'Obama's' Wars' is a continuation of the four books Woodward has already written on the Middle Eastern wars since Sept 11. Once again Woodward is able to get a whole lot of, inside information about the strategies and tactics our leaders are using.
The main facts learned are 1) Obama came in as president looking for a more efficient way to prosecute the Afgan war 2) Two basic strategies emerged a) Biden's small footprint strategy of going after high value targets (a continuation of what was Bush's war strategy only with an increased emphases on Afgan now that Iraq was winding down) b) The Petraeus counter-insurgency plan that had shown some success in Iraq. 3) Obama wanted some middle ground between these strategies because he saw how Bush's strategy was largely unsuccessful and with Al Qaeda now in Pakistan a larger presence in Afghanistan was needed. However, Obama did not think that a full grown insurgency could work because of the differences in culture and landscape in Afgan and the fact that our enemy (Al Qaeda was not in Afghan.) ment that even if we killed every single Taliban (many of whom arent against us) we would not have killed one Al Qaeda (our real enemy). 4) The military brass (largely left over from Bush) did not care about these facts, insisted on doing its own thing, ignored the Commander and Chief and publicly made disparaging remarks about their president. Finally they coordinated with Republican strategists to get their way despite the constitution that they made an oath to defend. 5) This forced Obama to create a new middle ground strategy that is in our national interest.
It is almost amazing the degree of information that he is able to get. Listening to the book, I couldn't keep from wondering why people were still talking with Woodward. I think many of them are trying to shape the narrative, but the fact that Woodward talks to so many people and gets so many points of view prevents any one persons attempt to create a history of their liking
Some interesting thoughts about 'what a human is', but more intersting philosphical discussion can be found in the short stories of 'The Minds Eye'. I admire Turring a lot (breaking the Nazi war codes was helpful). But its about time that someone said the obvious thing, the Turring Test is a silly and dated test. Its like you have two dogs, one is an excellent hunter, retriever, and search dog and one can bark out a word that sorta sounds like 'Hello' and you claim the second dog is smarter because it can talk. Computer intelligence will only ever really matter to the extent that it capitalizes on the strengths that computers have not on the degree that it mimics human behavior.
There are some interesting ideas in this book. Like showing how the southern strategy started with nixon and how todays republican party is more a product of Richard Nixon then Ronald Reagan. However I dont think you need 30 hours to make this point, and far too many times the author is reaching. For the author everything seems to go back to Richard Nixon from the tinkerings of Mayor Daily to southern waterhosing. And how the author transitions back to Richard Nixon after going off on a 30 minute rant about some obscure political detail by saying 'And there was Richard Nixon' with the word nixon pressed is really annoying.
The behind the scenes of late night has always been more interesting then the actual shows themselves.
Lets face it, these guys tell the same canned jokes 5 days a week for 30 years and get paid more in a month then many of us will make in our entire lives. There is nothing wrong with that, creating comedy is difficuly on a daily basis but the egos of these guys is pretty rich. It is hard to believe they think of themselves as 'Comic Geniuses' and revolutionaries in the art of having a monkey sit on their heads.
Although personally I prefer the comedy of Conan, having heard the behind the scenes story I am actually now more sympathetic to Leno... who at least knows its a business and treats it as such.
I don???t know what it is about the way in which this story is told, but the author comes off rather self involved. The author talks about how he found this singer or was one of the first fans of this singer. How he gave advice to yada yada or blah blahed with so and so. I am sorry but i love the musicians and more precisely the music they create and I do not really care about the who some critic had breakfast with. I suppose that you have to have a really large ego to be in the music industry and this book is an example of 8 hours of an author stroking his ego by dropping big names but his stories are boring. I cant imagine this book being interesting to anyone outside of his immediate family.
