Robert “Buzz” Patterson is the author of the new book, “Conduct Unbecoming: How Barack Obama is Destroying the Military and Endangering Our Security,” to be released on Sept. 7.
During his 20 years on active duty, the former lieutenant colonel participated in combat operations in Grenada, Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bosnia, and as senior military aide to President Bill Clinton, was responsible for the “Nuclear Football.” Since retiring from the Air Force in 2001, Patterson has authored two New York Times bestsellers, “Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security” and “Reckless Disregard: How Liberal Democrats Undercut Our Military, Endanger Our Soldiers, and Jeopardize Our Security.”
Patterson recently agreed to answer eight questions from The Daily Caller about his new book:
1) Why did you decide to write this book?
I wrote my first book, “Dereliction of Duty,” detailing my experiences working as a military aide at the side of President Bill Clinton as a warning from a commissioned military officer to his nation. I was an eyewitness to the contempt the Clintons had for the military, his indifference to national security issues except insofar as they served his own political and personal purposes and his failures to accept his responsibilities as our commander in chief. As I outlined in “Dereliction of Duty,” I lay the blame for the attacks of September 11, 2001 fully at the feet of Bill Clinton, and I felt an obligation to tell that story.
Now, I see history repeating itself in the presidency of Barack Obama. Only this time the misconduct and the dereliction of duty of Obama and his administration could lead to far worse devastation than we suffered in the wake of Clinton and 9/11. I wrote my new book — “Conduct Unbecoming: How Barack Obama is Destroying the Military and Endangering Our Security” — because I’ve seen this all before only this time it’s worse, much worse. Our nation and our military deserve so much more, so much better. I believe Obama’s foreign policy record so far and his agenda for the future are extremely deleterious to our national security, and need to be reversed in the elections of November 2010 and 2012.
2) Did you expect President Obama to do better on national security matters than you believe he has to date?
I certainly hoped he would be better then he has been to date. From my perspective as a military analyst, it seems that a unifying theme of Democrat Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, is a consistent underestimating of foreign policy dangers. Obama appears to believe that by the sheer force of his own personality and his serial apologies for the behavior of his predecessor he can encourage our enemies to drop their hostility towards us. So far, that doesn’t seem to be working and he seems to be failing miserably. In fact, if anything, his performance to date seems to have only increased our enemies’ contempt for us as is seen in the dismissive reactions of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
I also hoped he would be a strong commander in chief, a leader worthy of our military, and one that not only empathized with our servicemen and women but actually understood them. Quite frankly, to this point he doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what it means to lead the nation or our armed forces during wartime. In fact, he is only the second American president in the last sixty years not to have served in the armed forces, the other being Bill Clinton, and it shows. He’s a politician, a “community organizer,” who now commands the greatest and most powerful military in the world and he seems very uncomfortable with that responsibility.
As someone who used to train Air Force officers, I would judge him, from his public record, as someone unqualified to command even a squadron of a few hundred airmen – that is if he’d ever considered serving his nation as an Air Force officer, which of course, he never did. He’s in way over his head and it shows. When the airmen and the privates in the trenches can see it, and they do, he has some serious leadership challenges that, so far, he has failed to meet.
3) Your book discusses how President Obama and his administration have failed to appropriately identify the enemy America is fighting. How so and how do you think this has affected our global fight against Islamist extremism?
You can’t win a war if you’re unwilling or unable to identify the enemy. We have a president that, during the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, wanted to kick the “ass” of British Petroleum but doesn’t want to kick the ass of an ideological enemy sworn to defeat us, which murders innocents and suppresses human rights around the globe. Obama has a thin skin. He has shown a tendency to lash out angrily at his opponents — Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Tea Partiers, BP, Republicans, “fat cats” on Wall Street, and the state of Arizona, to name a few. But when it comes to identifying America’s real enemies — the ones fighting and killing Americans every day — he just can’t muster an interest in the fight.
When Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot forty-three fellow soldiers, killing thirteen and wounding thirty, at Fort Hood, Texas while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Obama could only surmise that it was a “senseless act of violence.” The Department of Defense’s 86-page report following the massacre did not contain a single reference to “Islam,” “Muslim,” “Sharia,” or “Koran” although Major Hasan had a history of making anti-American statements based on his radical Islamic beliefs and is a known follower of Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, himself an American terrorist inciting jihad from his hole in Yemen.
The Pentagon’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the 128-page report that lays out America’s future military strategy and the force structure necessary to fight the nation’s wars, contains not a single mention of “Islam,” “Islamic,” or “Islamist.” Similarly, the Obama administration’s official National Security Strategy released in May, 2010 targets “climate change” as a national security priority, while making no references to radical Islamic terrorism.
How can you win a war when you are unwilling to identify the enemy? The simple answer is: you can’t.
