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Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War (Anglais) Relié – Séquence inédite, 14 janvier 2014

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Author’s Note
This is a book about my more than four and a half years at war. It is, of course, principally about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where initial victories in both countries were squandered by mistakes, shortsighted- ness, and conflict in the field as well as in Washington, leading to long, brutal campaigns to avert strategic defeat. It is about the war against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, those responsible for our national tragedy on September 11, 2001. But this book is also about my political war with Congress every day I was in office and the dramatic contrast between my public respect, bipartisanship, and calm, and my private frustration, disgust, and anger. There were also political wars with the White House, often with the White House staff, occasionally with the presidents themselves—more with President Obama than with President Bush. And finally, there was my bureaucratic war with the Department of Defense and the military services, aimed at transforming a department organized to plan for war into one that could wage war, changing the military forces we had into the military forces we needed to succeed.
George W. Bush and Barack Obama were, respectively, the seventh and eighth presidents I worked for. I knew neither man when I began working for them, and they did not know me. To my astonishment (and consternation), I became the only secretary of defense in history to be asked to remain in the position by a newly elected president, let alone one of a different party. I came to the job in mid-December 2006 with the sole purpose of doing what I could to salvage the mission in Iraq from disaster. I had no idea how to do it, nor any idea of the sweeping changes I would need to make at the Pentagon to get it done. And I had no idea how dramatically and how far my mission over time would expand beyond Iraq.
As I look back, there is a parallel theme to my four and a half years at war: love. By that I mean the love—there is no other word for it—I came to feel for the troops, and the overwhelming sense of personal responsibility I developed for them. So much so that it would shape some of my most significant decisions and positions. Toward the end of my time in office, I could barely speak to them or about them without being overcome with emotion. Early in my fifth year, I came to believe my determination to protect them—in the wars we were in and from new wars—was clouding my judgment and diminishing my usefulness to the president, and thus it played a part in my decision to retire.
I make no pretense that this book is a complete, much less definitive, history of the period from 2006 to 2011. It is simply my personal story about being secretary of defense during those turbulent, difficult years.
Chapter 1
Summoned to Duty
I had become president of Texas A&M University in August 2002, and by October 2006 I was well into my fifth year. I was very happy there, and many—but not all—Aggies believed I was making significant improvements in nearly all aspects of the university (except football). I had originally committed to staying five years but agreed to extend that to seven years—summer 2009. Then my wife, Becky, and I would finally return to our home in the Pacific Northwest.
The week of October 15, 2006, the week that would change my life, started out routinely with several meetings. Then I took to the road, ending up in Des Moines, Iowa, where I was to give a speech on Friday, the twentieth.
Just past one p.m. that day I received an e-mail from my secretary, Sandy Crawford, saying that President Bush’s national security adviser, Steve Hadley, wanted to speak to me on the phone within an hour or two. Hadley’s assistant was “quite insistent” that the message be passed to me. I told Sandy to inform the assistant I would return Steve’s call on Saturday morning. I had no idea why Steve was calling, but I had spent nearly nine years at the White House on the National Security Council (NSC) staff under four presidents, and I knew that the West Wing often demanded instant responses that were rarely necessary.
Hadley and I had first met on the NSC staff in the summer of 1974 and had remained friends, though we were in contact infrequently. In January 2005, Steve—who had succeeded Condoleezza Rice as George W. Bush’s national security adviser for the second Bush term—had asked me to consider becoming the first director of national intelligence (DNI), a job created by legislation the previous year, legislation—and a job—that I had vigorously opposed as unworkable. The president and his senior advisers wanted me to make it work. I met with Hadley and White House chief of staff Andy Card in Washington on Monday of inauguration week. We had very detailed conversations about authorities and presidential empowerment of the DNI, and by the weekend they and I both thought I would agree to take the job.
I was to call Card at Camp David with my final answer the following Monday. Over the weekend I wrestled with the decision. On Saturday night, lying awake in bed, I told Becky she could make this decision really easy for me; I knew how much she loved being at Texas A&M, and all she had to say was that she didn’t want to return to Washington, D.C. Instead, she said, “We have to do what you have to do.” I said, “Thanks a lot.”
Late Sunday night I walked around the campus smoking a cigar. As I walked past familiar landmarks and buildings, I decided I could not leave Texas A&M; there was still too much I wanted to accomplish there. And I really, really did not want to go back into government. I called Andy the next morning and told him to tell the president I would not take the job. He seemed stunned. He must have felt that I had led them on, which I regretted, but it really had been a last-minute decision. There was one consolation. I told Becky, “We are safe now—the Bush administration will never ask me to do another thing.” I was wrong.
