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Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

82 out of 89 people found this review helpful.

Having actually red the book and NOT the hype of the reviews, I

Having actually red the book and NOT the hype of the reviews, I can honestly say that this is a good read.

I cannot however, figure out why anyone of either political party affiliation can walk away from this book thinking "their" guy was a hero. 

Secretary ...
Having actually red the book and NOT the hype of the reviews, I can honestly say that this is a good read.

I cannot however, figure out why anyone of either political party affiliation can walk away from this book thinking "their" guy was a hero. 

Secretary Gates is candid in his descriptions of the culture and attitudes of BOTH White House Administrations. He never truly bashes either and is forthright in his descriptions. A great book by a great American be he pro Bush or pro Obama. I would like to say for the record, that I clicked here to see reviews of the the WORK not to read comments of a political nature.

posted by BNA1 on January 14, 2014

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Most Helpful Critical Review

15 out of 196 people found this review helpful.

I love how the Bush-adoring morons love to call the current admi

I love how the Bush-adoring morons love to call the current administration unconstitutional. I'd love to read how Gates helped the Bush junta drive the United States into unilateral war after unilateral war,. Perhaps he can help delusional right-wing fools find Iraq's W...
I love how the Bush-adoring morons love to call the current administration unconstitutional. I'd love to read how Gates helped the Bush junta drive the United States into unilateral war after unilateral war,. Perhaps he can help delusional right-wing fools find Iraq's WMD cache that supposedly was visible from space. Or maybe the chemical weapons. 
Of course, nobody on the right will ever be able to retrace the billions of dollars that somehow made it back to Crawford, Texas and Saudi Arabia as a result.
Ghostwritten by Prince Bandhar, this book will help chowderheaded righties finish revising history with their own psychopathic version of history just in time to try to elect another warmongering joke of a president. A tip to the writer: Use crayon and Big Chief tablet if you want to cater to the hard-core republican audience better.

posted by 18589340 on January 14, 2014

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  • Posted February 14, 2014

    Interesting, but scary, see the inside workings of the White House

    A good read but a little slow at times. It was interesting, but scary, see the inside workings of the White House. The Obama White House’s distrust of the military is disappointing but not unexpected. The Gordian Knot is Congress and their pet projects. Money being spent on waste, while the basic needs of the solder and sailor is pushed aside or worst cut to show “political resolve”. There needs to be a way to for the military to rejected projects that they feel are not needed.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2014

    The only Secretary of Defense and one of few cabinet members to

    The only Secretary of Defense and one of few cabinet members to have served two successive U.S. presidents (Bush'43 and Obama) of different parties, Robert M. Gates was Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011. His memoirs Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War could have been title "I hated my job, but somebody had to do it." Gates takes over 600 pages making sure the reader knows that.
    This is a book more about personalities and feelings rather than facts. Gates was appointed by Bush'43 to replace Donald Rumsfeld and to get the U.S. honorably extricated from one "bad" war, Iraq, while simultaneously stemming the downward spiral of the other "good" war, Afghanistan. The author makes the point several times that, in his opinion, both wars need no justification, and, hence, presumably no explanation. The "war" for Gates was in Washington D.C., not the Middle East.
    The first half of Duty describes his interactions with the Bush'43 administration, Congress, and the Pentagon brass over strategy. His vision of D.C. intransigence, stupidity, self interest and greed is disturbing. Gates makes sure that you see him as a brave knight firmly on the side of the troops in the field battling the forces of evil D.C. politicians. Noble indeed, but could anyone really in these times really get away with any other position. Well, maybe Don Rumsfeld?
    While painting himself convincingly as a compassionate leader and highly competent manager, Gates nevertheless repeatedly hints throughout Duty that he, perhaps, protests too much in claiming to hate his job. He repeatedly uses "fire" and "fired" with somewhat too much relish to describe civilian and military re-assignments.
    As noted, there is very little "meat" in this book, except for several "juicy" commentary on D.C. notables. Therefore, one tends to focus on the few substantive facts that Gates does present with greater scrutiny. An example provides some insight into Gate's particular worldview. Having carefully documented his management credentials, Gates at one point makes the following observation with respect to the Defense budget:
    With defense spending at 15 percent of all federal expenditures (it had been over 50 percent when Eisenhower made his speech about the military-industrial complex), the lowest percentage since WW II, I was convinced that the defense budget was a very modest part of the nation's fiscal problems. (page 560)

    Given Gates' management skills such a statement can only be viewed as somewhat disingenuous. The author knows full-well the absolute magnitude of the Defense budget has in fact increased somewhat steadily since WW II. The reason that the proportion of Defense spending has declined from the highs of the post-WW II era is that the rest of the federal budget has increased even faster than the Defense budget. Two now-enormous budget items - Social Security and Medicare - have grown to dominate the Federal budget post mid-1960s - there just wasn't much other Federal spending in the 1950s to compete with the defense budget. As a proportion of the GDP, the Defense budget has increased more than twice since 1950. It may still be a "...modest part of the nation's fiscal problems", but it is not a negligible part.
    If you are interested in the personalities of government decision makers, this is a book for you. If you want to understand why certain decisions were made during this period, read someone else's memoirs.
    Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson University

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2014

    I had a hard time reading the entire book at one sitting. Had t

    I had a hard time reading the entire book at one sitting. Had to put it down and read something else for awhile. Why? The detail, in fighting, posturing and politics is just too much even though it is what occurs in DC. I understand why Gates goes into so much detail but it does get tedious after awhile.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    no insights - just ok

    a lot of justification for decisions made. not much new.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    Readable, but not for everyone

    My perspective comes from 23+years as a Marine, enlisted and officer, who spent far too many years in the D.C. circus. The book is well written, does not contain any bombshells that have not appeared elsewhere, and may be of interest to those who also have spent too many years in the D.C. circus. Best seller? Probably not best read as there will be many who put it on the shelf before the last page is read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2014

    A lot of interesting details, but too much self-praise

    Bob Gates is not a great writer, but he's good enough to have shortened the passages about his deft handling of problems and their causes. This is a largely self-serving book that has many details otherwise unreported until now, but they border on the trivial, and thus his self-praise is over-stated.

    Unless you're starved for knowledge about him (Bob Gates), I wouldn't recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2014

    Very Interesting Book

    It obviously was written in a hurry. You should read because equally obviously all the commentators did NOT read. They just had interns gping through it in a hurry picking out juicy quotes. Very shallow reporting.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2014

    too much information

    Interesting review of history but ideas get lost in microscopic details of meetings and personalities.




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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    Worth Reading

    The publicity, both positive and negative, surrounding the publication of this book drew me in. As with any memoir, Secretary Gates’ long (600 pages) book paints a favorable picture of himself. And, for the most part, he goes out of his way to portray both presidents for whom he served as Secretary of Defense and honorable, capable leaders. He is not so kind to some other individuals, particularly Vice Presidents Cheney and Biden, and there are some individuals in the Obama White House that make you wonder how this country continues to be a world leader. The United States is the strongest nation on earth, but we are headed back to the time following the Viet Nam war unless some of the self-serving components of our government can overlook partisanship and protectionism going forward. I think Gates gives a fair description of the internal conflicts between the military and civilian leadership and allows the reader to draw his own conclusions.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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