Books: Reading “Duty” by Robert M. Gates

Posted By on June 15, 2014

As civil society’s long drawn out war on terror or GWOT continues dealing with Islamic terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, the U.S. struggles in an effort to wind down military involvement and to leave political stability in Iraq andduty_robertmgates_cover Afghanistan. After reading many of the biographies, political and history oriented books being published, I’ve gained better insight on the challenges all of our appointed and elected leaders faced.

I started reading about our involvement years ago with a preface to the war by in reading The Looming Tower and Ghost Wars which enlightened me on the long history preceding 9/11. The 2007 movie Charlie Wilson’s War and a hodgepodge of other books by solders and analysts returning from Iraq and Afghanistan added to the picture of what we were facing. The pieces became a bit clearer after reading President George W Bush’s book Decision Points and a more recently from an autobiography by General Stanley McChrystal titled My Share of the Task, but now already in reading the first few chapter in Robert M. Gate’s book Duty am I see the difficulty in finding an acceptable end. Partly because Gates served as Secretary of Defense after Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 and served under both GWB and President Obama, the insight gives him a unique role in both studying his predecessor (Rumsfeld) and dealing with policies of two presidents which view “winning the war” in a much differently. I appreciate how Gates weaves his joy of his personal career outside of politics (President of Texas A&M) and yet carried the weight of serving the country and decisions which impact the lives of our so many of our troops. I only hope that I can have the same respect for our current Secretary of Defense Chunk Hagel.

In the introduction Gate’s writes:

“It is, of course, principally about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where initial victories in both countries were squandered by mistakes, shortsightedness, and conflict in the field as well as in Washington, leading to long, brutal campaigns to avert strategic defeat.”

“But this book is also about my political war with Congress each day I was in office,” Gates continues, “and the dramatic contrast between my public respect, bipartisanship, and calm, and my private frustration, disgust, and anger.”

And then there is his reflection on the troops … the “heroes:”

“As I look back, there is a parallel theme to my 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.”


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