In congressional testimony yesterday, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates . . . [was] asked if there would be any American “boots on the ground” in Libya, [and] swiftly replied: “Not as long as I’m in this job.” In other words, Gates would resign rather than carry out the president’s orders to send U.S. military advisors to provide arms and training to the rebels.
Gates is free to give the president any advice he likes. If he does not like the president’s decisions, he is free to tell him—privately—that he will resign. But he is not free to publicly rule out options that the president has said he is not ruling out. That is insubordination.