The argument goes on and on...and it repeats itself. It should be a newpaper article not a book.
Overall boring and backbiting,
President Obama said his most important decision was to determine the strategy for the wars he inherited in Afghanistan and Iraq. This book is primarily about how the White House and Pentagon decisions on troop levels for 2009 to 2011 in Afghanistan.
The "wars" of the title is not about combat, ground tactics, or the suffering of the Afghani or Iraqi people. In fact, in the first 25 chapters -- as far as I could listen -- there was really nothing about Iraq at all. The wars are between factions of opinionated but ill-informed White House staffers and senior officials (Clinton, Gates, Holbrook, and Biden) on one hand, and opinionated, self-satisfied and ignorant generals (McChrystal, Petraeus, et al) who are supposed to be advising Obama. All of them are self-confidently planning how NATO and the US can craft the future of Afghanistan, without ever asking any NATO partners, much less Afghanis, whether their plans will work. The Generals actually advocate what they call "anti-insurgency", which would have US soldiers and marines making friends by living among the Afghanis. Sounds sort of what the Germans and Japanese tried in WWII, without greatly endearing themselves to the locals. Could any sane person really believe that bacon-burger eating Christian Marines, trained primarily as killers, would blend in in Muslim, quasi-medieval, Afghanistan?
There are three problems with the book (as distinct from the history that it describes). The first is that while the politics is important, it could have been described in a long magazine length article. It does not need a whole book. Woodward goes through each meeting, formal and informal, in tedious detail. He claims in the introduction that he has not invented any words, personal reactions or comments by the principals, but that cannot possibly be true. At one point I began skipping whole chapters, only to find that the narrative had advanced only a day or two. It would appear that in order to come out with a book every 18 months, Woodward has to squeeze hundreds of pages out of a few paragraphs of information.
The second problem is that Woodward is way too impressed with himself. He makes himself part of the story, as if he was Robert Redford in All the President's Men. The reality is that he is adept at getting people to be disloyal -- leaking documents, divulging private conversations, etc. Quite discreditable behaviour on the part of his sources, but in this day and age hardly brilliant journalism on Woodward's part. (The constant lip-flap of his sources cannot be justified as whistle-blowers divulging necessary secrets, because the actual decisions and actions were all made public).
The third problem is that Woodward himself is just as beltway blind as the politicos and generals. He never comments on how bizarre it is for these people to think they can control a country without ever asking the people living there what they think about it. He never comments that the whole idea of soldiers and marines winning the hearts and minds of Afghani peasants is just absurd. Worse, he seems to think that the political (small p, and small minded) infighting is the real story, while telling us nothing about what was happening on the ground during the same period.
I don't know what happens in the final third of the book. I have lots of other great Audible books, and I will listen to one of them.
I couldn't get it to download and play so it wasn't the book it was this site
same as comment as above
same comment as above
same comment as above
I'm an Army Chaplain, combat veteran, and just finished this book. I feel like I've been through a fourteen hour staff meeting. I agree that there are some mistakes in the performance, though few. I agree with other reviewers that there is a redundancy, but I am grateful for this. That's how staff meetings should be. The process of forming a strategy for the war must be messy, conflicted, and emotional. The fact that Woodward reflects this in his writing only reflects the difficulties inherent in making decisions at this level. Great job, though the listener will require patience. It's not a novel. It's the messy, real, candid view of who makes decisions and the process by which those decisions are made. Thank you, Mr. Woodward. And thank you, Mr. Obama, for taking the time to listen to each side and angle before making the tough decision.
a terrific and insightful listen. although obama made a thoughtful
and narrow choice, he acted rationally based upon the information available to him. regardless of his options and his ultimate choice, the jury will be out. let's hope for the best
This book is just like a notebook of minutes from endless meetings. As another reviewer said, everything is almost a repeat and the listener can get easily lost in the details. The structure of the book is not conducive for a convenient listening. If you plan to get your facts while driving or exercising, this book won’t do it. In fact, it is also minimally useful for any kind of reading/listening. The details are just overwhelming and make the reader yawn after a while. If you are news and politics junkie, perhaps you can find some merit. A reviewer said he or she read the book three times already. I am seriously doubt about the benefits of such a waste of time. I give two-stars for the sake of the effort spent on this book.