Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Don’t fence me in: Gates explains why the president might not want a Pentagon chief all cozy with the Secretary of State

From a recent talk by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. I wonder if you have to be an old Sovietologist to think like this: Now here’s the other side of that coin. And it’s something that folks don’t often think about. The truth of the matter is that if you’re the president of the United ...

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Flickr
Flickr

From a recent talk by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. I wonder if you have to be an old Sovietologist to think like this:

Now here's the other side of that coin. And it's something that folks don't often think about. The truth of the matter is that if you're the president of the United States, you may not want a secretary of State and a secretary of Defense to get along famously, and who are on exactly the same page, because if you've got Defense and State on different sides of an issue, then the president is in the position of kind of the Chinese menu. He can take a little from column A and a little from column B.

But if the two of them are on exactly the same page, it's not a trivial matter for the president to ignore the recommendations of both the secretary of State and the secretary of Defense. 

From a recent talk by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. I wonder if you have to be an old Sovietologist to think like this:

Now here’s the other side of that coin. And it’s something that folks don’t often think about. The truth of the matter is that if you’re the president of the United States, you may not want a secretary of State and a secretary of Defense to get along famously, and who are on exactly the same page, because if you’ve got Defense and State on different sides of an issue, then the president is in the position of kind of the Chinese menu. He can take a little from column A and a little from column B.

But if the two of them are on exactly the same page, it’s not a trivial matter for the president to ignore the recommendations of both the secretary of State and the secretary of Defense. 

(HT to KP)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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