Worthy Fights by Leon Panetta

Our next meeting is Wednesday evening, March 11, at the Salt Lake Public Library (210 East 400 South) in Conference Room C.

Our focus will be Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace by Leon Panetta [Penguin Press 10/7/2014 – 467 pages sans notes & index – available from your local library or for $13.29 + $3.99 shipping through Amazon.com – Amazon’s price is $26.25 + shipping but below Amazon’s price click on “71 New from $13.29” and order from chs625].

Leon Panetta was (1) a Democratic Congressman from California 1977-1993 (House Budget Committee Chair 1989-1993); (2) President Clinton’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 1993-1994; (3) President Clinton’s Chief of Staff 1994-1997; (4) President Obama’s CIA Director 2/13/2009- 6/30/2011; and (5) President Obama’s Secretary of Defense 7/1/2011-2/27/2013.

Since “60 Minutes” on 9/21/2014, “Worthy Fights” has created a veritable firestorm in the national media -- and in the form of “push back” from Vice President Biden in stark contrast to standard Obama Administration reaction to books by former Administration Officials that the Obama Administration “never does book reviews”!!!

The two explosive issues discussed by Leon Panetta in “Worthy Fights” and on “60 Minutes” are his contention that The Islamic State (aka ISIS aka ISIL formerly AQI or Al Qaeda in Iraq) is the direct result of (1) President Obama’s refusal to accept his advice and the advice of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Patraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey to arm the Syrian moderate rebels 3 years earlier, and (2) President Obama’s refusal to push for a residual force of 10,000 American military personnel in Iraq in 2011 over the objections of himself, Hillary Clinton, David Patraeus and Martin Dempsey.

The reason for the media firestorm???

As both an Obama loyalist AND a Clinton loyalist, Worthy Fights is viewed by the media as providing cover for Hillary for what might be viewed as two pivotal foreign-policy disasters when she was Secretary of State.

So it is ironic that only 32 minutes after President Obama’s Request to Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force Against ISIL was posted on http://www.WhiteHouse.com, the attendees of our 2/11/2015 meeting voted to focus on Worthy Fights for our 3/11/2015 meeting. [And, no, we weren’t aware at the time of the posting but we knew the AUMF was imminent.]
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Worthy Fights by Leon Panetta

Post by johnkarls »

Originally proposed by johnkarls » Sat Oct 04, 2014 6:15 am – 259 views before being transplanted here.
I propose that we read “Worthy Fights” by President Obama’s former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta (Penguin Press 10/7/2014 -- Hardcover $24.99 + shipping or $13.00 Kindle from Amazon.com -- 512 pages).

Since “60 Minutes” on September 21, “Worthy Fights” has created a veritable fire storm in the national media -- and in the form of “push back” from Vice President Biden in stark contrast to standard Obama Administration reaction to books by former Administration Officials that the Obama Administration “never does book reviews”!!!

The two explosive issues discussed by Leon Panetta in “Worthy Fights” and on “60 Minutes” are his contention that The Islamic State (aka ISIS aka ISIL formerly AQI or Al Qaeda in Iraq) is the direct result of (1) President Obama’s refusal to accept his advice and the advice of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Patraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey to arm the Syrian moderate rebels 3 years ago, and (2) President Obama’s refusal to push for a residual force of 10,000 American military personnel in Iraq in 2011 over the objections of himself, Hillary Clinton, David Patraeus and Martin Dempsey.

The “60 Minutes” interview is described on the Home Page of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy (http://www.panettainstitute.org) as --

Former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta appeared on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on September 21 to explain that the United States’ battle against the extremist group ISIS will not be finished anytime soon.

CBS News Anchor Scott Pelley asked Secretary Panetta how long it might take to destroy ISIS. Secretary Panetta said, “I think it’s going to take a long time. And, I think the American people need to know it’s going to take a long time.”

The interview with Secretary Panetta was one segment of an in-depth look at some of the recent territorial gains made by ISIS, as well as graphic scenes depicting the horrors that have been inflicted on the people of Iraq and Syria.

The 60 Minutes interview also gave a glimpse into Secretary Panetta’s upcoming book, “Worthy Fights,” in which the Secretary writes that he, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David H. Petraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey all urged President Barack Obama to arm moderate Syrians who had started a revolution against dictator Bashar al-Assad.

