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Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War Audiobook

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War

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Publisher's Summary

From the former secretary of defense, a strikingly candid, vivid account of serving Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When Robert M. Gates received a call from the White House, he thought he'd long left Washington politics behind: After working for six presidents in both the CIA and the National Security Council, he was happily serving as president of Texas A&M University. But when he was asked to help a nation mired in two wars and to aid the troops doing the fighting, he answered what he felt was the call of duty.

©2014 Robert M. Gates (P)2014 Random House Audio

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  •  
    Amazon Customer 05-15-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Service"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would and I have - I think Bob did what he thought was best for his country in his service to it. That's why I'd recommend this book. I think he does a good job explaining why his decision making process and displays a realpolitik that's admirable.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War?

    I'd have to say it was Bob's thoughts on Putin. Spot on don't you think?


    Which character – as performed by George Newbern and Robert M. Gates – was your favorite?

    Bob himself at the beginning has a nasally voice that really surprised me


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Oddly...I did


    Any additional comments?

    Worth listening to

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jimmy Powell, OH, United States 04-28-14
    Jimmy Powell, OH, United States 04-28-14 Member Since 2014

    I am a young-executive with a voracious appetite for great stories. I read and listen constantly, and am very proud of my book collection.

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    "Excellent, Entertaining, & Insightful:"

    This fly on the wall perspective of the career of Robert M. Gates is excellent in its presentation and important in the honest analysis of the current state of affairs of the United States military. This book is guaranteed to open your eyes to many misconceptions about the office of the Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates, and the status of the United States in the world.

    Anyone who doubts the quality and commitment of America's leaders need only read this book. My biggest regret is that Mr. Gates has left the post!

    This is not a political review! This is a review of a man who sincerely loves his county!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Enzel Chevy Chase, MD USA 02-06-14
    David Enzel Chevy Chase, MD USA 02-06-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Parts Were Interesting But Longer Than Needed"
    What did you like best about Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War? What did you like least?

    I liked Secretary Gates's description of internal deliberations with the Bush and Obama Administrations. However, he was very reserved about his assessments of the various Generals and Admirals with whom he worked. It sounded scripted. He is candid about his assessments of Harry Ried and Joe Biden. There wasn't much on overall US military strategy worldwide. I appreciate that Secretary Gates cares about US troops but he didn't need to say it thirty or more times.


    If you’ve listened to books by Robert M. Gates before, how does this one compare?

    This is my first book by Robert Gates.


    What does George Newbern and Robert M. Gates bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The narration was very good but a little stilted. The interview between the producer and Gates really sounded scripted. The questions posed were easy ones. I did not get much from that interview that wasn't in the book.


    Could you see Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    I don't think this would be a good movie or TV series. It is a personal memoir.


    Any additional comments?

    I am glad I listened to it but wish Gates had edited his work more. I was also glad when it was over.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JustBill 02-05-14
    JustBill 02-05-14
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    "Foot Soldeirs Beware"
    What made the experience of listening to Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War the most enjoyable?

    It reinforced my feelings over political appointees being dangerous to the men and women that are professionals of the highest order giving up their life's, all because "Gates" knew better than the officers of our Armed Forces.


    What was most disappointing about Robert M. Gates’s story?

    He has served tis country honorable, so I will not question that fact, but he continually fluffed himself up. He handed out tax dollars to thugs posing as they were part of the collateral crowd. Dick Marcenko, the man that basically formed Seal Team Six spent money to get needed equipment for his men in the 70s, did jail time for that, and who go's to jail for walking around with millions of dollars passivizing the civilians.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    It moved me, but the move was that Gates was disingenuous when it came to his take on the grunt on the ground. When he repeatedly reinforced his feelings that Generals needed fired, I wondered out loud, what gave him the impression he knew more than those Generals?


    Any additional comments?

    One day, we will enter a war in which the actual professionals (Military) will run the war and set the rules of engagement. This book over and over, shows the cost of politicians interfering with the art of war. Gates surely is smart, but he always has been someone that needed stroked
    He was over concerned over collateral damage, thus making our pilots and the grunts to take unneeded risks to hold collateral to the minimum. The piece in the book where we made payments to so called civilians, for collateral damage made me ill, and especially so, wit no investigations involved.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rick Murrieta, CA, United States 01-30-14
    Rick Murrieta, CA, United States 01-30-14 Member Since 2015

    Rick H.

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    "Some Bravado, and Some…Jose Conseco?"

    Yep! I said it! At least that’s sort of how I read it. A parallel between a baseball player in the steroid era and the US Secretary of Defense? Let me explain.