At nine a.m. on Saturday—now nearly two years later—I returned Steve’s call as promised. He wasted no time in posing a simple, direct question: “If the president asked you to become secretary of defense, would you accept?” Stunned, I gave him an equally simple, direct answer without hesitation: “We have kids dying in two wars. If the president thinks I can help, I have no choice but to say yes. It’s my duty.” The troops out there were doing their duty—how could I not do mine?
That said, I sat at my desk frozen. My God, what have I done? I kept thinking to myself. I knew that after nearly forty years of marriage, Becky would support my decision and all that it meant for our two children as well, but I was still terrified to tell her.
Josh Bolten, a former director of the Office of Management and Bud- get, who had replaced Card as White House chief of staff earlier that year, called a few days later to reassure himself of my intentions. He asked if I had any ethical issues that could be a problem, like hiring illegal immigrants as nannies or housekeepers. I decided to have some fun at his expense and told him we had a noncitizen housekeeper. Before he began to hyperventilate, I told him she had a green card and was well along the path to citizenship. I don’t think he appreciated my sense of humor.
Bolten then said a private interview had to be arranged for me with the president. I told him I thought I could slip into Washington for dinner on Sunday, November 12, without attracting attention. The president wanted to move faster. Josh e-mailed me on October 31 to see if I could drive to the Bush ranch near Crawford, Texas, for an early morning meeting on Sunday, November 5.
The arrangements set up by deputy White House chief of staff Joe Hagin were very precise. He e-mailed me that I should meet him at eight-thirty a.m. in McGregor, Texas, about twenty minutes from the ranch. I would find him in the parking lot at the Brookshire Brothers grocery store, sitting in a white Dodge Durango parked to the right of the entrance. Dress would be “ranch casual”—sport shirt and khakis or jeans. I look back with amusement that my job interviews with both President Bush and President-elect Obama involved more cloak-and- dagger clandestinity than most of my decades-long career in the CIA.
I did not tell anyone other than Becky what was going on except for the president’s father, former president George H. W. Bush (the forty- first president, Bush 41), with whom I wanted to consult. He was the reason I had come to Texas A&M in the first place, in 1999, to be the interim dean of the George H. W. Bush School of Government and Public Service. What was supposed to be a nine-month stint of a few days a month became two years and led directly to my becoming president of Texas A&M. Bush was sorry I would be leaving the university, but he knew the country had to come first. I also think he was happy that his son had reached out to me.
I left my house just before five a.m. to head for my interview with the president. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought a blazer and slacks more appropriate for a meeting with the president than a sport shirt and jeans. Starbucks wasn’t open that early, so I was pretty bleary-eyed for the first part of the two-and-a-half-hour drive. I was thinking the entire way about questions to ask and answers to give, the magnitude of the challenge, how life for both my wife and me would change, and how to approach the job of secretary of defense. I do not recall feeling any self- doubt on the drive to the ranch that morning, perhaps a reflection of just how little I understood the direness of the situation. I knew, however, that I had one thing going for me: most people had low expectations about what could be done to turn around the war in Iraq and change the climate in Washington.
During the drive I also thought about how strange it would be to join this administration. I had never had a conversation with the president. I had played no role in the 2000 campaign and was never asked to do so. I had virtually no contact with anyone in the administration during Bush’s first term and was dismayed when my closest friend and mentor, Brent Scowcroft, wound up in a public dispute with the administration over his opposition to going to war in Iraq. While I had known Rice, Hadley, Dick Cheney, and others for years, I was joining a group of people who had been through 9/11 together, who had been fighting two wars, and who had six years of being on the same team. I would be the outsider.
I made my clandestine rendezvous in McGregor with no problem. As we approached the ranch, I could see the difference in security as a result of 9/11. I had visited other presidential residences, and they were always heavily guarded, but nothing like this. I was dropped off at the president’s office, a spacious but simply decorated one-story building some distance from the main house. It has a large office and sitting room for the president, and a kitchen and a couple of offices with computers for staff. I arrived before the president (always good protocol), got a cup of coffee (finally), and looked around the place until the president arrived a few minutes later, promptly at nine. (He was always exceptionally punctual.) He had excused himself from a large group of friends and family celebrating his wife Laura’s sixtieth birthday.
We exchanged pleasantries, and he got down to business. He talked first about the importance of success in Iraq, saying that the current strategy wasn’t working and that a new one was needed. He told me he was thinking seriously about a significant surge in U.S. forces to restore security in Baghdad. He asked me about my experience on the Iraq Study Group (more later) and what I thought about such a surge. He said he thought we needed new military leadership in Iraq and was taking a close look at Lieutenant General David Petraeus. Iraq was obviously upper-most on his mind, but he also talked about his concerns in Afghanistan; a number of other national security challenges, including Iran; the climate in Washington; and his way of doing business, including an insistence on candor from his senior advisers. When he said specifically that his father did not know about our meeting, I felt a bit uncomfortable, but I did not disabuse him. It was clear he had not consulted his father about this possible appointment and that, contrary to later speculation, Bush 41 had no role in it....

