Why Bob Gates Took the Job & Why He Left “Duty”

Why Bob Gates Took the Job & Why He Left “Duty”

avatarThe troops were the reason I took the job, and they became the reason I stayed. – Bob Gates

More than a few “pundits” have questioned if Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates was so unhappy in his position, why did he not leave sooner?  Others have questioned why he released this book now, with President Barack Obama still in office.  The answer quite simply, is Mr. Gates’ love for his troops.  He quite eloquently describes his love for the troops as follows:

There will always be a special place in my heart for all those who served on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, most in their twenties, some in their teens.

And I could only contrast their selfless service and sacrifice with so many self-serving elected and nonelected officials back home.

When I was asked in October 2006 if I would be willing to serve as secretary, I said that because all of those kids out there were doing their duty, I had no choice but to do mine.  The troops were the reason I took the job, and they became the reason I stayed.  Being called “the soldiers’ secretary” because I cared so much about them became the highest compliment imaginable.

But ironically, the scale of earlier wars- World War II, Korea, and Vietnam in the last eight decades- and the number of wounded and killed in those conflicts precluded my wartime predecessors from establishing the kind of personal connection to the troops or to their families that became so important to me.

And so, perhaps because our losses were comparatively so much smaller than in previous wars, I could and did become emotionally bound to the troops.

Icy detachment was never an option for me.

Signing the deployment orders, visiting hospitals, writing the condolence letters, and attending the funerals at Arlington all were taking a growing emotional toll on me.  Even thinking about the troops, I would lose my composure with increasing frequency.  I realized I was beginning to regard protecting them- avoiding their sacrifice- as my highest priority.  And I knew that this loss of objectivity meant it was time to leave. Robert M. Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War 594 (Knopf Doubleday Group, 2014)

God Bless Robert Gates and God Bless our troops- Grizzly Joe

Leave a Reply