“The real key was how could we develop a leadership group among the opposition that would be able to take control,” said Secretary Panetta. “And my view was, to have leverage to do that, we would have to provide the weapons and the training in order for them to really be willing to work with us in that effort.”

Secretary Panetta discussed the president’s decision not to intervene, saying: “I think the president’s concern, and I understand it, was that he had a fear that if we started providing weapons, we wouldn’t know where those weapons would wind up. My view was: You have to begin somewhere.”

Asked whether arming rebels would have been effective, Secretary Panetta said: “I think that would have helped. And I think in part, we paid the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS.”

In the interview, Mr. Pelley also asked Secretary Panetta about unrest in Iraq and the pullout of American troops in 2011. “It’s a tragic story,” he said. Rather than leaving Iraq, “I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq. The decision was that we ought to at least try to maintain 8,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops there, plus keeping some of our intelligence personnel in place, to be able to continue the momentum in the right direction. And frankly, having those troops there, I think would’ve given us greater leverage on (former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki) to try to force him to do the right thing as well.”

Prime Minister Maliki, Secretary Panetta said, “had the opportunity to kind of hold all of this together. (But he) just turned on the Sunnis, fed into the historical sectarian divisions that have marred that country for centuries. And basically undercut and undermined the security force in Iraq and created, I think, the very ingredients that led to what we see today in Iraq.”

Secretary Panetta concluded: “We gave (Iraq) a chance. I mean, you know, nobody can guarantee that Iraq would be able to go in the right direction. But we gave them a chance. We gave them the tools. But instead, he turned to vengeance. And vengeance never pays off.”

Leon Panetta Biography (unofficial – prepared by Yours Truly)

Democratic Congressman from California 1977-1993 (House Budget Committee Chair 1989-1993)
President Clinton’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 1993-1994
President Clinton’s Chief of Staff 1994-1997
President Obama’s CIA Director 2/13/2009-6/30/2011
President Obama’s Secretary of Defense 7/1/2011-2/27/2013

Born (6/28/1938) and raised in Monterey CA just south of San Francisco at the southern end of Monterey Bay and the beginning of Monterey Peninsula which is home to three world-famous golf courses (Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Spyglass Hill).

Graduated from nearby Santa Clara U and, in 1963, Santa Clara U School of Law.

Married Sylvia Marie Panetta in 1962 upon her graduation from St. Joseph’s College of Nursing in her native San Francisco. She managed his 5 California Offices for his entire 16 years in Congress, managed all of his re-election campaigns from 1980 through 1992, and served in various positions in the Clinton Administration including Deputy Director for Staff and Finance of the President’s Crime Prevention Council which coordinated federal programs related to youth development and crime prevention. Since 1997, she has served as a Director and the CEO of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.

Leon Panetta, unlike other national politicians all of whom have always since time immemorial fought “tooth and nail” against the closing of any military bases in their districts, oversaw as President Clinton’s Director of OMB the conversion in 1994 of Fort Ord into the California State University – Monterey Bay.

Upon his departure as President Clinton’s Chief of Staff at the end of the latter’s first term, Leon co-founded with his wife the Panetta Institute for Public Policy at the California State University – Monterey Bay.

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy is described on its website (http://www.panettainstitute.org) as --

Founded in 1997 by Leon and Sylvia Panetta, the Panetta Institute serves the entire California State University system plus several other schools. Under the direction of Leon and Sylvia Panetta, the Institute provides a variety of study opportunities in government, politics and public policy, and sponsors a range of other programs.

Each year, the Leon Panetta Lecture Series brings national political leaders and policy thinkers to the Monterey Peninsula to discuss important issues facing the nation and our world. In addition, the Institute conducts a periodic nationwide survey of college students, gauging their interest in politics and civic involvement. (See our latest “Youth Civic Engagement Survey” conducted by Hart Research Associates.)

Our Congressional Internship Program gives selected students from throughout the CSU system, along with other schools, an opportunity to get a firsthand look at the legislative process by working in a congressional office in Washington, D.C. Our annual Leadership Seminar provides student-body officers with skills to meet leadership challenges on campus, in local communities and in future public service.

