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November 24, 2006
I've just finished reading Robert Gates's memoir, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. It's a well-written, thoughtful book, leavened by occasional injections of nerdy humor. Gates was a career CIA employee on the analysis rather than the operations side of the agency, and the only CIA analyst ever to become director of Central Intelligence. He specialized in the Soviet Union, though he never set foot in the U.S.S.R. until May 1989. His rapid ascent was amazing. Recruited while a graduate student at Indiana University, he served in the Air Force from 1967 to 1969, at the CIA from 1969 to 1974, at the National Security Council from 1974 to 1979, back to the CIA again from 1979 to 1989, where he became deputy director for intelligence in 1982. He was nominated to be director of central intelligence in 1987, but withdrew his nomination after it became clear that a Senate obsessed with Iran-contra would not confirm him. He was deputy national security adviser from 1989 to 1991 and then director of central intelligence from 1991 to 1993.