Continued in DUTY: Memoirs of a Secretary at War…

Revue de presse

A 2014 New York Times Notable Book

“Probably one of the best Washington memoirs ever...Historians and policy wonks will bask in the revelations Gates provides on major decisions from late 2006 to 2011, the span of his time at the Pentagon…Gates is doing far more than just scoring points in this revealing volume. The key to reading it is understanding that he was profoundly affected by his role in sending American soldiers overseas to fight and be killed or maimed.”
—Thomas E. Ricks, The 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, The Washington Post
“Forthright, impassioned…highly revealing about decision making in both the Obama and Bush White Houses…[Gates’] 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, Gates speaks his mind on a host of issues…[he] gives us his shrewd take on a range of foreign policy matters, an understanding of his mission to reform the incoherent spending and procurement policies of the Pentagon, and a tactile sense of what it was like to be defense secretary during two wars.” 
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A refreshingly honest memoir and a moving one.”
—Jack Keane, The Wall Street Journal

“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
“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, The Boston Globe
Duty…is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of what makes Washington tick.”
—Edward Luce, Financial Times
“Gates has offered…an informed and…earnest perspective, one that Americans ought to hear, reflect on and debate.”
—Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

“Engaging and candid….Young people who want to understand and live up to the highest ideals of American statesmanship would do well to read this book carefully; Gates has much to teach about the practical idealism that represents the best kind of American leadership.”
Foreign Affairs


“This is a serious, thoughtful, illuminating, and valuable insider account of the final years of the George W. Bush administration and early years of the Obama presidency….Gates holds little back in this revealing memoir.”

“If you read only one book by a Washington insider this year, make it this one. It should be savored by anyone who wishes to know more about the realities of decision-making in today’s federal government.”
Library Journal

“The full story that emerges from this detailed and often deeply personal account is of a man fed up with the dysfunction of the nation’s capital.”
The American Conservative

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Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 640 pages
  • Editeur : Knopf (14 janvier 2014)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0307959473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307959478
  • Dimensions du produit: 16,6 x 4,1 x 24,2 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Jean-Hugues Rolland le 12 mars 2014
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Rapide, très bonne qualité d'impression. Le livre est bien écrit et les commentaires sont sans comppromis. Je le recommande vivement.
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323 internautes sur 357 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Review of "Duty" by Robert M. Gates 15 janvier 2014
Par Writing Historian - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
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 cabinet and military services.

Chapter Four - entitled "Waging War on the Pentagon" - focuses on Gates' struggles to overcome the entrenched bureaucracy within the Pentagon.

Gates talks about Syria, Russia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, China, North Korea, NATO, Eastern Europe, Georgia (Former Soviet Republic), and "of all things, piracy" in Chapter Five. The strongest points of this chapter are Gates' insights into his dealings with the Chinese, Russian and Israel leadership, as well as the somewhat symbiotic relationship between Israel and Iran.

Chapter Six - entitled "Good War, Bad War" - examines the shifting operational/strategic perspective as the war in Iraq seemed to be going much better while the conflict that enjoyed strong bipartisanship support, namely Afghanistan, seemed to be getting much worse. Gates' interaction with Vladimir Putin makes for more interesting reading. You will also find the author's perspective on the relief of the CENTCOM commander, Admiral Fallon, which highlights the fact that while administrations like candor from its military leaders, they don't like to read dissenting viewpoints in the national news.

