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Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 14, 2014

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After years working for both the CIA and the National Security Council, Gates was president of Texas A & M
when he was asked by President George W. Bush to replace Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense in 2006. He accepted,
and he served in both the Bush and Obama administrations until 2011. He has written a revealing but sometimes
frustrating recounting of his experiences as he attempted to manage the Pentagon and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates
offers absorbing and often surprising accounts of the formation of new and sometimes successful policies to alter the
course of the wars. He also describes the internal wars within each administration and his struggles to ram change
through the Pentagon bureaucracy. Unfortunately, Gates shows little introspection, or questioning regarding the basic
geopolitical strategy that got the U.S. into these wars. Furthermore, given his decades in Washington, Gates’ pose as an
outsider banging his head against entrenched political and bureaucratic interests isn’t credible, especially since Gates
was regarded as a savvy infighter during his earlier experience in Washington. Still, this is a useful and informative,
if self-serving, memoir covering critical years in recent history. --Jay Freeman

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Review
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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

“Compelling…trenchant.”
—Newsday

“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.”
—Choice

“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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