    Don’t get me wrong, this was an excellent book! From cover to cover, the book had my ear, and will enlighten the reader on what really happens behind closed doors of the White House, Pentagon, and The Central Intelligence Agency. When “Juiced”, written by Jose’ Conseco came out reviewers ripped the content and cried foul on Conseco for telling a tale that certainly couldn’t be true. And he was chastised for spilling the dirt and telling his side of what was going on in the Major Leagues when he was playing. He was cast out as a liar and then…It all seemed to be true!

    Not to say that Gates rips into the US Government and tells nasty detailed stories of the Presidents he served under and the cabinets he worked with, but he does state his side of 30+ years serving our Government and I’ve heard and read a few comments and reviews about his views in the book by the media asking “Why would he say such a thing about Hillary Clinton?”, or “Why does he paint Obama or Biden in such a dim light?" The fact of the matter is these people see what you and I don’t and this book does an excellent job in conveying that reality. Do yourself a favor and watch the documentary “The Fog of War” highlighting the service of McCarthy before, during, and following the Cuban Missile crisis, and the Vietnam Conflict. McCarthy was called a war monger and yet, he makes it clear in that film that “You didn’t know what I knew!” I assume the same for “Duty”

    Gates gives a clear account of how he came to the office he served and the events that shaped both his legacy and those of Bush and Obama. He dishes on what his opinions of our military leaders and he doesn’t hold back on comments made by other key political figures. He gives his account of what happened and what the media actually reports. And he provides insight into his long, long days serving our military and the decisions, back-lashes, leaks and outcomes of many of the events from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that (may have) been portrayed differently in newsprint.

    There was also plenty of pomp and bravado though sincere to a degree. After all, they are his thoughts and his ever-stated commitment to US troops does seem at times to be re-iterated as an agenda rather than genuine. Maybe not. This book is justifiably a topic of discussion at political roundtables and well worth the 25+ hours it will take to listen and confirm.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jay KATY, TX, United States 01-22-14
    Jay KATY, TX, United States 01-22-14
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    "A Bipartisan Insight"
    What made the experience of listening to Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War the most enjoyable?

    The intimate detail of the shared stories is very enjoyable.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War?

    The details and timeline on capturing Osama Bin Laden.


    Have you listened to any of George Newbern and Robert M. Gates ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    N/A


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There was many moments when Robert M. Gates discusses interacting with injured troops and how he felt responsible.


    Any additional comments?

    I enjoyed the audible book so much that I went out of my way to stand in line to purchase a hard copy at a signing by Robert M. Gates.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J.B. Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States 01-29-14
    J.B. Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States 01-29-14 Member Since 2009

    Reading, the arts and physical activity clarify, explain, illustrate, and interpret life’s goods and bads.

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    "Power; Catch As Catch Can"
    If you could sum up Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War in three words, what would they be?

    Serendipity, authority and fidelity


    What other book might you compare Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War to and why?

    Some 50 years ago, the New York Times Book Review wrote about Catch-22; "all that we have taken for granted in our world and should not, the madness we try not to bother and notice." By this I mean to warn that all the power of the Amreican presidency seems to be in the hands of eight people, and they have no special talent, just that they find themselves at the epicenter of the policitcal universe. They have nothing too special but they do have power. It is comforting that one, who seems to be as dedicated to virtue and the American Way as Gates found his way there. It is disturbing that most others do not seem to flex their opportunity with the same dexterity as Secretary Gates - at least to hear it from Gates. After reading Duty, though, I tent to think he is as good as he professes.


    Have you listened to any of George Newbern and Robert M. Gates ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is my first and may not be my last.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Catch As Catch Can


    Any additional comments?

    If Political Science thrills the ever loving daylights out of you; this is a must read - but even then it is a long trudge. I like political science, and so I enjoyed the read. In fact, I enjoyed myself quite nicely.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Martin Rockville, MD USA 02-01-14
    D. Martin Rockville, MD USA 02-01-14 Member Since 2016
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    "A distinct air of falseness"

    In both the professional reviews and the user reviews here, everyone seems to be impressed by Gates' candor and even-handedness. If I agreed, I wouldn't bother cluttering the site with another me too review, but I don't. To be sure, Gates takes us behind closed doors, both of the Pentagon and the White House, and is open about those he disliked, most often members of Congress. But in Gates's telling, very serious people are always very serious, and most leaders (especially himself) just love the troops and always find visiting wounded soldiers the most heartwarming of experiences. I kept thinking of the anecdote in Leibovitch's This Town in which Richard Holbrooke told Obama that he faced a momentous decision comparable to Johnson's over Vietnam, to which the president apparently responded "do people really talk like that?" In Gates' Washington, they do.

