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Robert Gates’ ‘Duty’ a good read for all citizens

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View from the Middle

OK, I admit it: I can’t resist reading every single insider book that portends to explain the goings-on within our government. Most of us have strong opinions concerning the executive branch of our government powered by the simplistic rhetoric of Fox or MSNBC. We have become a group of “Monday-morning quarterbacks.” The Bush hate seemed to be unprecedented, until the Obama hate got into full swing.
I think it’s because things are never simple. We live in a complex world, in which those who lead large organizations have to balance many different complexities as they move their organizations forward. My extensive insider reading hasn’t given me many answers; instead, it gives me more questions.
I keep wondering how we citizens can be so certain we know where our leaders should lead; we have no idea.
I have found a great insider book, and I heartily recommend it to you. If you want to read about a patriotic American who largely ignores politics, focusing instead on the country’s mission, I found one. This guy has served eight presidents in both parties. He is a former director of the CIA and was a member of the National Security Council staff in four administrations. He served as secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011 during a period of two wars. You know him: Robert Gates.
He was happily occupied as president of his beloved Texas A&M when he was asked to give up the comfortable life for an uncomfortable one. In his new role, he would battle the bureaucratic Pentagon with its inter-service squabbles. He experienced politics at its worst because it endangered our troops. He battled two difficult vice presidents who put politics first in their advice to their presidents. Then, there were the endless hospital visits, the tears of families of the fallen. It was the haunting thoughts of the daily lives of our troops and what they were enduring for all of us that kept him from sleeping.
I urge you to read this book, aptly titled “Duty.” In it, many incidents we read about in the news come to life. Most importantly, it gives great visibility to the thoughtful deliberations that precede important decisions.
After reading it and learning about the complexities of the job, I laughed as I related to the Hogan’s Heroes character Sergeant Schultz, who famously said, “I know nothing.”

Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the bi-books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.”