FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Monday that the U.S. government has been paralyzed by political polarization and careerism, putting China, Russia and other rivals at the international expense of America.
Gates, who served in both the Republican and Democratic governments, said in an online speech to a Florida group that bias has always been part of American politics dating back to founders John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, but only recently resulted in the government not being able to tackle major problems such as the coronavirus outbreak. He said Congressmen are afraid to take a stand or compromise that could damage their re-election opportunities.
“Because of our paralysis in Washington, we are unable to successfully address the major challenges facing the country, be it education, immigration and infrastructure,” Gates told the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, a non-partisan organization which meets monthly to hear from prominent news makers. “Across the board, they’re just too heavy for our politicians. This is not a question of a Democrat or Republican. ‘
Gates, 76 and a Republican, was director of the CIA from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011 under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His book, Exercise Of Power: American Failures, Successes, And A New Path Forward In The New Post-Cold War World, was recently published.
Gates argues in his book that for the past 25 years, the Presidents and Congress have withered the country’s diplomatic forces, such as development aid, communications, and cultural connections, causing the military to play a disproportionate role in determining and executing U.S. foreign policy.
Gates has criticized President Donald Trump, a dividing line, at home and abroad. On Monday’s lecture, he praised Trump as the first president to understand and address the threat that China poses economically, but undermines his efforts by weakening the country’s relations with its allies, calling it “a unique asset for the United States “.
“We have allies – the Russians and Chinese don’t. They have customers, ”said Gates. “Those allies are critical if we are to create an international environment to serve our national interest.”
He also praised Trump for contacting North Korea and meeting Kim Jong-un, saying that nothing that previous presidents had tried ended that country’s nuclear weapons program. He said Kim fears that if he surrenders his nuclear weapons, he will be overthrown. Gates said it may be time to negotiate a deal where North Korea has a limited number in exchange for intensive inspections.
Gates also praised and criticized former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s supposed democratic opponent in the November election. He said Biden had been wrong with almost every foreign policy and national security issue for the past 40 years, especially in the 1980s when Biden was in the Senate and opposed President Ronald Reagan’s policy towards the Soviet Union.
Still, despite their broad policy differences, Gates said that he and Biden had a good relationship during the Obama administration and agreed on issues such as Libyan non-intervention when that country’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, was impeached and murdered in 2011. He called Biden ‘not just a decent person but a man of real character and integrity. ”
He said the Trump administration was handing over a foreign propaganda coup to the Chinese and Russians when it used police and military personnel to remove protesters so the president could walk to a nearby church to take a photo.
“Believe me, the videos of what happened in Lafayette Square that night are spread all over the world by the Russians and the Chinese,” said Gates. The Chinese can now “come back to us and say,” How dare you criticize our way of working demonstrators in Hong Kong. See what happened across the White House. ”
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