Thursday, March 13, 2014

Secretary of Defense Forced to Take Drug Test

In his memoir DUTY Robert M. Gates reveals many things about being Secretary of Defense, including being given a drug test upon being confirmed. More forthcoming in personal details than many other military memoirs, this book chronicles Gates' struggles within the Pentagon and beyond, showing the Secretary to be but one player in the entrenched Washington bureaucracy, yet unafraid to differ with established views. In ways, Gates seems like a Democrat, questioning spending policies while expressing his frustrations with getting the kind of budget he wanted…not always more, but wiser. Congress, he says, is to blame for vetoing spending cuts, since military contractors provide jobs to states (and whether those jobs come from making refrigerators or bombs makes no difference to politicians seeking reelection by keeping their voters at home happy.) Gates also says that Wikileaks dump of political cables was not as devastating as imagined at the time (something Julian Assange also claims.) His tenure went from 2006 to 2011, having served in the CIA under Bush. So his coverage of events include U.S. relations with many countries in crisis or not, from Israel to Russia to China to Pakistan to Syria to Afghanistan to North Korea. Revolutions in Egypt and Libya are covered, as well as the many transitions of power within various military regimes and political terms and appointments. (Plus "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.") George Newbern reads this exhaustive account of war, civil unrest, and the circus of machinations behind the scenes as politicians wrangle and scheme for influence to advance their careers. In a bizarre way, what happens within the Pentagon parallels the wiles and tactics employed by political rivals in the Star Wars universe ("Star Wars" once being the name of a missile defense strategy which the Russians still object to regarding Iran.) In the new MAUL LOCKDOWN, read by the talented, multi-voiced Jonathan Davis, Darth Maul is one of the combatants in gladiatorial games sponsored by an underworld gambling empire. Like Sith lords Darth Sidious and Darth "Plagueis," Maul wants to obtain a weapon for his master that will help the Sith conquer the galaxy. (Of course it's a galaxy of long ago and far, far away, right?) The rise of the Empire story includes some sound effects and mood music, and was written by Joe Schreiber. (My own book of stories includes one involving the Pentagon. 

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