George Friedman, I think has a delusional outlook on foreign policy. To say that certain conditions would benefit a nation is one thing, to advocate that a nation should or could engineer those conditions is pure folly. Certainly that was what the war in iraq was, and its consequences are still unfolding. Although america may be in a position of leverage right now, coalitions can be formed to undermine that position. Noone sees the dragon coming, thats what makes it the dragon.
George Friedman's analysis is pretty good, but as Yogi Berra said 'Its tough to make predictions, especially about the future.' I think that Friedman makes a convincing argument that America has certain leverage that could produce long time global power. However because so many of his predictions are dependent on other predictions I think there is a good possibility that he may very well have got nothing right.
He advocates America's long term power because we are both on the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. However, he dismisses global warming outright saying there is no problem man makes that he can not also solve. But had he understood the implications of Global Warming then he may have also seen the implications of a "northern passage" being created across the artic ocean that would shorten the sea distance between the far east and Europe by a third and completely bypass American warships. If you don???t believe in global warming then you don???t think about this, but in reality this northern passage could be in use by the end of this decade and this could greatly undermine American global power.
The other thing that Friedman fails to grasp is there are so many divisions in American politics. He enumerates wars like Vietnam and Iraq, but he fails to see that in American politics politicians are cannibalizing their own countries position in the world at the expense of winning their next election. This self cannibalizing nature to American politics will lead to a power grab by one of the two major parties that will not just undermine democracy in America but will also undermine America???s position globally. This may be the only commonality that we have with the ancient Roman empire that Friedman draws so many parallels with.
Instead he focuses on the divisions in China, however most Chinese have a much stronger loyalty to their government because their government has been able to lift more people out of poverty then any other government in the history of man kind. He s
The evolution of God is probably one of the most interesting books that I have ever listened to. The author describes different gods that have been believed through human history everywhere from the acient Polytheistic religions of Babylon, to the development of the ancient Jewish monotheistic God, and through how the idea of that God has changed throughout the centuries. The book is western God heavy, and does not really jump into the ideas and concepts of god that exist in eastern religions. In other words this is really a history of the Abrahamic god. The main narrative of this book is that the concept of God has changed and evolved throughout the centuries with the implication that this concept of God has gotten closer and closer to the actual God. Personally, i do not think that he is presenting an Atheistic view of God, but perhaps a view that many theists do not have. If this book makes you question your concept of what God is, then perhaps the concept that you had of God was very incorrect... And really what is the likely hood that you ever had a very strong concept of what God is in the first place? Perhaps that cocksure knowledge of God, was really all a long a cover for ignorance? I am sure that many dissertations could be made made on this topic, however this is not a dissertation. This is a book that is meant for a wider audience and therefor is not necessarily to the same standard that an academic paper would. However, I do not think that just because this book is meant for a wider audience means that it doesnt have some profound things to say. I think that this theory should be expanded on further.
Personally, I think this is a fairly good narrative of the President's first year. It brings you through the journey of first year. His highs and his lows. While It does feel the author is a little partial to Obama, the author does show both good and bad. But ultimately this is chronicle of his first year. And I feel that most of the negative reviews are angry this isnt another Laura Ingram berate against Obama. If you want that, there are books you can buy, This is not it. Otherwise this is a good book to buy.
The Tao Te Ching is of course as always great, this version is also complemented by excellent thought provoking commentary at the end. But I think what sets this version apart is the narration. With the Tao Te Ching, it far to tempting to put into any reading of it an unneeded emphasis on certain words that implies a narrative that I don't think is necessarily intended by the author. For instance in some readings the narrator may simply emphasize certain words that make it sound like "ohhh this is really wise stuff here" or they may make it sound like the Tao Te Ching was written in the Matrix.. The narrator must put in some effort to separate his beliefs or feelings about the tao te ching or a particular topic with his reading of the Tao Te Ching. On the other hand, a computeristic reading can also be unpleasant and hard to listen to. I think Mr. Needleman gets the reading right with a nice flow, but nothing unneeded.
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