Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World

Robert M. Gates (Author)


From the former secretary of defense and author of the acclaimed #1 best-selling memoir, Duty, a candid, sweeping examination of power in all its manifestations, and how it has been exercised, for good and bad, by American presidents in the post-Cold War world.

Since the end of the Cold War, the global perception of the United States has progressively morphed from dominant international leader to disorganized entity, seemingly unwilling to accept the mantle of leadership or unable to govern itself effectively. Robert Gates argues that this transformation is the result of the failure of political leaders to understand the complexity of American power, its expansiveness, and its limitations. He makes clear that the successful exercise of power is not limited to the use of military might or the ability to coerce or demand submission, but must encompass as well diplomacy, economics, strategic communications, development assistance, intelligence, technology, ideology, and cyber. By analyzing specific challenges faced by the American government in the post-Cold War period--Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Russia, China, and others--Gates deconstructs the ways in which leaders have used the instruments of power available to them. With forthright judgments of the performance of past presidents and their senior-most advisers, firsthand knowledge, and insider stories, Gates argues that U.S. national security in the future will require learning, and abiding by, the lessons of the past, and re-creating those capabilities that the misuse of power has cost the nation.

Product Details

$29.95  $27.55
Knopf Publishing Group
Publish Date
June 16, 2020
6.0 X 1.8 X 8.8 inches | 1.7 pounds

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About the Author

ROBERT M. GATES is the author of Duty, and A Passion for Leadership. He served as secretary of defense under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He was an officer in the United States Air Force and worked for the CIA before being appointed director of the agency. A member of the National Security Council staff in four administrations, he served eight presidents of both political parties. He was president of Texas A&M University from 2002 to 2006, is currently chancellor of the College of William & Mary, was national president of the Boy Scouts of America from 2014 to 2016, and has served on several corporate boards of directors. In 2018 he became chairman of Eisenhower Fellowships. He lives in Washington state.


"In a time of global instability, perhaps our nation's most distinguished public servant, Robert M. Gates, has given us a compelling, thought-provoking, and and much-needed assessment of how we got here--and what must be done to restore and extend the best of American power."--Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America

"The mastery with which Robert Gates wrestles with the fundamental question of the purposes to which America's global power should be used reveals an astonishing combination of strengths -- a narrative gift that captivates the reader from start to finish, an insightful mind, and a profound wisdom that comes from his own experience and wide-ranging historical knowledge."--Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Leadership

"Exercise of Power is a timely, essential guide for all those committed to sustaining America's experiment in democracy. It should also be required reading for anyone engaged in crafting, influencing and (especially) executing American foreign policy. It is truly a page-turner."--General Jim Mattis, coauthor, Call Sign Chaos