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.
Gates was U.S. secretary of defense from 2006-2011, serving in the cabinets of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama two presidents who had little else in common. Gates's confirmation was a repudiation of his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, and his initial mission was to reverse a looming defeat in Iraq. As Gates, in this richly textured memoir, tells it, the Department of Defense had "alienated just about everyone in town" and the new secretary "had a lot of fences to mend." This involved overcoming resistance to maintaining the military's "nontraditional capabilities" developed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile his efforts on behalf of Gen. David Petraeus and the Iraqi surge only exposed other intractable regional flash points. Gates "did not enjoy being secretary of defense," and his focus shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan, where "the foreign-policy team was splintering"; an agitated Israel; and an ever-difficult Iran. He also faced hot-button domestic issues like Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Gates frequently presents himself as the only adult in the room, but given his accounts of administration "micromanagement and operational meddling," a Congress that "up close... is truly ugly," frequent insider leaks, and a government suffering "paralytic polarization," his call for restoring "civility and mutual respect" is a cry from the heart.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A great book
Interesting, well worth reading. Talks about the successes and failures as Secretary of Defense. Gives a great insight on the challenges of running a large organization.
A Very Personal Memoir
An engaging, well written narrative. The descriptions of personal interactions with all the components and personalities on the national and geo-political stage of the time are clear, detailed and educational. One of the two best books I have read by figure of the author’s stature.
A great insight into the inner workings of the Secretary of Defense and the President's office (both Bush and Obama) and all the international dealings.