The Best Defense

The Gates files (V): Some sharp digs at Bill Clinton's handling of foreign policy

Bob Gates also reveals in his book that he thinks that President Clinton's failures in foreign policy have been insufficiently recognized. "I believed the relationship with Russia had been badly mismanaged after Bush 41 left office in 1993.... When Russia was weak in the 1990s and beyond, we did not take Russian interests seriously."

(Not that he is a Putin-hugger. At one point in a meeting with Russian officials, he passed a note to Condi Rice, then secretary of state: "I'd forgotten how much I really don't like these guys.")

That said, the other day I had lunch with an old friend who is a Russian specialist. He countered that Russia was weak well before the 1990s, but that there were a lot of people who didn't see that. He implied that Gates was one of them.

Also, in arguing against a "counterterrorism" strategy in Afghanistan that Biden was advocating, Gates takes another pop at the Clinton administration, quoting from a memo he wrote to President Obama that, "We tried remote-control counterterrorism in the 1990s, and it brought us 9/11."

That said, Hillary Clinton is one top official who is depicted in Gates's book as solid and reliable.

Speaking of Russia, its ally Ukraine is acting Putin-like creepy, sending out messages to the cell phones of demonstrators that, "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance." That "dear" is a nice touch!

Meantime, here is me yakking on NPR yesterday about the Gates book.

(Yep, not stopping here.)

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The Best Defense

JAMA study: Gates is wrong, longer deployments do not increase suicides

The other day I quoted Robert Gates as stating in his book that, ""I believe those long tours [in Iraq] significantly aggravated post-traumatic stress and contributed to a growing number of suicides."

A savvy at MIT graduate student who reads the blog sent me a link to an article that ran last summer in the Journal of the American Medical Association that says that Gates's assertion is incorrect. "Risk Factors Associated With Suicide in Current and Former U.S. Military Personnel" explicitly concludes that "The findings from this study are not consistent with the assumption that specific deployment-related characteristics, such as length of deployment, number of deployments, or combat experiences, are directly associated with increased suicide risk."

But not everyone agrees. One issue is that older soldiers tend to be affected more by deployments -- which tends to mean that Guard and Reserve soldiers may be at greater risk.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Freire