During his many decades of government service, beginning all the way back in 1969 when he joined the CIA as a junior analyst covering the Soviet Union, Robert M. Gates developed a reputation as the quintessential bureaucrat—a gray, quiet, competent civil servant whose idea of a wild time was smoking a cigar while reading a policy memorandum. His favorite adage came courtesy of Will Rogers: never miss a good chance to shut up. Even his initial memoir, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Account of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, which appeared in 1996, three years after he stepped down as CIA director, was a buttoned-down work of history that caused few ripples.
It now seems that Gates's placid exterior concealed strong emotions all along, or that he developed those emotions late in life. Heartfelt outpourings of deep feelings are on display in his new memoir of his service in the Bush and Obama administrations. After a lifetime of repressing his inner self and forging himself into a perfect functionary, Gates no longer seems to care what anyone thinks. With no desire for future government employment, he is letting his inner Hulk out for a roar.