Chapter 7 is a bit like Chapter 3 (but shorter) in that Gates' once again looks inward when chronicling a series of events that both horrified (flying nuclear weapons around the United States and Dover mortuary issues), annoyed (aerial tanker contract and Congressional reactions to several confirmation hearings) and mildly amused him (Condoleezza Rice's reaction to a briefing on Somali pirates). He also presents his side of events leading to the replacement of the Air Force's senior leadership.

In Chapter 8 ("Transition") Gates discusses how he walked a fine line between the incoming or outgoing administrations. He handles transition well, ably assisted by both the incoming and outgoing team, in a manner I can only describe as masterful.

The title of Chapter 9 (New Team, New Agenda, Old Secretary) hinted at the first signs of stress between Gates and the new team in the White House. He has many words of praise for SecState Hilary Clinton, who instantly gains his respect and trust. This chapter also discusses inadequate aeromedevac in Afghanistan, the need to produce an MRAP variant suitable for that theater, more Wounded Warrior and family initiatives, approving the photographing of the arrival of fallen heroes at Dover, FY 2010 budget pains, Repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Iran, problems with USMC parochialism in Afghanistan, and a number of other related topics.

Chapter Ten is where the narrative discloses that relationships are starting to fray. There are also problems between US diplomats and soldiers and the Afghan president. Gates adds considerably to the previous coverage (Bob Woodward's Obama's Wars) through his first-person observations. He also names who he believes to be Woodward's sources within the White House staff in an effort to explain the perspectives found in Woodward's account.

Chapter Eleven (Difficult Friends, Difficult Foes) deals primarily with issues surrounding Iran, Israel, Russia, Vietnam, Bolivia, Pakistan, Korea (North and South), Wikileaks, and China during the 2009 - 2010 timeframe. He also reveals a disquieting session in the White House immediately following the earthquake in Haiti in which mid-level White House staffers question the competence of the SOUTHCOM commanding general because the US military apparently cannot get a tremendous amount of aid to that stricken nation within a reasonable period of time. Ironically, the very scale of US military assistance prompted the French and Brazilians to complain about the United States acting like an occupying power.

Chapter Twelve (Meanwhile, Back in Washington) discusses the disappointments experienced by Gates during this period. He observes that, "After the assurances from the president and Rahm (Emanuel) that they would oppose congressional action before the [Don't Ask, Don't Tell] review was completed, I felt there had been a breach of faith by the White House." Disappointment surfaces again during the FY budget development cycle. The chapter, however, does not concentrate exclusively on these events. Gates also discusses how once again he has to energize the DOD bureaucracy when the services and OSD fail to keep pace with enemy IED developments in Afghanistan.

The first half of Chapter Thirteen (War, War, and Revolution........) seemed, oddly enough, somewhat anti-climactic. It covers the removal of the US Ambassador to Afghanistan - Karl Eikenberry and the relief of General Stanley McChrystal, ISAF commanding general, but in a way that seemed familiar. It was one of the few sections where I did not find myself repeatedly thinking "I didn't know that!" The second half of the chapter, which deals with the revolutions in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, etc. evoked diametrically opposite reactions as I eagerly absorbed a great deal of detailed information about those landmark events. During the discussion prior to our Libyan intervention, you learn that stereotypes are made to be broken as the military chiefs and Gates initially argue against using airpower to assist the Libyan rebels while staffers and advisors with academic or political backgrounds push for the use of military force. Unlike Afghanistan, it does not take long for President Obama to come to a decision.

Chapter Fourteen is where I am going to wind up my chapter summary. It covers the last months of Gates' tenure, focusing on his final trips to Russia (where he had a much better reception than in 2007, although the Russians were concerned about American involvement in aiding the Libyan revolutionaries - which blew back in our faces in Syria where the Russians counseled against our involvement), to China, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The world tour accounts segues into a discussion of military and defense succession covering the changing of the guard within DoD (Panetta replaces Gates), CIA (Petraeus replaces Panetta), ISAF (Allen replaces Petraeus), Afghan ambassador (Crocker replaces Eikenberry) and CJCS (Marty Dempsey replace Mullen). Gates' account of the Bin Laden Raid follows next. After initially coming out against a direct action strike, Gates was persuaded to support the raid. Within an hour after Gates informed Obama of his change of heart, the President approved the operation. The chapter ends with another discussion of bruising budget battles and his final trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.

