lip, uninformed commander-in-chief is too great a risk for America.”

Is Gates referring to Trump or Obama? I’m not sure.

Is it not Barack Obama who reflexively responds to every Islamic terrorist attack and racial incident with excuses for the perpetrators?

Was it not Secretary Gates, who claimed that Obama made a “serious mistake” that hurt America’s credibility in the world when he drew the red line in Syria and then did not act after the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime?

“Backing away from reacting once the red line was crossed impacted American credibility not just in the Middle East, but I think it was being watching in Moscow and Tehran and Beijing and Pyongyang and elsewhere,” Gates said.

That is, the China, Russia, North Korea and Iran about which Gates voices so much concern in regard to Donald Trump.

Gates also says Trump is “temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform,” unlike the Obama Administration, who made lying the primary instrument of government policy, were “extremely careless” in their handling of highly classified information, doctored intelligence reports and violated the most sacred creed of the armed services – no one gets left behind.

Although he provides no recommendations to remedy our current national security challenges, Secretary Gates offers the following bromide:

“I understand the broad anger and frustration against political leaders in both parties. I have written about my disgust as secretary of defense as I watched politicians repeatedly place re-election above the nation’s best interests. Polls make clear that most Americans are dissatisfied with the two major party candidates for president. But as I used to say in the Pentagon, we are where we are — not where we might wish to be.”

In their support of Donald Trump, the American people are stating unequivocally that we do not like where we are as a nation and we fully intend to go where we wish to be, even if it involves calculated risk and the irritation of the political establishment.

Gates seems to think that Hillary Clinton is an unknown quantity that before the election she will “address forthrightly her trustworthiness, to reassure people about her judgment.”

Seriously? Sorry, Mr. Secretary, I don’t think it is Donald Trump who is “beyond repair.”




Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, a command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at

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