My Thoughts on “Duty” by Robert Gates

I don’t normally listen to audio books, I like to read. In this case I made an exception.

I ordered the Kindle version of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M. Gates. As I started reading I got intrigued. I’m self-employeGates1d and I have some mediocre jobs to do, I decided to order the version so I could listen while I work. I got mine for nothing but I subscribed to Audible for 14.95 per month for one book per month, I can cancel anytime. Otherwise it’s 49.95 which is not cheap. There are over 25 hours of listening.

Anyway, after spending all afternoon listening, I just had to share my thoughts. Now I’m no great intellectual, and probably not that smart, but this book got my attention.

I don’t know much about Robert Gates, and I know he’s making the talk show circuits promoting his book. I know different pundits are praising and bashing his book. I like to make up my own mind. The following comments are my personal impressions.

I don’t know what my feelings about him or the book will be after I finish. But after listening to about half of the book, here are my first impressions.

First, I’ve worked in industry, Hewlett-Packard, Agilent Technologies, taught in a Community College, and Director of Education for a Trade School and I’ve owned 2 of my own businesses. I say this to make a point. I’ve seen a lot of managers, participated in a lot of meetings, but I have never seen the kind of problem analysis and insight to people management as Robert Gates explains his philosophy and how he performed his duties.

First, I would say to anyone thinking of managing people, this book should move to the top of your list. I don’t think I’ve ever been around anyone that displays the kind of skills he talks about.

Second, his problem analysis is very methodical. Hearing how he approaches problems was very insightful.

One thing that come through loud and clear, he really cares about our military. Time after time he talks about them and his concern for them. There’s no doubt in my mind that his over-riding concern for their lives was first and foremost in his mind.

gateMilFinally, I’m gaining a much better appreciation in what it must be like to work and operate inside our government in Washington D.C. I can’t imagine working in this environment. It would take someone with special skills, I just didn’t realize how special.

Now I sure don’t agree with everything he says, for instance he is very supportive of James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence. I was turned off of him in the NSA surveillance hearings. But after listening to Gates, I’m going to be more open-minded as there is so much more than meets the eye. A lot of people Gates interacted with would present one persona behind closed doors and another in public.

Laura Ingraham (I like Laura) took issue with something Gates said and then made the comment “when he said that, I sure would question his judgement”. Well that’s painting Gates with a pretty broad brush. She obviously hasn’t read the book or else misspoke.

There was so much going on during his tenure as SecDef. From what I have read and listened to, he’s pretty solid in his analysis and problem solving.

I would say that when he stepped down, it was America’s loss and certainly a loss to our troops.


Well, I got side tracked, so I’m finishing this about 3 weeks later. I’m close to the end of the audio book. There’s a lot of detail in this book. I don’t know if it could have kept my interest long enough to finish. But listening to the audio has been great and I will probably re-listen to it again.

I think my initial observations still holds. No doubt, he tries to put what he did as SecDef in a good light. He makes himself look very competent. But from what I heard, I think he was competent. He admits to mistakes he made so it’s not all a pat on the back.

It’s very disturbing to hear how America’s major military problems are so infected by political decision making. He points out how Biden is almost wrong on everything.

Finally, I think America lost a good man doing a patriotic job when he stepped down. Listen to this and see if you don’t agree. And he was replaced by Chuck Hagel….

Recommend you get the Audible book or if you have the time, read the book.

About Stan Hjerleid - Senior Editor

Stan is the Senior Editor for He is a Tea Party Conservative and very concerned about the future of America. He is a Navy Veteran having served aboard the destroyer USS Laffey for 4 years. For the last 12 years he co-owns with his wife, Happy Cat Retreat, a cat boarding facility. He has owned 2 photography studios for 12 years and worked as an IT Specialist for 14 years. He loves animals and raises parrots in his spare time. He is also an avid road bicyclist and motorcyclist.

2 Responses to My Thoughts on “Duty” by Robert Gates

  1. Kathryn Jaco February 24, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    Very interresting idea since I have trouble reading lately. I’ve often thought about books on cds but like you I prefer to read myself. This book sounds good enough to listen to since I can’t see to read lately. Thanks for the info as always you’re very helpful. Sincerely, Kathryn Silkwood Jaco

  2. Stan Hjerleid - Senior Editor February 24, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    I think you will appreciate the info in the book or Audible version. I’m kind of sold on the Audible for this one. Let me know what you think of it.

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