Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War

by Robert M Gates
3.9 163

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Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M Gates

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307959485
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/14/2014
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 103,276
File size: 20 MB
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About the Author

Robert M. Gates served as secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011. He also served as an officer in the United States Air Force and worked for the Central Intelligence Agency before being appointed director of the agency by President George H. W. Bush. He was a member of the National Security Council staff in four administrations and served eight presidents of both political parties. Additionally, Gates has a continuing distinguished record in the private sector and in academia, including currently serving as chancellor of the College of William and Mary. He holds a Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.

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Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 163 reviews.
BNA1 More than 1 year ago
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.
cd1947 More than 1 year ago
Robert Gates has written an extremely interesting book and I find it very hard to put down especially since it is a book on history.  No matter what your political affiliation may be, this book is on target with what the responsibilities are at the top of the food chain in Washington.  I would enjoy meeting this man in person and talking about how he came about with the desire to write this .  Here is a man who has worked for both sides of the political parties in Washington and survived.  The best part in my opinion of what he rights about is his compassion to the military personnel.  His desires to make it right for all to serve should make him a perfect nomination for the highest award that can be given out by our President to individuals who make a definitive change to our government - Robert Gates is one of those individuals.  Look forward to reading more of his books.  This book should be required reading for seniors in high school and government  studies in college.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please delete to comments, that are not reviews, from guests that have not read this book! This is not supposed to be a political soap box.
OzHall More than 1 year ago
Politics aside, fantastic read and interesting perspective!!!! Barnes and Noble needs to police their Rating section to delete the spam 1-3 star ratings on this title, over 15 of the sub 4 star reviews were off topic spam placed to decrease the overall rating of this title.
UncommonBuzzard More than 1 year ago
Insight into actual decision making. Not just a self lauding pile of self serving crap. Love the ridiculous left pundit harping on how the *right* use the book to supposedly support their position.  Clearly if one actually READ the book, one would realize Gates bent over backwards to be fair about an administration he was at odds with, soback the partisam truck up o ye disgruntled lefty and read the bloody book before yowling.
survivorCM More than 1 year ago
great read no matter what your political affiliation. This is our country and more important than dem., rep, indep. or whatever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Robert Gates' memoir is thoughtful and personal. I appreciated Gates' insider understanding of people and situations that I only read about or hear on Sunday morning shows or when I am aware someone who may be making a significant difference for Americans are discussing something compelling. As a Marine wife, I became critical not so much of Bush as I became of what I knew was a sincere regard and appreciation for the cost to families like mine but of his inability to pull the best out of what I recognized when I voted for him, one of the strongest Cabinets of any Administration. Now I understand better why. I also feel a little solaced in that in 2008 there really was not a good candidate on the ballot. I even wanted to like McCain. His family is decent at least. Any NCO's considering whether this is worth the money right as they are leaving the military, should definitely pick it up! Then go to your home of residence and sign up to run against any one of the people we have in Washington DC. All of the House of Representatives get changed like diapers if the nation gets tired of the stench. The ones in the Senate have to reek like a slaughterhouse before their offices get changed. This book will encourage you whether you are a Democrat or Republican that the status quo in Washington was set to change and today, as nationally concerned private citizens who care about America I pray it inspires one of those of you who were once naive and free to honor your brothers and sisters. Go home and get sworn in again next year. Then you will truly honor those who gave all and now, "Rest easy."
JHHNC More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this book.
Paterson More than 1 year ago
I am an Army vet whose opinion of Bob Gates was not very high when I started to read his book. And there was a section that made me want to shake my head, but I continued and was glad I did. His story helped to restore my belief that there are decent people in this world and much of the junk we now call news today is exactly that, junk. Bob Gates' background stories on how things work or don't work in politics made for a good read. His sense of fairness came through in all chapters. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone with an open mind and love of this country. I'm very glad he did not appear to lean either left or right as he portrayed the fights and squabbles that now consume so much time and are passed off as political discourse nowadays.
arkietraveler More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a lot of justification for decisions made. not much new.
RobSea More than 1 year ago
Interesting read. Seemed to be pretty balanced in his praise and criticism of both political sides. Would absolutely recommend. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It shows the workings of the Defense Department and how it interacts with other agencies and the White House. It was a real eye opener as to the frustrations and daily battles the Secretary went through. This is a must read to help understand the military budget cuts today and how it will negatively affect this nation. Thanks for your daily battles, you were a soldiers (marine/sailor/airman) Secretary. This is a very good read. Well worth the money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well written book that provides insight into the role of the Secretary of Defense. The reader gains a birds eye view into the inner workings of politics and gamesmanship in the nation's capital as our civilian and military leaders deal with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Robert Gates is an exceptional leader who demonstrates his sincere compassion for the young men and women of our country who were sent to war and those who returned home severely injured or killed in the line of duty. This was an a great read.
leopardiNJ More than 1 year ago
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
O-6 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice, straight forward description of Bill Gates' experiences as Secretary of Defense. It is politely written,fair representation of those with whom he interacted, and demonstrates how government works. His presentation of thinking on the Afghan war and the limitations that existed is most interesting.
FoxyLadyTX More than 1 year ago
I am in the middle of this book now. I must say I thought it would be dry, but wanted to check it out anyway. I have found some rather revealing information and amusing insights into our government. I have a new respect for Robert Gates. I believe that he did the best job he could for the soldiers, but our Congress looks at things differently.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Military industrial complex is alive and well and only the business of politics is more dangerous to our future.   Gates has written  an exceptional work - page turning read that clears the smoke and mirrors approach to governmental decision making.  Where are the statesman who will weigh all decisions by their contribution to national goals and not by the impact on their next election, next executive position or next special interest monetary contribution?
dph2902 More than 1 year ago
Very interesting read, particularly if you are interested in how differently the Bush and Obama White Houses operate and dealt with the military and Pentagon. Some good perspectives on Congress also.
Retired_05 More than 1 year ago
Great book for many reasons. Writes about the frustration of fighting wars on all fronts, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congress, White House staff and the culture of the Pentagon. He is not adverse to criticize his superiors but is professional in how he presents it. I’ve read other books about the internal operations of the executive branch and although not many new revelations he seems to confirm the sometime dysfunction. Although a relatively long book it is an easy read as you can skim through some paragraphs if you are familiar with the news.
mysteryman38 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best inside view of what was really taking place in Irag and Afghanistan.I would recommend this book to anyone interested in what is going on in the world of war and politics.
Hoompa More than 1 year ago
This is not an easy read ~ 650 pages.. but once you start- good luck putting it down! the detail that Gates pulls from his Texas A&M mind is amazing! Spoiler alert.... The observations he describes on HRC are so "spot on" Can't wait for this movie, I can see Kevin Spacy as Gates, and Lawrence Fishbone as Obama- Oh no I meant Samuel Jackson :)