Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War

May 4, 2014 - Comment

From the former secretary of defense, a strikingly candid, vividly written account of his experience serving Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before Robert M. Gates received a call from the White House in 2006, he thought he’d left Washington politics behind: after working for six presidents

Buy Now! $3.46Amazon.com Price
(as of November 19, 2017 7:34 pm CST - Details)

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

Before Robert M. Gates received a call from the White House in 2006, he thought he’d left Washington politics behind: after working for six presidents in both the CIA and the National Security Council, he was happy in his role 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. Now, in this unsparing memoir, meticulously fair in its assessments, he takes us behind the scenes of his nearly five years as a secretary at war: the battles with Congress, the two presidents he served, the military itself, and the vast Pentagon bureaucracy; his efforts to help Bush turn the tide in Iraq; his role as a guiding, and often dissenting, voice for Obama; the ardent devotion to and love for American soldiers—his “heroes”—he developed on the job.

In relating his personal journey as secretary, Gates draws us into the innermost sanctums of government and military power during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, illuminating iconic figures, vital negotiations, and critical situations in revealing, intimate detail. Offering unvarnished appraisals of Dick Cheney, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Presidents Bush and Obama among other key players, Gates exposes the full spectrum of behind-closed-doors politicking within both the Bush and Obama administrations.

He discusses the great controversies of his tenure—surges in both Iraq and Afghanistan,  how to deal with Iran and Syria, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” Guantánamo Bay, WikiLeaks—as they played out behind the television cameras. He brings to life the Situation Room during the Bin Laden raid. And, searingly, he shows how congressional debate and action or inaction on everything from equipment budgeting to troop withdrawals was often motivated, to his increasing despair and anger, more by party politics and media impact than by members’ desires to protect our soldiers and ensure their success.

However embroiled he became in the trials of Washington, Gates makes clear that his heart was always in the most important theater of his tenure as secretary: the front lines. We journey with him to both war zones as he meets with active-duty troops and their commanders, awed by their courage, and also witness him greet coffin after flag-draped coffin returned to U.S. soil, heartbreakingly aware that he signed every deployment order. In frank and poignant vignettes, Gates conveys the human cost of war, and his admiration for those brave enough to undertake it when necessary.
Duty tells a powerful and deeply personal story that allows us an unprecedented look at two administrations and the wars that have defined them.

Product Features

  • Autographed First Edition

Comments

Writing Historian "Mark R." says:

A Review of “Duty” by Robert M. Gates One paragraph from Gates is worth highlighting to encapsulate the book’s overall theme – “I did not enjoy being secretary of defense. As soldiers would put it, I had too many rocks in my rucksack: foreign wars, war with Congress, war with my own department, one crisis after another. Above all, I had to send young men and women in harm’s way.” That quote frames what I believe to be the cathartic reasons that Gates wrote this book. I do not believe that he wrote this book for political reasons. The first two chapters chronicle those events which I feel set the tone for the rest of the memoir, namely, Gates’ uncomfortable introduction to Washington politics in the midst of an unpopular conflict, having replaced an unpopular SecDef, as the Democratic Party in both houses flexes its newly gained clout. A significant portion of the third chapter is devoted to Iraq. It is also where Gates discusses his observations and opinions of prominent members of the Bush…

Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" says:

Always Fighting for the Troops Robert Gates has a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history and has worked under eight presidents. Gates served for 26 years in in the CIA and NSC, and under Bush I became Director of Central Intelligence. After leaving the CIA he became president of Texas A&M University, leaving there to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Author Gates then spent four and a half years as Secretary of Defense under both Presidents Bush and Obama. His memoir, ‘Duty,’ details decision making in both those administrations. While Gates didn’t keep a diary himself, he was able to draw upon 40 books of notes by Geoff Morrell, former ABC White House correspondent who was Pentagon press secretary at the time.What’s surprising about Gates’ book is that, after a lifetime of keeping personal opinions to himself, he’s so candid now. Obama is described as ‘the most deliberative president I worked for,’ and ‘refreshing and reassuring’ in his structured approach to decision-making, while Bush…

Citizen John says:

Contemporary lessons on politics and war This book makes a splash in many ways yet it has some flaws. I purchased Kindle and Audible versions for simultaneous reading/listening. Consider this 63-page book for a high-level summary of the chapters: Strengths* Gates shows impatience with domestic politics during war. I could feel the passion.* Gates evidences personal change through visiting severely wounded troops and learning about the sacrifices of their families.* Tons of photos, at least in Kindle version.* Solid narration. George Newbern performed audio version. At opportune times was mystery storyteller, creating tension and suspense.* The section “Waging War on the Pentagon” marks shift of America’s war effort to one of urgency and ruthlessness, and might elevate the book’s status in the genre of military history.*…

Comments are disabled for this post.