I'm still waiting for my copy of Bob Gates' latest memoir, but I want to react to the initial news coverage. A few reporters who have seen copies emphasize the former defense secretary's criticism of Obama, Biden, and the Congress, but some also mention somewhat contradictory statements.. That suggests to me that the book is a historically useful description of how Gates felt and acted at different times in his long tenure as SecDef. Summary judgments are more quotable, but I'm looking for more details about specific decisions and incidents.
Pending further reading, I still believe that Gates was our most successful Pentagon leader. He maintained the support of two quite different presidents, and despite his evident disagreements on some policies. He maintained strong support in Congress, despite his now revealed contempt for many lawmakers. And he worked well with most of his high-ranking colleagues, especially two secretaries of state.
Further proof of his professionalism is in the fact that his anger and disagreements are only now coming to light. He wasn't a leaking backstabber while in office, as so many officials have been over the decades. While the Obama administration may be embarrassed and upset by some of his statements now, they should be relieved that he didn't complain open earlier.
One of the most interesting comments I've read this week compares Gates' 1996 memoir with excerpts from his latest book. The then and now quotes seem to reflect how Washington has changed, for the worse, in the intervening years. Gates seems to be reflecting the new anger and disgust over politics.