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
Gates certain possessed the experience and similar path as George HW Bush. He ran a War department not a defense department. Very intelligent person and America should be proud to have him as a leader during a very dangerous time. The story is in depth and contains the minutiae needed to make sense
I met him several times while serving on the Joint Staff when he became Secretary. I was impressed at how he treated us (compared to his predecessor) and his insightful questions at what was an initial discussion of a contentious issue. I enjoyed the follow up sessions on the topic and his narrative reflects that same great attitude across national security issues. Highly recommended for anyone in or out of government service.
Duty is important for three reasons. First it presents a very reliable perspective on how things really work in Washington, DC from the point of view of a very senior cabinet secretary. Gates understands the federal bureaucracy, the way Congress operates, and, most importantly, the way Presidents engage with issues. Short answer: the bureaucracy tries to do its best and often fails, Congress is made up of too many grandstanding blowhards, and you can't trust Presidents to do what they promise because of the great number of pressures on them.
Second, he compares the styles of our two most recent Presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama with insights gained from having worked with several previous Presidents. I don't worry about his apparent preference for the former, but rather Gates applies his excellent analytical insights to the comparison and concludes that Bush's more down to earth approach permitted a more functional Executive Office than Obama's greater detachment. Gates really doesn't like the way Obama's senior staff tried to micromanage in the absence of hands-on Presidential involvement.
Third, the reader gets a very smart man's observations on the major international conflicts of the beginning of the 21st century. Historians will find his stories to contain valuable nuggets of information that help explain why the US did what it did, and often why the US failed to do what it tried or ignored. For those who are attentive to the day-to-day headlines coming out of Washington, Baghdad and Kabul, the book is full of "Oh, that's why that happened" moments.
You don't have to agree with Gates's positions on the issues to benefit substantially from reading this well-written, well-produced audio book.
Should the authors personality be discernable in his memoirs? One would think so. This book offers no insight whatsoever into Secretary Gates' thinking during one of our nation's most damaging foreign policy debacles. This book is robotic, bland and frustratingly boring.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
Bob Gates' memoire about his life as the SecDef provides amazingly detailed insight into the behind-the-scenes inner-workings of DC politics on both sides of the aisle. His unique perspective of having worked for Presidential administrations of both parties really captures the nature of America's divided house. From the honest appraisals of American leaders and their attempts to influence how the military is used, to the heartwarming stories of a Secretary and his soldiers, this book keeps the reader engaged and wanting to hear more. As the end drew near, I felt myself hoping that Gates would have stayed the SecDef longer--for the sake of both the Commander-in-Chief and the troops under them. However, the demands of the job that he eloquently laid out without complaint, but in a matter-of-fact style, are understandably difficult for anyone and their family to endure for an extended length of time. Having served in the military under Secretary Gates (and under 4 others prior to his appointment), I can say that most troops really don't see any difference in the people who sit in that chair. However, seeing him engaged with the troops regularly demonstrated that he truly cared for the well-being of those under his charge as well as being willing to do what was necessary to fulfill the orders of our CinC.
This book was interesting, engaging, and detailed in its portrayal of the SecDef's life. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in DC politics, military leadership, or the inspiring stories of those who serve their country when asked.
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