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In Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward provides the most intimate and sweeping portrait yet of the young president as commander in chief. Drawing on internal memos, classified documents, meeting notes and hundreds of hours of interviews with most of the key players, including the president, Woodward tells the inside story of Obama making the critical decisions on the Afghanistan War, the secret campaign in Pakistan and the worldwide fight against terrorism.
At the core of Obama’s Wars is the unsettled division between the civilian leadership in the White House and the United States military as the president is thwarted in his efforts to craft an exit plan for the Afghanistan War.
“So what’s my option?” the president asked his war cabinet, seeking alternatives to the Afghanistan commander’s request for 40,000 more troops in late 2009. “You have essentially given me one option. ...It’s unacceptable.”
“Well,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates finally said, “Mr. President, I think we owe you that option.”
It never came. An untamed Vice President Joe Biden pushes relentlessly to limit the military mission and avoid another Vietnam. The vice president frantically sent half a dozen handwritten memos by secure fax to Obama on the eve of the final troop decision.
President Obama’s ordering a surge of 30,000 troops and pledging to start withdrawing U.S. forces by July 2011 did not end the skirmishing.
General David Petraeus, the new Afghanistan commander, thinks time can be added to the clock if he shows progress. “I don’t think you win this war,” Petraeus said privately. “This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”
Hovering over this debate is the possibility of another terrorist attack in the United States. The White House led a secret exercise showing how unprepared the government is if terrorists set off a nuclear bomb in an American city—which Obama told Woodward is at the top of the list of what he worries about all the time.
Verbatim quotes from secret debates and White House strategy sessions—and firsthand accounts of the thoughts and concerns of the president, his war council and his generals—reveal a government in conflict, often consumed with nasty infighting and fundamental disputes.
Woodward has discovered how the Obama White House really works, showing that even more tough decisions lie ahead for the cerebral and engaged president.
Obama’s Wars offers the reader a stunning, you-are-there account of the president, his White House aides, military leaders, diplomats and intelligence chiefs in this time of turmoil and danger.
Woodward does a good job gathering views from the many different players in the Obama administration.
He pits Obama's inexperienced quest for a unanimous way forward in Afghanistan against the hardened opinions of his military generals.
I would hardly categorize this as a pro-Obama book. He appears handcuffed by his desire to create a considered, educated strategy to the point of being unable to act--- perhaps afraid to make poor decisions.
In the end, the decisions the administration makes is an exercise in frustration-- because without a strategy that includes a Pakistani solution, a positive outcome in Afghanistan would seem unlikely. This realization comes as the war plows forward with small successes that likely won't amount to a military victory-- leaving the question -- if a win in Afghanistan is unattainable without a sustained 10-year American commitment to the region (politically unsustainable)-- exactly what are we fighting to achieve?
On that count, the book is sobering.
However Woodward's lynchpin is one single July 2010 interview with the President, in which Obama comes across- at times- as pointing his finger and making excuses. I don't feel like he got enough time with the president for this project.
Somehow the book feels incomplete, and may have been best served to wait to include the administration's full review of the war due in December of 2010.
This book is not an easy read. And the ridiculous and at times racist comments in the other reviews are not a fair representation-- or worthy of Woodward's impressive research.
Realize this is a review of the prose and not the president. Woodward remains one of the greatest of his generation. His unparalelled access and his ability to convey the details of high stakes international policy to the average American reader make Woodward a national treasure. The first 100 pages grab you and make you realize just what an undertaking being president really is, regardless from which side of the political aisle you spew your party's propoganda. This is a must read for Americans, not a battle ground for warring Democrats and Republicans.
As a long time republican I tend to be conservative. While I dnt agree with Obama on many issues, I find my fellow republicans just complaining and not coming up with real solutions THAT WORK!