Robert M. Gates gives us a forthright, impassioned, sometimes conflicted account of his four and a half years as defense secretary in his fascinating new memoir Duty, a book that is highly revealing about decision making in both the Obama and Bush White Houses…. His writing is informed not only by a keen sense of historical context, but also by a longtime Washington veteran's understanding of how the levers of government work or fail to work. Unlike many careful Washington memoirists, Mr. Gates speaks his mind on a host of issues…[he] seems less intent on settling scores here than in trying candidly to lay out his feelings about his tenure at the Pentagon and his ambivalent, sometimes contradictory thoughts about the people he worked with.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times
As I was reading Duty, probably one of the best Washington memoirs ever, I kept thinking that Robert M. Gates clearly has no desire to work in the federal government again in his life. That evidently is a fertile frame of mind in which to write a book like this one….The book is dotted with insider stuff reminiscent of the best of Bob Woodward's work
Thomas E. Ricks - New York Times Book Review
Touching, heartfelt...fascinating.... Gates takes the reader inside the war-room deliberations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and delivers unsentimental assessments of each man’s temperament, intellect and management style.... No civilian in Washington was closer to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than Gates. As Washington and the rest of the country were growing bored with the grinding conflicts, he seemed to feel their burden more acutely.”
Greg Jaffe - Washington Post
A breathtakingly comprehensive and ultimately unsparing examination of the modern ways of making politics, policy, and war…. Students of the nation’s two early twenty-first century wars will find the comprehensive account of Pentagon and White House deliberations riveting. General readers will be drawn to [Gates’] meditations on power and on life at the center of great political decisions…. His vision is clear and his tale is sad. Gates takes Duty as his title, but the account of his service also brings to mind the other two thirds of the West Point motto: "honor" and "country."
David M. Shribman - Boston Globe
A compelling memoir and a serious history…. A fascinating, briskly honest account [of a] journey through the cutthroat corridors of Washington and world politics, with shrewd, sometimes eye-popping observations along the way about the nature of war and the limits of power.… Gates was a truly historic secretary of defense…precisely because he did get so much done…. His descriptions of how he accomplished these feats—the mix of cooptation and coercion that he employed—should be read by every future defense secretary, and executives of all stripes, as a guide for how to command and overhaul a large institution.
Fred Kaplan - Slate
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." ... [H]is call for restoring "civility and mutual respect" is a cry from the heart.
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