In the new book “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace,” coauthored by Leon Panetta and Jim Newton, the former CIA director and secretary of state writes about his childhood and his lengthy career, going into detail on everyone from the Clintons to President Obama.
Throughout the book, Panetta takes credit for expanding women’s role in combat and for repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing gays to serve openly, along with numerous other accomplishments.
I started reading “Worthy Fights” as I was planning to interview Mr. Panetta for a feature story in The Sandpiper. Unfortunately, the former director became occupied with the Panetta Institute, and we had to cancel the interview. However, I was so into the book that I decided to keep reading it—and when I finished it, I loved it so much that I just had to write a review on it.
From page 1 to page 512, the book kept my interest. It is extremely hard to put down and written with so much detail that it feels as if you are reminiscing the events with Panetta himself. Sure, there are a few times when I thought, “This is so detailed”— but those moments were scarce.
After all, New York Times Sunday Book Review contributor Leslie H. Gelb commented that when young kids read “Worthy Fights,” they will discover that Panetta’s story is “a plausible path to power and achievement,” which makes for a great read.
In very few parts of “Worthy Fights” does Panetta, a Democrat, actually congratulate President Barack Obama—when the White House is mentioned, Panetta is highly critical. For example, in one part, Panetta accuses Obama of “ignoring the strong advice of the Pentagon, military and civilian, in his haste to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq”— and recounts a “similar rejection in 2012 of a consensus recommendation to arm the moderate Sunni opposition in Syria.”
However, I learned a lot: not only about Leon Panetta, but about the United States of America as a whole. It surprised me to learn that Panetta came from a very poor family and joined the military shortly after college. For a very long time—16 years to be exact—Panetta served in Congress.
As for learning about the United States, the book has plenty of “insider information,” most of which concerns President Obama. But if you want to know the secrets, I guess you’ll just have to read it!