Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates’s memoir, scathingly critical of contemporary Washington, already has roiled the capital. He’s at the top of the news for his criticism of President Barack Obama (consistently uncommitted), Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. (consistently wrong) and Congress (consistently irresponsible). But there’s considerably more to his book than the headlines.
The title, “Duty,’’ is simple and describes the man and what motivates him. The subtitle, “Memoirs of a Secretary at War,’’ is multidimensional and describes his life between 2006 and 2010 — when he directed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when he conducted wars with Congress, when he mounted a war against Defense Department bureaucracy, and when he was locked in internal wars in two administrations.