4) How do you think President Obama has handled the Afghan War? He did increase troop levels to the dismay of his left base and he has increased drone attacks against terrorist targets worldwide, has he not?
On the campaign trail, to prove he could be trusted on national security issues, Obama made a point of sounding hawkish on the Afghanistan War — it was another way to bash the Bush administration, which had allegedly ignored the war while pursuing the wrong and unnecessary war in Iraq. But once Obama was elected president, he dithered. He didn’t know what to do with the war he had successfully argued he’d fight. He gave every impression of not wanting to fight the war in Afghanistan at all and delayed announcing that he was sending more troops until nearly a year into his administration.
Tellingly, as commander in chief, Obama neglected to meet with the general he placed in charge of fighting the war in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, until almost nine months into his presidency. Throughout this time, Obama managed to find the time for only one phone call to General McChrystal, the general he had elevated to fight this war that he campaigned he would fight. When he finally did announce a troop increase, in his speech to the young men and women of West Point, he also announced that within 18 months all U.S troops would be coming home. In announcing a troop withdrawal simultaneous with a troop increase, to me, signals that Obama has little interest in winning this war and, more importantly, he has no understanding as to how to.
5) You are critical of President Obama’s Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan, saying the rules have been deadly to our troops there. Do you also blame Generals Petraeus and McChrystal, who put forward the rules for implementation?
Well, let’s be clear here. Originally, General McChrystal and now General David Petraeus, who I have immense respect for, are military commanders personally appointed by Barack Obama to run the war in Afghanistan. Either Obama is the commander in chief or he’s not. In the chain of command, ultimately, the buck must stop at his desk in the Oval Office.
When we have troops patrolling in dangerous zones in Afghanistan without bullets in their rifles or U.S. Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunships patrolling the skies at night (which is their mission and protects them from anti-aircraft attack) prohibited from shooting at enemy targets because of an exaggerated fear of hitting civilians, we are sentencing our military to death and defeat. Obama’s Pentagon has even created a medal for our troops who choose not to fire their weapons. This politically correct approach to war is killing our troops and will, if left unchanged, result in our defeat and the further emboldening of the ideological enemy we face around the world.
6) You write how President Obama’s plan to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will weaken the military. But what about countries like the U.K. and Israel who have gays serving openly in the military without problems?
If America and its military aspired to lower its standards, emulate our loyal but much smaller allies and emasculate itself, sure let’s allow gays, lesbians, transgendered and hermaphrodites to serve openly. Thankfully, and fortunately, the U.S. military is a beacon for freedom in the world, has higher standards and obligations and, more importantly, a much larger responsibility to shoulder around the globe. The U.K and Israel are indeed our loyal allies. But no military in the world has the lethal and, at the same time, compassionate capabilities that the U.S. military has. No other military can, for example, fight two hot wars, respond to a massive earthquake in Haiti, move aid to flood victims in Bangladesh, and all at the same time. Do we really want to abrogate that quality and capability?
The purpose of our military is to fight and win our nation’s wars. The military is indeed under the command of the president, but the military is not a social engineering petri dish. Sun Tzu, in “The Art of War“, said “There are ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army…by attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers his kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army.” Obama is seeking to govern the military as his “kingdom,” along New Left lines and using the tactics of Saul Alinsky. He’s essentially at war with the traditional culture of our military which, to date, is deeply grounded in courage, duty, honor, patriotism, and Judeo-Christian principles. If allowed, Obama will destroy the very culture that protects us and has protected us for 234 years.
7) What would you do with Iran? Do you think military strikes are necessary to prevent Iranian nuclear proliferation?
Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s approach to Iran has only encouraged their leadership to pursue nuclear weapons. Obama’s appeasement approach toward Ahmadinejad has also bought that mad man much valuable time — time that is ticking towards a showdown with Israel and the West. I believe that, soon, military strikes against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities will absolutely be necessary, the only option for free civilizations who are threatened by tyranny. The alternative would be undeniably tragic and untenable. The lessons of history continue to repeat themselves. You simply can’t appease evil.
8} Any plans to write another book anytime soon? If so, what about?
I’m always writing books in my head, or thinking about ideas for future books. Most importantly, I am proud to be able to offer a voice for our men and women in uniform through my writing. While on active duty, they are not able or allowed to voice their political views or their concerns with our elected leaders. They are all legally constrained from voicing their opinions by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and rightly so.
While I don’t pretend to speak for all of them, I do hope to speak for the large majority and my friends that are currently serving today. That’s the role that I hope I provide — someone who has been where they are, knows what is like to serve, and has also seen how things work on the inside of Washington, D.C. Increasingly, our military needs a voice and I hope that I am one of those who accurately provides that voice.