In 2003, the Institute launched a Master of Public Policy program in concert with CSU Monterey Bay. This program offers a concentration in government and politics that emphasizes the actual practice of policymaking. We have also developed a Policy Research Fellows Program, which offers students from Santa Clara University School of Law an opportunity to study here and develop their understanding of public policy.

The Leon E. Panetta Archive offers a resource for scholars interested in the workings of Congress, the White House, federal agencies and local government based on Mr. Panetta’s personal papers spanning nearly fifty years of public service.

In addition, the Institute coordinates the Monterey County Reads program, recruiting and training hundreds of reading volunteers in our surrounding communities to work with children in first through third grade.

In all its activities and programs, the Panetta Institute makes a special effort to recruit and include students of diverse racial, cultural and economic backgrounds. We actively encourage an atmosphere of free and open inquiry respectful of political differences, and we promulgate a code of conduct that condemns any form of discrimination or harassment based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law.

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Book Review by The Washington Post’s Foreign Policy Magazine

Post by solutions »

Originally posted by solutions » Sun Oct 05, 2014 4:35 pm
www.ForeignPolicy.com – 10/3/2014

Reading Liberally Editorial Note =

Foreign Policy is a magazine of global politics, economics and ideas that is published bimonthly in print and daily online by The Slate Group, a division of the Washington Post Company. The creation of The Slate Group was announced by Donald Graham, Chairman and CEO of The Washington Post Company, in a press release on June 4, 2008. Its stated mission is to develop and manage a family of web-only magazines.


Every Time She Thinks She's Out, They Pull Her Back In
Leon Panetta's new book is yanking Hillary Clinton into a debate she doesn't want to have: whether Obama lost Iraq.
By Gopal Ratnam

Hillary Clinton finds herself in an uncomfortable spotlight as two books coming out next week from former colleagues show her pressing President Barack Obama to keep troops in Iraq but being overruled, giving critics of the White House new fuel for their argument that the current crisis in Iraq is a result of Obama's refusal to heed the advice of his top national security officials.

The books, by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill, paint Obama's inner circle of advisers as feckless and distrustful of the military, but the excerpts that have trickled out ahead of the Oct. 7 publication of both works also highlight Clinton's opposition to the president's handling of the Iraq troop withdrawal, discussions over what the United States should give in order to free missing U.S. prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl, and whether to arm the moderate Syrian opposition.

Given Clinton's name recognition and her possible presidential bid, accounts of foreign-policy dissension within the Obama administration on Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan are likely to have resonance for some time to come. Indeed, the new books are likely to cause heartburn within both the White House and the tight circle of trusted aides advising Clinton as she considers a 2016 presidential run. White House National Security Council Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden did not respond to a request for comment.

For the administration, the new works are the latest to paint the president as overly reliant on a tight circle of senior White House staffers who routinely shunt aside powerful cabinet secretaries. As the Obama administration tries to move away from the past and come up with a strategy to deal with the threat posed by the Islamic State, books by former officials rekindle old debates, said Stephen Biddle, a foreign-policy analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Unflattering commentary is not regarded as helpful to any administration,” Biddle said. “But the bigger issue is the administration still is groping around for limited ways to respond to limited interests.”

Clinton's own book, Hard Choices, had assiduously avoided mention of internal battles within the Obama administration in order to focus on her accomplishments as America's top diplomat.

While Clinton has a chapter each in her book on Afghanistan, Gaza, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Russia, there is none on Iraq. In one significant mention of Iraq, Clinton is dismissive of the American war effort -- the one she voted for. On the dilemma of whether the United States should intervene in Syria, she writes: "Do nothing, and a humanitarian disaster envelops the region. Intervene militarily, and risk opening Pandora's box and wading into another quagmire, like Iraq." The new works could force her to now weigh in more directly on those fights.

Representatives for Clinton declined to comment.

Much of Panetta's book, Worthy Fights, is a memoir about his decades as a congressman, White House chief of staff, CIA director, and Pentagon head, but it's the sections about Iraq that are likely to garner the most attention inside and outside of Washington. In an excerpt published in Time, the former defense secretary writes that he and the Pentagon's top military leaders wanted to leave thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq, only to be overruled by Obama.

