Robert Gates provides a thorough, no-holds-barred accounting of his 4 ½ years as Secretary of Defense – 2 years under George Bush and 2 ½ years under Barack Obama. I was most interested to read his thoughts about our current president and, potentially, a future president (Hilary Clinton). Although Gates and Obama had their differences, he describes Obama as “presidential,” a man of personal integrity with whom he developed a strong relationship, one in which they “largely saw eye to eye”.
For Hillary Clinton, Gates has only the highest praise: “Before she joined the Obama administration, I had not known her personally, and what views I had were shaped almost entirely by what I had read in the newspapers and seen on television. I quickly learned I had been badly misinformed. I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world.”
Gates has harsh words for Congress: “Uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, often putting self (and reelection) before country – this was my view of the majority of the United States Congress.”
Gates comes across as the model public servant, whose dedication to (and love for) the troops is evident throughout the book. The reader gets a sense of the inner workings of the office of and the challenges faced by the person serving as Secretary of Defense. Highly recommended for those who want to get some insight into the thinking behind the high-level military-related decisions made by the United States government in the past decade, especially in regards to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.