Robert Gates' recently released "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" opened atop the bestseller lists.
Followers of the Glenn Beck program may recall that to the surprise of some, Glenn laid into the former Secretary of Defense for his bombshell revelations regarding foreign policy under President Obama, arguing in effect that if Gates felt strongly about the President's decisions, he should have resigned and/or exposed them in real time. Gates for example admitted in the book that President Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton had supported the surge for politically motivated reasons.
Nevertheless, in its first week on the list, the book ranks #1 among "New York Times' Combined Print & e-Book Nonfiction" bestsellers, and #2 on a variety of Amazon lists.
Reviews are overwhelmingly positive, with an Amazon rating of 4.0/5 based on 133 reviews, and a Goodreads rating of 3.91/5 based on 58 readings.
Below is a review round-up:
- New York Times:
"For many of its readers, this chronicle will be most memorable for the dishing Gates does on the current leadership in Washington. He hates today’s Congress. Seen up close, Gates asserts, it is “truly ugly” — parochial, self-interested, rude and bullying. “I was constantly amazed and infuriated at the hypocrisy of those who most stridently attacked the Defense Department for being inefficient and wasteful but would fight tooth and nail to prevent any reduction in defense activities in their home state or district no matter how inefficient or wasteful.” The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is depicted as a small-time hack who telephones Gates to lobby, at one point, for Defense Department funding for research on irritable bowel syndrome. With wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates recalls, “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.” When Gates tried over a breakfast to describe to Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the House, what he saw as the facts on the ground in Iraq, “she politely made clear she wasn’t interested” in reaching a bipartisan agreement. He describes Pelosi close to exploding at a White House meeting on an early decision of Obama’s to keep troops in Iraq until near the end of 2011: “She drummed her fingers on the table and had a white-knuckled grip on her pencil.” She looked, he says, “like she had swallowed an entire lemon.” He also recalls a hearing at which Senator Patty Murray of Washington (where Boeing is a major employer) was reading from prepared notes, and says with disdain that 'no one had bothered to remove the Boeing letterhead from her talking points.'"
- Wall Street Journal
"'Duty' is a refreshingly honest memoir and a moving one. Mr. Gates scrupulously identifies his flaws and mistakes: He waited too long, for example, for the military bureaucracy to fix critical supply issues like the drones needed in Iraq and took three years to replace a dysfunctional command structure in Afghanistan.
He also makes it plain that he disliked the job, which required extraordinary forbearance in dealing with a politicized Congress and, later, the amateurish Obama White House staff, and that his dedication to it sprang from his love for the troops and a sense of personal responsibility for them. The memoir ends poignantly with his request to be buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, with the soldiers who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan."
- Washington Post:
"In his new book, which has nearly 600 pages of text, 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. “It is difficult to imagine two more different men,” Gates writes.
Gates left Washington in 2011 with a reputation as a steady, sober-minded member of the foreign policy establishment who had served eight presidents and was admired equally by Republicans and Democrats. The next time Gates visits the capital, his reception may not be quite so warm. “Duty” is his second memoir, and this time he cuts loose."
- Washington Times
"'Duty' is likely to be one of those rare books that define an era.
The reason: Mr. Gates, that famously discreet and consummate public servant for almost a half-century, decided at age 70 to let fly, finally content to cast stones and spread ripples wherever he threw them.
The inevitable effect is to confirm much of the criticism voiced in public and private by the most determined foes of President Obama’s leadership."