- By Paul D. MillerPaul D. Miller is assistant professor of international security studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He served as director for Afghanistan on the National Security Council staff under U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
According to the rules of an old Washington parlor game, there is only one thing to do upon the release of a memoir by a former high-profile official: search the text for the most salacious, damning, or quotable put-downs of other officials and shout them over Twitter at your political opponents. Thus, if you have heard anything about former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s new memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, you know that he has some sharp criticisms of Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for being partisan and shortsighted. He is especially contemptuous of Congress. In private, he writes, members of Congress were "sometimes insightful and intelligent," but TV cameras "had the effect of a full moon on a werewolf." Some members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee "were rude, nasty, and stupid."
Washington parlor games are rarely edifying, not least because Gates is an evenhanded critic and both sides have plenty of material to work with. Click over to BooksAndCulture.com for my full review.