I found the book fascinating, informative, and plausible. That said, I would plead guilty to allowing my having read Donald Rumsfeld's memoir to influence my five star rating for Gates' much more candid account.
69 internautes sur 75 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Informative, but ... 2 février 2014
Par Calvin Professor - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Years from now, this will be a valuable book for historians. I found it informative, but it can be a long read. I thought about why, even though it has some interesting facts and anecdotes, it was not the type I would say I can't put down until it's finished. Then, I realized the answer. Having been a former Army officer, it jumped out at me at one point: this reads much like after action reports I would often have to review. Most compelling histories and biographies/autobiographies maintain a strong story narrative in each chapter. While the book had good chronological breaks, it didn't give a full sense of an underlying theme. Again, it's an interesting read and it will hold your attention if you enjoy material about politics along with the ups and downs of both presidential administrations. I also believe it is fair and balanced as can be for someone who was in his position. In the end, I would be amiss, though, if I didn't say "Thank you, Secretary Gates, for your service. We need more like you."
242 internautes sur 276 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Always Fighting for the Troops 14 janvier 2014
Par George Bush - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
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 II as impossible to dissuade from convictions he held about Iraq. As for Afghanistan vs. Obama, gates contends that while there was no doubt about the president's support for the troops, Obama also suspected he was being 'gamed' by the military into supporting their requests. Thus, Obama was in the position of not trusting General Petraeus - his commander there, disliking Afghanistan's president Karzai, feeling the war wasn't his, and primarily simply wanting to get the U.S. military out of there.

Hillary Clinton, though 'smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded,' disappointed Gates with her admitting her opposition to the 2007 Iraq surge was based on her assessment of domestic politics in her ill-fated run for the presidency. (Gates also notes that Obama did likewise.) Unfortunately, while Gates found Obama's decision-making approach laudable, he also found the president ill-served by some key advisors (eg. V.P. Joe Biden, Samantha Power - a 'humanitarian interventionist' on the national security staff, Tom Donilon - national security advisor, Denis Mcdonough - WH chief of staff, Ben Rhodes - deputy national security adviser).

Neither Bush I nor Obama had good relationships with Congress or worked to establish 'close personal relationships with other world leaders.' More worrisome, to Gates, was the fear that Israel and Saudi Arabia would push Bush I into either direct war with Iran or supporting Israeli 'unilateral' action. (This was after also pointing out that Bush's Afghanistan strategy was 'historically naïve. As for his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld - a man who prided himself on excellent leadership skills, Gates saw 'amazing bungling after the initial military success (in Iraq).'

Gates is more pointed in his criticisms of the $700 billion/year Pentagon - for example, the various services pursuing their own interests, even if this including pursuing technology systems unable to communicate with each other. But Congress, unsurprisingly, gets the worst ink of all - 'broad dysfunction,' 'truly ugly,' 'most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities, micro-managerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, and prone to put self before country.'

As for himself and why he retired from the job, Gates cites the emotional toll brought upon himself from visiting the wounded, writing individualized condolence letters, signing orders sending units overseas.' Obama's sudden decision to implement 'don't ask, don't tell,' his inability to trust that the administration would hold to agreements, the sense that 'discussions in the Situation Room allowed no room for discriminating analysis,' a sense that both Biden and Obama were unnecessarily distrustful of the military, and the feeling that others were trying to do his job also grated on the secretary. In fact, he flat out admits he 'did not enjoy being Secretary of Defense.'

Nonetheless, he fought for the troops - buying mine-resistant vehicles over the objections of some generals, forcing the Air Force to scale back plans to buy high-tech fighter jets and boost spending on surveillance drones, and insisting that every wounded soldier would receive treatment w/I an hour of injury - when military doctors said two hours was good enough.

Gates also lobbied for the Iraq surge and helped sustain Republican support for its implementation, as well as McChrystal's request for a similar surge in Afghanistan.

Perhaps most importantly - 'Too many ideologues call for U.S. force as their first option.' Gates is referring to individuals on both sides of the isle. Regardless, then-Ambassador Ryan Crocker (Iraq), per Gates, is proving prescient in predicting a humanitarian disaster on the scale of Rwanda . . . open the way to al Qaeda to return to ungoverned spaces . . . and open the way for Iran' if the U.S. left Iraq. It doesn't look any better in Afghanistan either. It also seems like Robert Gates was involved in a number of wars - with the Obama Administration, Congress, and top military leaders, and always fighting for the troops.
234 internautes sur 275 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Contemporary lessons on politics and war 14 janvier 2014
Par Afia - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
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: Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M Gates -- Summary, Review & Analysis

* 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.
* Explains how big federal contracts are navigated and why leadership means fighting the system.
* View of Washington, DC from articulate insider that began federal government career in 1966 and served closely under several administrations.
* Realistic-sounding viewpoints on military interventions and strategy.
* Summarizes lesson of entire book in "On War" section. It's about how wars are deceptively easy to get into; it's a national scolding for being dismissive of history.

