Former Secretary of State Robert M. Gates has provided many insights to many presidents as an adviser and as manager at the highest levels. This would include a stint as director of the CIA.
In his autobiographical account, "Duty," he's provided readers a host of insights into the crossroads of politics, policy and war. I have a feeling I could get a solid half dozen columns based on this book.
He relates the odd feeling of being held over from the President George W. Bush's administration by President Barack H. Obama as Secretary of Defense. Early in Obama's first term, he wrote, "It took a lot of discipline to sit quietly at the table as everyone from the president on down took shots at Bush and his team."
Gates describes meetings in the Situation Room with "no room for discriminating analysis: everything was awful, and Obama and his team had arrived just in time to save the day." He describes rides back to the Pentagon with then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, that sitting through such meetings were the dues paid for staying on for another administration.
How exactly are those foreign policy promises working out for us and the world? I'd imagine people in Ukraine would have some very interesting comments on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's famous Russia "reset."
The president is currently on a four nation tour of Asia. Many of our friends there are very concerned with China's growing military and its appetite for snapping up bits of island territory claimed by its neighbors.
According to a Bloomberg account from Wednesday, China's military has been growing at rates faster than analysts had expected. This is "casting a shadow over relations between China and its neighbors and sparking doubts about long-term prospects for the U.S. presence in the Pacific."
Bonnie Glaser, a China expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, described the commonly held view that the China-U.S. dynamic is veering toward a more confrontational level.
The article describes Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan as nations with disputes over both island and submerged rock formations in the seas bordering these countries and China. The prize everyone seeks is energy and mineral resources.
Closer to home, we have Venezuela erupting in chaos and violence. Reuters reported Monday that masked youths were battling police. The article described protesters burning and hanging in effigy images of President Nicolas Maduro.
Then we have the on-going challenge of threats from radical Islam. The Associated Press shared comments from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on this topic earlier this week. According to Blair, the West would do well to downplay differences with Russia and China in order to concentrate on the "growing threat from radical Islam."
Blair has recommended that addressing "radicalized and politicized view of Islam should be at the top of the global political agenda." He laments that many in the West seem "curiously resistant to face up to a force that is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in the era of globalization."
I don't blame the Obama administration for all the tough situations on the world stage today, but perhaps we should all be wary of candidates for office who seem to have rather expansive claims for their ability to address besetting problems with near magical ease.