This was a really, really good book. Gates' writing isn't polished, which suits his storytelling well, since the book's whole purpose is to tell his career as Secretary of Defense during wartime, during which he also presided over the military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, the Washington "battlespace" was his principal theater of operations, and he pulls no punches in his dislike of Congress or some of the members of the Bush and Obama administrations with whom he had to work.
The book is an at times painful read of how even someone as uniquely qualified and prepared to lead the DoD could barely make any headway against the entrenched bureaucracy of the Department, the parochial and political interests of Congress, or the power grabbing forces within the White House(s). You end up filled with admiration for what he was able to accomplish, and the dedication he showed toward trying to get the department he led to work for the troops in the field, providing the tools they desperately needed, at the expense of the tools they did not – but which were favored by powerful interests either within a department, an industry, or Congress.
When the book came out it received a lot of attention for the negative accounts of numerous participants in the Bush and Obama White House, but I found his accounts very interesting reading for the positive things he had to say, specifically of Bush and Obama – their positive traits and ability to make hard decisions, even if he didn't agree with those decisions all the time. His treatment of Hillary Clinton is a good example – he has negative things to say about her positions as a senator while running for president in 2007-2008 (and President Obama's low points in Gates' estimation are here as well), but high praise for her work as Secretary of State where he and she forged a uniquely cooperative relationship.
Very, very good book. I recommend it highly. In the end, I couldn't decide if it was overall depressing that Gates had so much opposition in what he was trying to do, or encouraging that there are people like him in the right places at least some of the time. Probably each reader will see it differently. But thank you Bob Gates for all you did and tried to do.