"I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq's military," Panetta writes. "But the president's team at the White House pushed back, and the differences occasionally became heated."

Representatives for Panetta did not respond to emails for comment.

The White House withdrew all U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 after being unable to strike a bilateral security agreement with Baghdad, a decision that critics say paved the way for the current violence and chaos rocking the country. Had American troops remained, critics say, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki might not have adopted the strident pro-Shiite policies that drove many angry Sunnis into an alliance with the Islamic State.

In the excerpt, Panetta writes that a small U.S. troop presence "could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda's resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country."

Panetta's book also echoes a central critique leveled by former Defense Secretary Bob Gates in his own book, Duty: that senior White House staffers routinely used their access to the president to shut out top cabinet officials, including ones as senior as himself and Clinton.

"Far more than in previous administrations that I'd witnessed -- certainly more than in Clinton's when I'd been near the center of the action -- President Obama's decision-making apparatus was centralized in the White House," he writes in an excerpt from a copy obtained by the Daily Beast.

Hill's memoir, Outpost -- an excerpt of which appeared in Politico -- looks at a different aspect of the White House's handling of Iraq: A startling lack of attention from the officials at the highest levels of the administration paints a picture of a State Department under Clinton that was disorganized and ineffectual.

The former ambassador recounts Clinton's first official trip to Iraq in 2009, going through a grueling day of meetings and ending with a campaign-style event complete with rope lines and amateur photographers armed with cellphones at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Hill writes that he bid farewell to Clinton after that trip "with the expectation she would be back soon." Except that she never returned, Hill writes. That's because Vice President Joe Biden took over the Iraq portfolio, he writes, and the focus drifted.

Hill goes on to describe how then-Undersecretary of State William Burns, a high-powered official who might have argued for a stronger American diplomatic role in Iraq, was asked to take on issues other than Iraq, leaving the State Department without a strong backer in Washington, D.C., in 2009 when the troop withdrawal debate was still underway.

The result was that "it was increasingly clear that Iraq remained the military's problem, not the State Department's," Hill writes. Allowing the Pentagon to take the upper hand meant Iraq became a "matter of keeping faith with our troops rather than seeing Iraq as a strategic issue," Hill writes.

As Panetta makes clear, the military didn't get its way on Iraq either. That, in part, reflects the power of the president's inner circle, who appeared capable of effectively overruling top cabinet members. Panetta, like Gates, aims his ire at former White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, then-counterterrorism advisor John Brennan, and then deputy national security advisor Denis McDonough.

"Most of my conflicts with the Obama administration during the first two years weren't over policy initiatives from the White House but rather the [National Security Staff's] micromanagement and operational meddling, which I routinely resisted," Gates wrote in his own work.

Panetta offers a grim assessment of the threat posed by the Islamic State, the militant group that now controls much of Syria and Iraq. The United States is attempting to cobble together an international coalition of Arab states and other countries to take the fight to the Islamic State, but Panetta's book raises serious questions about whether the White House is up to the task. What is clear from the work, though, is that the former defense chief sees the group as posing a direct threat to the United States.

"In my view, the ISIS offensive in 2014 greatly increases the risk that Iraq will become al-Qaeda's next safe haven," Panetta writes in Time. "That is exactly what it had in Afghanistan pre-9/11. After all we have done to decimate al-Qaeda's senior leadership and its core, those efforts will be for naught if we allow it to rebuild a base of operations in the Middle East."

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NY Times Book Review by Dr. Leslie Gelb

Post by solutions »

Originally posted by solutions » Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:23 am
NY Times – 10/21/2014

Leon Panetta’s ‘Worthy Fights’
By Dr. Leslie H. Gelb

Reading Liberally Editorial Notes --

Dr. Leslie Gelb crowned his 20-year Pulitzer-Prize winning career as the NY Times' OpEd-Page Editor and Foreign-Relations OpEd Columnist and, earlier, as their national-security correspondent -- by becoming President of the Council on Foreign Relations (1993-2003) which, inter alia, publishes Foreign Affairs, America’s premier foreign-policy magazine. [He continues to serve the Council as President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow.] After earning his PhD from Harvard U in 1964, he had also served as a senior official at the State and Defense Departments and at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Gelb is an opera aficionado, frequently attending the Metropolitan Opera where his son, Peter Gelb, is Major-Domo.

