TIME Foreign Policy

Gates Slams Biden in Memoir, Reveals He Nearly Quit

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has harsh words for Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy judgement in his soon-to-be-released memoir.

According to the New York Times, which obtained an early copy of the memoir, Gates calls Biden “a man of integrity,” but questions his record. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates writes, according to the Times.

Gates, the only high-level holdover from the Bush administration to the President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, reveals he nearly quit his post in September 2009 while Obama reviewed his Afghanistan strategy. According to the Times, Gates writes he was “deeply uneasy with the Obama White House’s lack of appreciation — from the top down — of the uncertainties and unpredictability of war…I came closer to resigning that day than at any other time in my tenure, though no one knew it.”

Gates was a backer of a substantial troop increase for Afghanistan early in Obama’s first term, while Biden argued for a smaller counter-terrorism mission in the country.

The Washington Post quotes a separate exchange in the book between Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, where they discussed their opposition to the 2007 Iraq surge in the context of politics. “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

Gates’ memoir, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” goes on sale next week.

UPDATE: The White House moved to defend the Vice President from Gates’ criticism Tuesday evening. “The President disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said. “President Obama relies on his good counsel every day.”

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