Call of Duty

January 10, 2014 - 5:07:32 am

Former US defence secretary Robert Gates’ memoirs have created a stir and are likely to throw a new light on Washington’s style of working.


Former US defence secretary Robert Gates has shocked the world with revelations about President Barack Obama’s attitude to wars and views on the military. As if the troubles walloping Obama in his second term were not enough, the former Pentagon chief’s revelations are likely to give fodder to Republicans to attack Obama in a no-holds-barred way.  In the book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Gates tears into his commander in chief’s approach to the troop surge in Afghanistan. The president was “sceptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” the former Pentagon chief writes. 

Obama’s decision to 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan, it has to be recalled, was a highly controversial one. “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission,” Gates says. The memoirs, which have become a rallying point for anti-war activists and supporters of the theory that Washington’s military muddle in Iraq and Afghanistan were best avoided, come not much after the government was at the receiving end of criticism for the failed launch of the Obamacare website.  Coming as it does when the Western hemisphere has not completely come out of the Christmas holiday mood, the 594-page book has set the cat among the pigeons. Wars and invasions have been the most contentious subject in US foreign policy. From Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan and now the drones, Washington’s war policy has been largely responsible for contributing to alienation and despair. 

During his tenure at the top of Pentagon, Gates was seen as the most mild-mannered and even tempered official the US security establishment had come across. However, his tirade against Obama belies that image.

In the memoir, Gates says that his image was deceptive. He was often angry and seething over what can be interpreted was his resentment at the war-related indiscretions of the US president. The revelations by Gates, a Republican by political leanings, raise the question if a US president can in the future rely on key officials who do not lean toward the party’s policies. 

However, Obama’s reaction to Gates’ war rantings in the book has been unusually calm. A terse White house statement said: “As has always been the case, the President welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies The President wishes Secretary Gates well as he recovers from his recent injury, and discusses his book.” Gates hurt his neck in a fall at his home a few days ago.  The memoir, at time sounds contradictory, praising Obama for his integrity and blasting him for his perceived failures. The book, to be released on 

Jan 14, is like no other. In the past, some key former officials have been quite controversial in revealing what they came across during their stint in power, the “Duty” is bound to turn a new page and an unprecedented one at that•