Dr. Gelb’s most recent book (Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy -- Harper 2009) was the focus of our 2/8/2012 meeting on the topic of “Real Politik (aka National Interest) and America’s Looming Attack on Iran.”

On Face the Nation on 1/8/2012, the Obama Administration in the person of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta proclaimed that Iran’s developing a nuclear weapon was a “red line” and (after his co-interviewee, U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, confirmed military planning for a strike against Iran HAD INCLUDED POSITIONING OF MILITARY ASSETS) Leon Panetta stated -- “I think they [Iran] need to know that if they take that step [develop a nuclear weapon], that they’re going to get stopped.” The 1/8/2012 Face the Nation transcript is posted in the Reference Materials section of http://www.ReadingLiberally-SaltLake.org for our 2/8/2012 meeting.

As of 1/8/2012, the media was full of stories about how the American aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln was racing across the Indian Ocean to join in the Persian Gulf the carrier Carl Vinson which had recently replaced the carrier John Stennis. One carrier in the P.G. is fairly routine while two in the P.G. had only happened during Gulf Wars I and II.

The topic proposal for our 2/8/2012 meeting had noted that as we had studied many times in the past, Egypt, Turkey and The Gulf State Six (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman) had each announced plans to go nuclear immediately after Iran acquires nuclear weapons because, like Charles de Gaulle who pulled France out of NATO and developed French nukes, they have no faith in the so-called American “nuclear umbrella.” And as we had studied many times in the past, 27.7% of worldwide oil production comes from the Middle East and another 20.2% originates “down wind” from the Middle East. Which is why the Middle East has always been viewed as a vital American “national interest.” Particularly since virtually all of the world’s agricultural fertilizers come from petrochemicals and a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East would immediately render unsustainable 50% of the world’s 7 billion population.


Most readers will think they know Leon Panetta’s memoir, “Worthy Fights,” through his recent slash-and-burn interviews, damning President Obama for his lack of toughness in Iraq and Syria and for doing little to check the rise of Islamic terrorism there. But those who actually read his inside account of almost half a century in Washington politics will get a shock: He devotes a mere dozen or so of his nearly 500 pages to criticism of these Mideast catastrophes.

The scorching interviews are out of character for Panetta. He has been a careful, loyal colleague who gets things done, and his book reveals the very able and honest man who seemingly would never turn on his own.

So why did Panetta give those interviews? It’s not like him to purposefully cripple a president of his own party whom he basically likes. Nor has he criticized the White House in order to get it to alter its Mideast policies. Indeed, he says Obama is currently improving those policies. His interviews must somehow be connected to how he now wants his story to be read.

Panetta has had a banner career — and precious little public recognition for it. I can’t think of a single Democrat and only a handful of Republicans who have held as many blue ribbon positions in both Congress and the executive branch as he has. And he can claim substantial accomplishments: saving the food stamp program, masterminding the plan to kill Osama bin Laden, helping lead an effective war on terrorism, managing vast cuts in Pentagon spending without political and bureaucratic turmoil. But since this memoir contains not a single news bombshell, not one deliciously nasty word on a colleague and nary a chapter on how Panetta saved the world, only the pages on Syria and Iraq could attract attention. One senses that Panetta realized this after the initial reviews, and so in his interviews those pages have become the book.

But they are not the book. Young people searching for the role model of a public servant will find few as good as Panetta, and if they are willing to forgive the lack of uplifting prose, they will discover in “Worthy Fights” a plausible path to power and achievement.

Panetta climbed the Washington ladder as a strong Democrat who instinctively tried to accommodate most non-insane points of view. He was sound, smart, fair and tough when necessary, qualities that were rewarded with the chairmanship of the powerful House Budget Committee and, later in the executive branch, such key posts as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, White House chief of staff, director of the C.I.A. and defense secretary. Presidents and colleagues chose him time and again for difficult jobs because they knew they could trust him.