* The book starts slowly with speeches and lengthy preambles that resemble the self-licking ice cream cone the author was fighting. After that momentum picks up considerably.
* Timing of the book release might present foreign relation problems for current administration.
* Positioning somewhat as Beltway outsider. A federal office holder since 1986, close to figures that played significant roles in Iran-Contra, held offices in several presidential administrations - an insider, not outsider.
* Like all the other autobiographical books by our war leaders, this book (a) places strong emphasis that the leader didn't want the job but was highly sought after and drafted for the good of the country, and (b) that the leader was on the side of the troops to a greater extent than were our other leaders. These types of books have that in common and I as a reader tend to discount that as puffing.

"Ten soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without a head." Euripides (480 - 406 BC)

Additional comments and observations:
* Much of the drama in this 640-page book (25 hour and 42 minute audiobook) has to do with the author running interference for the president and at other times for the field commanders, and a large body of players struggling over message alignment and media relations. In my view, this content will be tiresome for most people but certainly not all.
* There is mystery in the book about who ultimately was responsible for certain decisions that proved detrimental to the Iraq War effort. Robert Gates blames certain decisions for the turn in the Iraq War. But he doesn't get precise about who made those decisions - whether it was Bremer, Bush, Rumsfeld or somebody else.
* Gates has an interesting way of criticizing presidents. To cite just two examples: He wrote of President Bush, "Asian leaders, however, had told me they felt neglected by the Bush Administration..." He wrote of President Obama, "...I think Obama considered time spent with generals and admirals an obligation." On balance, Gates seemed to me to be more directly critical of Obama than Bush.
* It's my impression that Gates took on the viewpoints of the military leadership over time and eventually became its chief advocate.
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Points to the need for greater governmental transparency and honesty 14 janvier 2014
Par Todd Bartholomew - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I wasn’t aware Secretary Gates was publishing memoirs of his time as Secretary of Defense in the Bush and Obama Administrations and was surprised when I received an advance copy for review. It’s not the type of book I would typically read and I’ve been trending away from reading much about the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are a large number of books being published on the topic and as a historian I know these are the first drafts of history that needs some time to settle for perspective and further research to be done. That said Gates’ book is extremely important as he was a key player in both conflicts and provides tremendous insight into the decisions made in both Administrations regarding the conflicts as well as his own thoughts and opinions. Admittedly I didn’t know a great deal about Secretary Gates prior to reading this book. He struck me as a very competent likeable guy who did a workmanlike job of running Defense and overseeing the two conflicts. “Duty” however confused and confounded me as Gates leads us through his tenure at Defense. As someone who’s worked for the CIA and NSC he’s amazingly honest and direct about his thoughts and opinions, likely from years of relaying those same things to various agency heads, Cabinet members, and Presidents. He conveys the sincerity of a public servant who has excelled at what he did and who clearly garnered and earned the respect he had. It’s likewise clear he didn’t relish the idea of returning to government service when President Bush considered him for Director of National Intelligence and again when he was asked to replace Secretary Rumsfeld at Defense. It’s easy to forget the level of conflict and disarray at the end of Rumsfeld’s tenure and Gates conjures it up well here, making it easy to see why he didn’t want the job but grudgingly came to accept why he was needed to clean up the mess. Gates moved quickly to address major problems at Defense and clearly relished the task once he agreed to take it on, doing so with aplomb and a degree of fearlessness. Rather than focusing on the entirety of his service Gates focuses primarily on his tenure as Secretary of Defense with some occasional references to his past service. Gates’ relationship with President Bush and members of his Administration could best be characterized as cordial, businesslike, but a bit distant and detached. Clearly Gates was focused on the task at hand, took his marching orders and carried them out without a large level of interference. It’s easy to forget that Gates came in as Secretary in the last two years of the final Bush years and was largely free of the residue that tainted so many others who had been with Bush since the start. Gates had a clean slate as it were to prosecute the two conflicts and here it’s clear he understood quite clearly what had come before, how it influenced the present, and affected the future.

