Duty Driven and Memoir-Bound: Robert Gates’s New Book in 2014

Duty - Robert Gates

On Monday, Knopf officially announced that the former Defense Secretary Robert Gates's memoir Duty will be published in January, 2014. Back in 2011 Gates struck a deal with Knopf to pen two books, one a memoir, the other an untitled book on leadership. His memoir will reflect on his role as Defense Secretary under George W. Bush and President Obama, from 2006 to 2011, a time when American strategy kept its cross-hairs firmly affixed on Iraq and Afghanistan in its efforts to cripple al Qaeda and hunt down its infamous leader Osama bin Laden.

In 2006, Robert Gates stepped in as Secretary of Defense during George Bush's presidency, sticking around to serve under President Obama in 2008, the first Defense Secretary in history to serve both parties. Donald Rumsfeld, whose controversial management of the Iraq War and accountability for the Abu Ghraib scandal left him no recourse but resignation, stepped down in the thick of an embroiled Middle Eastern war. In his wake, Gates was sworn in to the role with bipartisan approval, his admired reputation preceding him for having ably handled his role in the Central Intelligence Agency, where he served for over twenty-five years, two of which as the agency's Director.

In his new book, Gates notes his story will be "principally about" Iraq and Afghanistan. Our gains in both countries were "squandered," Gates says, "by mistakes, shortsightedness, and conflict in the field as well as in Washington, leading to long, brutal campaigns to avert strategic defeat. It is about the war against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, those responsible for our national tragedy on September 11, 2001."

Gates has never taken his responsibilities lightly, knowing full well the human sacrifice that is inherent in every tactical military decision made. His humility and his admirable emphasis on placing the American people before politics are key facets to both his personality and policy decisions, which will likely serve to humanize his high-level, rarified reflection on helming one of the most influential positions in the Cabinet of the United States.

"As I look back," Gates said, "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."