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Former SecDef: Obama’s National Security Advisers Are Totally Naive

Former defense secretary Robert Gates, who served during the Obama administration, thinks that President Barack Obama’s national security aides are totally and completely naïve, a naivety which has brought about disastrous foreign policy consequences.

Gates pointed to deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes and former special assistant Samantha Power, both in their 30s, as prime examples of youth and inexperience run amuck, Politico reports.

As top-level national security advisors, however, Rhodes and Power had Obama’s ear. But for Gates, the absurdly optimistic rhetoric coming from the White House regarding prospects for spreading democracy and human rights through the Middle East has crashed on the rocks.

Nowhere has this idealistic frenzy been more exemplified than in Egypt.

The rubber hit the road in 2011, when the Obama administration’s ideals of democracy, development and dignity came into contact with the Arab Spring. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, massive crowds poured into Tahrir Square and called for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Although Mubarak was a long-standing U.S. ally, feverish devotion to democracy swung the administration in favor of supporting local activists over a stable leader, who put down Islamic radicalism.

Older, weathered national security advisers told expressed skepticism over the plan, but pressure from Rhodes and Power won out.

Mubarak stepped down, only to be replaced by Mohamed Morsi in June 2012, a leader of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. This is what Egyptian democracy produced.

Obama dutifully supported Morsi, even as he clashed heavily with the judiciary and attempted to increase his power. Just a year later, the crowds were back in Tahrir Square.

That’s when Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s head general at the time, executed a coup. The Obama administration refused to label the takeover as a coup, since that classification would immediately cut off all military aid to Egypt. But the situation continued to deteriorate, and Obama partially froze military funding and cut off military exercises.

Egyptians were furious, and funding resumed in March 2015. National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said that the decision was “in the interest of U.S. national security.”

Since then, the U.S.’s relationship with Sisi has been rocky, uncertain and unstable. Sarah Margon, director of Human Rights Watch in Washington summed up the results of Obama’s foreign policy in Egypt. “We are back to building a relationship with someone who is more aggressive than Mubarak was,” she told Politico.

Obama’s foreign policy adventures have prompted internal mutiny. Two former secretaries of defense have written books blasting Obama, and a third, Chuck Hagel, was essentially fired for refusing to speed up the transfer of hardened detainees out of Guantanamo Bay to fulfill an administration priority. Hagel said that the White House used anonymous comments to the press in an attempt to destroy him, even after he had informed the administration he would resign.

One of the two secretaries of defense, Leon Panetta, criticized Obama, because the U.S. has endlessly delayed moving into Syria. Gates also has said that airstrikes just aren’t enough to take down the Islamic State.

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