It’s likewise clear that Gates thought the election of Barack Obama as President meant he would likely be relieved as Secretary, but Obama made it clear early on he wanted to keep Gates as his role was too critical to transition at that point. Gates expresses his conflicting emotions over that as he really did nto want to stay, but understood Obama’s rationale and reasoning, finally electing to remain on. Again, this choice points towards Gates’ selflessness and sense of duty. Early on we see how Gates forges close ties to Hillary Clinton in her role as Secretary of State and with General McChrystal, with Gates and Clinton often discussing notes prior to meetings with President Obama, his Cabinet and staff as well as meeting with her on an ongoing basis. Both wanted to make sure our military and diplomatic policies were in synch and it’s testament to how well that spirit of cooperation worked together. It’s clear from “Duty” that Gates respects Clinton and the job she did, heaping considerable praise on her. Ditto for McChrystal, who Gates elevated to command in Afghanistan early on, a somewhat unusual decision for a wartime commander, but one Gates saw as necessary. Gates delves into his other sometimes controversial decisions regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and his fiscal restraints and conflicts with Congress over military spending and Gates makes it clear he did not like, respect, or care for most Congressmen and Senators, condemning their parochialism, lack of knowledge, and tendency to put politics ahead of the needs of the country and the military. As an inherently non-political person Gates fairly bristles at the politically based decisions made at virtually every level, including those made by Hillary Clinton. What is the big surprise of the book is his withering criticism not just of Congress, but of President Obama and Vice-President Biden, although his criticism for them is not necessarily unwarranted. Gates calls all to task for a variety of shortcomings and clearly was frustrated while serving as Secretary. Undoubtedly the firing of General McChrystal rankled him and frayed their relationship, which was never that strong to begin with. It’s clear that the Obama Administration was alternately not listening to Gates, discounting his opinion, or often ignoring it outright in favor of his closest advisors opinions or caving in to public opinion. Gates’ growing frustration and agitation over what he saw occurring within the Obama Administration is clearly what led to him resigning but for heavens sake, why wasn’t he more vocal about it? Why didn’t he find some way to express that agitation in a public forum? Likewise with his frustration with Congress, he writes of sitting at meetings and hearings where he held his tongue while members berated him, effectively turning the other cheek. Why suffer in silence? I understand he is a dedicated public servant but if you see that things are occurring that aren’t beneficial to the military and the country don’t you have an obligation to speak up?

To be fair Gates’ critiques are largely on the money although at times a bit inflexible or lacking openness to new ideas. His critique on the partition of Iraq was one that stuck out with me: those borders were imposed by the British at the end of World War I and were arbitrary lines in the sand that made no sense, why not revisit the landscape of the Middle East with an eye on reducing conflicts and at least entertaining the idea? Given the unfolding sectarian warfare breaking out in Iraq and elsewhere why not take an alternative route? Likewise the revelation that politicians make decisions based on politics and polling is hardly a newsflash; did he only just recently arrive in DC? If anything Gates’s book and the one by General McChrystal both point to the inherent problems with President Obama’s prosecution of winding down the war in Iraq and the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan; it’s clear that the military establishment do not have tremendous respect for Obama but are willing to be good soldiers and carry out orders. If only more of them would be willing to speak up publicly we could have a public debate over the conduct of these conflicts in a public forum outside of Congress, where we the people could hear the debate and make up our minds based on it. Especially in our post-Wikileaks/Edward Snowden/NSA world where government secrets are being exposed why can’t our government and our officials be more open and honest about what they’re doing? Why must the treat us as though we cannot handle these secrets and have more open and honest public debates about policy? Certainly others will criticize him for speaking up while the war in Afghanistan is still underway and for criticizing a sitting President, but honestly if I’m going to argue for greater openness I cannot hold by antiquated rules of decorum from decades ago. While I applaud Gates for making these revelations there isn’t a whole lot of new information here and what most everyone will pounce on is the catty gossipy parts about Biden and Obama rather than the substance. One revelation was Obama’s uncertainty and tentativeness at times regarding both conflicts and courses of action. I don’t honestly mind a President giving second thoughts or having doubts…had that happened with President Bush (no uncertain man himself) we may never have stumbled into Iraq in the first place. If Gates is hoping to bolster or shore up his reputation he doesn’t do so here. Too often he comes across as bearing a burden yet refusing to speak of the burden or how things can change. All I could think of is the missed opportunities as a result. Sad.
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