Reviews for Obama's Wars


Booklist Reviews 2010 October #2
It's hard to understand why the government gets so irate over secrets spilled by WikiLeaks when top members of the cabinet and the military, as well as the president himself, so readily sit down with Bob Woodward. In his first foray into the weeds of the Obama administration's war-decision process, Woodward offers readers these nuggets: the CIA finances and controls a 3,000-man secret army in Afghanistan; despite our various efforts over two administrations, the U.S. remains alarmingly unprepared for a terrorist attack, which, by the way, could come any day. He also reveals all the details of a highly confidential document on war strategy (given to Woodward when he simply asked one of the planners for it). But most of the book is devoted to what is probably not a secret: the infighting that goes into every decision that is or isn't made about the war in Afghanistan. Woodward's descriptions of war-strategy meetings suggest the movie Groundhog Day, with everyone saying the same thing over and over. The military and Hillary Clinton want 40,000 troops sent to Afghanistan. Joe Biden has a different plan, less dependent on personnel. The president wants more and different options, which aren't given to him ("People have to stop telling me what I already know"). Finally, he has to modify the plan himself. The end of the book seems rushed, as though it was pushing up against deadline, with one of Obama's most important war decisions, the firing of General Stanley McChrystal, just tacked on. By the wearying end, the conclusion is obvious: there's no good way to end this war. No matter how much the White House and the military despise the word failure, with allies like the Karzai government in Afghanistan and the duplicitous Pakistanis, it's hard to find any semblance of success in the offing. There is certainly none on view in these pages. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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