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Why Is Robert Gates Angry? The Former Defense Secretary: Indignant, Effective, and Often Wrong

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
February 25, 2014
New Republic Online


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.

Gates's rage is particularly startling. It certainly pervades his book. By my count, the words "anger," "angered," "angry," or "angrily" appear thirty-four times to describe his state of mind, sometimes preceded by intensifiers such as "extremely" or "really." Two more times he is "upset." Once he is "really pissed." Ten times he is "furious" or "infuriated"; five times he is "outraged" or finds something to be "outrageous"; twice he is "seething"; six times he is "offended," including once "exceptionally offended." That amounts to at least sixty eruptions of bile in a 598-page account, or once every ten pages or so.

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