Been listening to this on CD for several weeks now. Quite a lot packed in here. Mostly about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Gates was brought into for salvage duty. Often frustrated with dealing with a two-million strong military bureaucracy, he nonetheless worked to improve the lot of the troops in the field by providing MRAPs and improving healthcare, while at the same time re-focusing the leadership on getting the job done.
He expressed great respect for both Bush and Obama, who both made independent, courageous decisions often against the wishes of their advisers. It’s easy to lob criticism against the president, whoever he might be; but considering the immediacy of problems requiring a decision, the risks involved, the uncertainty of information, and the variety of viewpoints surrounding them, they do all right. It’s almost a wonder that we are still here as a nation.
In the book’s closing remarks, Gates echoes lessons that hopefully our leadership has learned and will remember: our military is strong (necessarily since we have many enemies) but do not let that cause us to be too quick to wage war. And remember that exit strategies are important, up front!
Finally this was somewhere in the book … never heard it before but it rings true. “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” (attributed to George Orwell) Thanks, guys.