Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War by Robert M. Gates is not what I expected. It is not the sensationalist tell-all story of a defense secretary battling two opposing presidential administrations. It is a compelling narrative of issues including:
managing the a constant yet changing conflict in the Arab states,
repelling Muammar al-Gaddafi in the Libyan invasion,
keeping tabs on Iran,
convincing an anxious Israel not tp react in a knee-jerk reaction toward its neighbors, particularly Iran and Palestine,
salvaging, and managing the two longest wars–Iraq and Afghanistan
coexisting and where possible, negotiating from a position of strength with Russia, China, Pakistan, and North Korea,
discouraging the acquisition and/or proliferation of nuclear weapons by Iran and and stressing containment of the disasterous effects of such weapons launched North Korea, and
orchestrating the raid and ultimate death of Osama Bin Laden —
all while persuading allies to meaningfully partner with the U.S. to promote political freedom, human rights, government serving people, and a regulated market economy.
All of the above competed with the needs of soldiers, military spouses and families, as well as the wounded. From time to time there were humanitarian endeavors like in Haiti after a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti and the flooding of Pakistan in the summer of 2010.
Add in defense budget reforms and reductions, micromanagement by the White House in Obama administration, pork barrel politics, endless but daunting studies and reports on every conceivable subject, and an entrenched bureaucracy with accompanying turf fighting within the Departments of State and Defense, the White House, the Office of the Vice-President, Congress, and a whole host of other agencies and institutions.
Gates does an admirable job. Duty is candid, authoritative, and informative, packed with information in a readable way. Gates is humble and down-to-earth—his story speaks from the heart. I learned a lot about the issues as well as about various officials. His take on Hillary Clinton gave me food for thought. What that means for my vote in 2016 I do not know.