A high-ranking general's gripping insider account of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how it all went wrong.
Over a 35-year career, Daniel Bolger rose through the army infantry to become a three-star general, commanding in both theaters of the U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. He participated in meetings with top-level military and civilian players, where strategy was made and managed. At the same time, he regularly carried a rifle alongside rank-and-file soldiers in combat actions - unusual for a general. Now, as a witness to all levels of military command, Bolger offers a unique assessment of these wars, from 9/11 to the final withdrawal from the region.
Writing with hard-won experience and unflinching honesty, Bolger makes the firm case that in Iraq and in Afghanistan, we lost - but we didn't have to. Intelligence was garbled. Key decision makers were blinded by spreadsheets or theories. And at the root of our failure, we never really understood our enemy. Why We Lost is a timely, forceful, and compulsively listenable account of these wars from a fresh and authoritative perspective.
©2014 Daniel Bolger (P)2015 Audible Inc.
I had resisted purchasing this book for quite a while. I had seen the author in many media appearances as he promoted it. When I saw an extensive interview with Brian Lamb of CSPAN on the hour-long Q & A program, I realized that I had made wrong assumptions about the work. By way of explanation, before retiring, I worked for the Army in a civilian position in which I recorded and observed many of the Distinguished Visitors (DVs) which came through our post during our nation's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. This included a majority of the full Generals and Admirals (four stars) in all of the services (about 24) and most of the Lieutenant Generals (3-star) in the Army (43, according to LTG Bolger). I do not remember encountering the author during his time on active service so I assumed, wrongly, that he might have been a National Guard or Army Reserve general with limited time in either theater. No, quite the opposite, he was deployed extensively. From the title, one would expect this to be a kind of anti-war screed. It is anything but that. Bolger obviously has great admiration for his fellow soldiers and general officers. A very famous general once told me why a retired general (which I had asked about) wouldn't write a memoir. "Because if you do, you must either settle old scores, or gloss-over the inevitable differences." Bolger avoids this trap by writing as a trained historian (which he very much is - PhD in Military History from the University of Chicago). He gives extensive credit to senior officers and their civilian overlords where credit is due, but doesn't hesitate to criticize short-comings, either in policy, strategy, operations or tactics. He includes himself, if not in the praise, in the criticism. His extensive accounts of Operation Anaconda, Roberts Ridge, and other battles in Afghanistan and most of the major battles in Iraq are wonderful -- full of the inherent heroism which occurs, along with realistic depictions of the tedium, dirt, sweat and mundane tasks of war. Having read or listened entire books on many of these engagements, I found them well researched and thoroughly engrossing -- usually better than the accounts written by veteran war-correspondents and journalists.If you care about the military or want a accurate accounting of our two latest wars and the lessons that should be learned from them, you listen to or read this one. It is really good.--Don M. od Queen Creek, AZ
This book drew a good broad picture on the wars and why they failed. You can see from a managerial perspective of the wars the many shortcomings that came from lack of planning and execution on the coalition's part in the matter of sustainment operations for the war country. It was a long listen and had a big focus on the Iraq war and not nearly as much on the war in Afghanistan. The author described many small stories in the wars that really didn't tie into the bigger picture of the story. Kind of seemed like filler.
This account was the insiders' perspective I was looking for. He didn't seem to be too judgmental or bitter. He just told the story and threw in plenty of tales of the front lines. His analysis was even keeled, I thought. The narration and recording quality was good as well.
The title "Why We Lost" would perhaps be appropriate for the epilogue only.
The rest of this book, consists of a series of vignettes of western intervention in the Middle East and South Asia from the end of the Cold War up until the time of writing. The title's tagline "A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars" is also inappropriate. If, indeed, the author was present at any of the actions described, it is not clearly stated, and much of the discussion following these engagements followed closely with mainstream interpretation and opinion; the author's personal reflections on these events was not immediately apparent.
To be clear, however, this is a great book. Bolger condenses extensive, multi-source research into a great narrative, and incorporates the view from both troops on the ground, and commanders at home. As a narrative of the wars from a coalition point of view, it is a great contribution.
I found this book to be very interesting and filled with noteworthy anecdotes surrounding many battles in both Afghanistan and Iraq. However it lacked more insight into the political aspects of what drove both of these conflicts. As much as I appreciated the many battlefield stories I was looking for more insight and perhaps reasoning behind the battles. Maybe there really isn't any good reason why we went there why we are still in Afghanistan. I fear our country will make the same mistake in the future as long as Pride and money are at the Center of our political landscape.
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