    It's not that I didn't enjoy the book, or that I don't recommend it. I enjoyed listening to it, and found myself eagerly turning it on whenever I had downtime, which is really my standard for a good audiobook. More than anything else, it takes you back to a strange period of our recent history, when whether or not to support "the surge" was the biggest political question of the day. Additionally, Gates offers up a unique vantage point on a number of issues beyond the central themes of the Iraq and Afghan wars and internal reform at the Pentagon, from the repeal of DADT to negotiating missile defense with Russia. I do think at times the book felt repetitious, and I would have preferred it have been shorter. A note on the narration: it's slow. I recommend listening at 1.5X speed.


    What follows is less a review and more a response to the book:

    Ultimately, I found myself generally liking Gates, but still disagreeing with him and somewhat disapproving of his style of leadership. It seems to me that he does not present well and then dismisses the arguments of those he disagrees with. A small example first: on supplying mine resistant vehicles to troops in Iraq, he basically attributes the resistance at the Pentagon to a fear that money spent on MRAPs would mean less available for other expensive procurement programs. I don't doubt that this was a factor, and ultimately I think Gates was largely correct about the value of MRAPs, but there are many strong arguments that the enormous investment in them was a boondoggle with a little payoff and that the process was mismanaged. But if there's one group of critics that Gates seems to enjoy dismissing altogether, it's members of Congress, especially democrats. Again, I don't entirely disagree with him that many congressmen played politics with war funding bills, but it also seemed to me that when these congressmen grandstanded over being lied to by the Bush administration and even military leaders, they had a lot to point to. Obviously there was the WMD claim of 2003 (a topic Gates glosses over early in the book, saying he too, as an ex-head of the CIA, believed what he'd read in the newspaper), but beyond that there was the constant refrain that yes we were winning and no the administration had not underestimated the troop requirements, right up to the start of the surge.

    If there's one thing Gates seems to hold dear (besides the troops, who he cares about more than anything, has he mentioned that recently?) it's being a team player and never ever leaking anything--leakers are a pestilence, and generals and admirals who publicly disagree with administration strategy are almost as bad. In differentiating himself from his predecessor, Rumsfeld, Gates makes clear that he welcomes vigorous debate before a decision, but that after a decision is made, he expects that subordinates either publicly support it fully or quit. I agree this can be appropriate on some matters (at its best, the view is Lincolnesque), but applied too broadly it seems to me to justify the very behavior by congressmen (using hearings to score political points rather than to honestly gather information) that Gates abhors. It also encourages the insular group think that led us into war in the first place. I got the sense from that book that Gates' big advantage over other Bushies was that he was just plain smarter, and was more often right for that reason. But in many ways he was no more open to opposing views than was Cheney.

    The view that Gates most often misrepresents and dismisses in the book was the case for early withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Surely, he keeps arguing, nothing could be worse for US security than losing the war(s). Maybe the Iraq War itself was a mistake, but the worst thing now would be leaving without finishing the job. This was classic late-Bush administration justification. But the argument of those favoring a preemptive withdrawal--and let me be clear, I wasn't one of them; I strongly opposed the war at the outset, but was guardedly in favor of the surge, although I'm still not sure whether I was right on the latter point, while I absolutely was on the former--was not that it would be better to let Iraq fail than to spend the blood and treasure to save it. It was (of course I'm simplifying here, there were many people with many related reasons) that Iraq was already lost, and however long we stayed we were just delaying the inevitable slide into chaos that would happen after our departure. As this book comes out in 2014 and we get word of the fall of Fallujah, this argument is again looking prescient. And honestly, having read Duty, I'm not entirely sure whether Gates disagrees with it or never really understood it.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gregg Smyrna, GA, United States 01-21-14
    Gregg Smyrna, GA, United States 01-21-14 Member Since 2013

    Nearly 1200 titles.

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    "Interesting perspective with good detail"

    Good book given more character because it is read by the author. Gates passion comes through not just in the words but in the pitch, tone and speed with which he reads certain passages. I'm not always a fan of authors reading their own works, but this one works. Well done.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris D. 07-27-16
    Chris D. 07-27-16

    General Ludd

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    "Honest, forthright, a little self-congratulatory"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I would not wish to second guess someone else's memoir. He wrote what he remembered and how he felt about his service. He was at times a bit self-congratulatory, but also good at self-effacement.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Robert M. Gates? Why or why not?

    I doubt I'd read another book by him, but I'm intrigued by a man who could so effectively serve two administrations from different parties during a very tense and dysfunctional time in U. S. government.


    Did Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War inspire you to do anything?

    I think Secretary Gates's memoir is a helpful read for anyone who wants to see how a statesman looks in action. Citizens of all perspectives could gain some perspective from listening to this book.


    Any additional comments?

    While I disagree with a number of key policy perspectives and the role of the military in a Democratic Republic, I admire Secretary Gates and the work he did as Secretary of Defense.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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