In a way, this son of poor Italian immigrants is the 21st-century embodiment of the 20th-century establishment type (a species now practically extinct). Like them, Panetta did not seek the spotlight. Like them, he skirted ideological gamesmanship. His technique was to encircle friends and foes with their common interests. Take, for example, his marvelously modest account of his role in saving the food stamps bill in the late 1980s. The votes weren’t there to feed the poor, but Panetta had enough backers to endanger the politically precious farm bill. Panetta combined the two bills, binding city Democrats and rural Republicans.

Panetta and I entered the Washington arena together in 1966. He worked for the California senator Thomas Kuchel, and I for Senator Jacob Javits of New York, both moderate Republicans. Panetta made his way into the Nixon administration, but was pushed out for his integrationist positions on civil rights. He returned to his beloved California, changed parties and ran successfully for the House of Representatives. We became friendly, not friends, and remain so (at least until he reads this review).

Panetta’s background was mainly in domestic and budget affairs until President Obama tapped him to head the C.I.A. He had the C.I.A. mentality. He tells the story of ordering the killing of a terrorist at an opportune moment even though it also meant the death of the man’s innocent wife. Notably, he puts this account in the book’s prologue so the reader can’t miss it.

Panetta set about arranging the assassination of Qaeda leaders without hesitation. He oversaw the launching of lethal drones at the American terrorists Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn. He viewed himself simply as the cop on the beat. He writes that on such occasions his deep Catholic beliefs and upbringing caused him great pain, but obviously not paralysis.

Some of his judgments when he was secretary of defense are frightfully thin. In 2011, he told American troops that Iraq would “bounce back” after the United States withdrew because “this damn country has a hell of a lot of resources.” Oil wealth did not preserve Iraqi unity; it only exacerbated hostility among the warring groups. And how does this “bounce back” remark square with his recent attack on Obama’s decision to leave Iraq? Later, he advocated for air intervention in Libya to oust Muammar Qaddafi, even though those attacks have produced chaos.

As for Panetta’s unhappiness at Obama’s failure to keep troops much longer in Iraq, questions abound. Would Iraq’s leaders have caved if Washington had put more pressure on them to allow Americans to stay? That’s not clear. Would Iraqi forces miraculously have fought the ISIS jihadis had they been supported by a few thousand Americans? The overwhelming fact is that they shed their weapons and fled. It’s hard to blame that on the absence of the United States.

On the failure of Obama’s policy in Syria, Panetta is dead right. The president’s unwillingness to act damaged his credibility. Still, Panetta knows better than most that the rebels he wanted to arm hardly constituted a genuine fighting force. In his book, he criticizes Obama’s decision to seek congressional authorization to attack Bashar al-Assad, claiming that the delay was purposefully designed “to scotch any action.” But in an interview last month, he suggested that the president should seek congressional approval to fight ISIS. That is, Panetta apparently thinks the White House is engaging in shocking illegality when it bombs jihadis, but he was all in favor of the executive branch deciding on its own to commit an act of war against a sovereign state. You can’t have it both ways. And don’t forget that none of the critics who have recently outed themselves — Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates or Panetta — felt strongly enough to bang on the table while in office or threaten to resign.

Panetta devotes considerably more attention to Afghanistan, where he was mostly on board with the White House and was one of its more sophisticated strategists. As the director of the C.I.A., he was angry with the Pentagon for its political gamesmanship in pushing for a big troop surge that seemed to put the war before the war aims. Indeed, he went further than most to argue that America’s problem was not with the Taliban per se, but with their harboring Al Qaeda. Panetta praises Obama for tacitly accepting this view, when the president announced that the American mission would be to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” Al Qaeda, not the Taliban.

Despite the media frenzy about his recent interviews, Panetta is generally positive about Obama, though negative about his inner team. While he shares the popular assessment of the president’s thoughtfulness and intelligence, Panetta also reinforces the common criticisms that Obama runs an overly centralized operation and is reluctant to fight political battles on behalf of his initiatives. He concludes: “Too often, in my view, the president relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.”

The Washington memoir is usually a mélange of stick figures, false praise, avoidance of tough issues and banal style, and “Worthy Fights” fits the mold. But if it lacks value as a historical document or literary treasure, it can certainly serve as a playbook for how to behave with integrity in a city with limited virtue.

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