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The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,265 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
In June 2010, Michael Hastings's extraordinary, uncensored "Rolling Stone "article, "The Runaway General," shocked the world and set off a series of events that culminated in the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal. Now, THE OPERATORS will lead us even deeper into the war, its politics, and its major players at a time when such insight is demanded and desperately nee ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published December 6th 2011 by Little, Brown & Company (first published June 1st 2011)
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Micheal
Feb 18, 2012 Micheal rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Concerned citizens, students of military history
Recommended to Micheal by: Michael Hastings on Bill Maher
I shudder with sadness and regret for Afghanistan, my own country and at my own naiveté.

I believed, that for the purpose of women to be able to get out from under the persecution and violence of an archaic culture, for children (girls) to be able to go to school, and for a populace to eventually live in a peaceful environment, that US presence in Afghanistan was just and necessary. The counter terrorism argument lost its validity with the ouster of Osama and the start of the Iraq war; but the p
...more
Dave Cullen
Nov 11, 2013 Dave Cullen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I plunged into this book now, and it's electrifying.

The writing is so crisp, candid and insightful. He rips back the curtain and takes us inside this world, of senior military in a war zone in the Middle East.

The stories are incredible but it's the voice that really hit me. Kind of revelatory, actually. He's setting a new benchmark for this generation of writers. I don't say that lightly.

Go get this book now.
Sketchbook
Aug 02, 2013 Sketchbook rated it it was amazing
"He's a war geek," reporter Hastings writes here of Gen. McChrystal, the man he brought down. "He spends his vacations at battlefields." Hastings is now dead : his battlefield was LA where his car blew up. He was probably murdered by the US military complex which controls America. Meantime, our Prez is perfect for the US show window. (He isn't "allowed" to do anything). Read this book by an American martyr. Our morality has gone to Hell. (Did we ever have any?)

Barry Eisler
Feb 13, 2012 Barry Eisler rated it it was amazing
The Operators covers, in excellent prose and with perfect pacing, three broad topics. First, the insanity and futility of America's war in Afghanistan. Second, the way decisions are made in Washington and at the Pentagon -- the bureaucratic battles, the petty resentments and one-upmanship, the alliances and betrayals. And third, the realities of journalism -- the tradeoffs journalists engage in between access and honesty, the way journalists allow themselves to be seduced and suborned by the pow ...more
Amar Pai
Entertaining although I didn't learn too much new. Crazy that McChrystal would openly talk shit about Obama to Rolling Stone... what did he think would happen? This book is like the movie Almost Famous except instead of a young reporter embedding with a rock band it's a youngish reporter embedding with four star generals who have a vaguely rock-star vibe to them
Florence
May 21, 2013 Florence rated it liked it
The author of this book is also the author of a Rolling Stone magazine article on General Stanley McChrystal which resulted in his resignation as commander of the war in Afghanistan. Some of the book describes the time the author spent with the General's staff both in Europe while they attended various public events and continues in the war zone as well. Apparently the General spends a great deal of time on public relations and had a large staff to help him present a positive image. War duties s ...more
Chris
Apr 17, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: afghanistan
I didn't realize when I requested this book it was by the "infamous" Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings. I had to overcome my initial feelings of disdain for this guy who got McChrystal fired. But it was McChrystal who got himself fired, not Hastings. Hastings did his job and this book reads like Bob Woodward's book or Megan Stack's "Every Man in this Village is a Liar." It's visceral, penetrating, and page turning. Hastings is no wimp nor a wallflower. Once when McChrystal's staff is tryin ...more
Bill LaBrie
Feb 09, 2015 Bill LaBrie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: military, conspiracy, politics
Look at this book carefully: It got one man fired and (likely) another killed.

In a personally-revealing chapter of The Operators, Michael Hastings cites passages from Phillip Knightley's The First Casualty while describing the odd subculture of the war correspondent. The whole of the famous quote used in the title of Knightley's book goes: "In war, the first casualty is truth."

In most ways, this casualty is unavoidable. The fog of war and its power to suffocate the truth is providential in many
...more
Jessica Bruckert
The man whose writing you hate to love - Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings (whose infamous article was responsible for the dethroning of until then untouchable General Stanley McChrystal) - is back at it with a complete expose of the "operators" at the helm of the war in Afghanistan. While it's clear Hastings enjoys the inflammatory and controversial - with little thought to the consequence of what he's writing - it's exactly this which makes what he pens all the more intriguing and delicious to ...more
David Vaughan
Jan 22, 2012 David Vaughan rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This is an elaboration of Michael Hastings's Rolling Stone article--you know, the one that got four-star general Stanley McChrystal canned as head of the Afghan war. Hastings embeds with JSOC, the snake-eaters, for a wild ride through Paris, then on to Kabul and beyond.
We watch as Hastings checks in and out of hotels, flies with a Kiowa helo crew as they blow shit up, and compares watches with Hamid Karzai's corrupt half-brother. He drives directly into an Afghan town he's been told to avoid an
...more
Dan Bell
Jul 02, 2013 Dan Bell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
There was nothing wild or terrifying about this story. It was your typical story of civil-military strife during a conflict. The Operators was simply a journalist's look as an outsider into the workings of the military. Worse, the author, the recently-deceased Michael Hastings, contradicted himself repeated throughout the story, trying to play the selfless journalist looking out for America's best interest.

No, I'm sorry, I don't buy. From the get-go, it was apparent that Hastings saw this as a
...more
Chris DePoy
Aug 13, 2013 Chris DePoy rated it really liked it
Michael Hasting’s does a very fine job of describing the disconnect in Afghanistan. Although this book is non-fiction, it reads like a fictional narrative, and I wouldn’t be surprised if HBO tries to adapt this into one of their movies. This is because Michael Hasting’s was actually there listening to General McCrystal and his advisers as well as the soldiers who were actually fighting the war. Michael Hasting’s writes with a style similar to fellow Rolling Stone’s Alumni Hunter S Thompson. In f ...more
Bradley Farless
Jul 11, 2012 Bradley Farless rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
As a US Army Veteran that served for 8 years and did two combat tours (one during the first six months of the war with Iraq and one later with an ADA unit), so much of what Hastings describes regarding military culture, the feeling on the ground among people who are actually doing the work and the disconnect that often exists between command officers (and sometimes E-8s) and the rest of the troops is spot on. It was also nice to see a real profile of higher ranking people that portrays them as h ...more
Drake
May 01, 2014 Drake rated it really liked it
Unfettered access by a young Rolling Stone reporter to a war general’s inner circle - what could go wrong? General Stanley McChrystal received his answer after Hastings scribbled his now-infamous article which led to McChrystal’s forced retirement. That alone was quite an amazing story, but in The Operators, Hasting provided a personal and inside look into his time with the general and the rocky aftermath. Along the way, he documented his travels through Europe and Afghanistan with the general a ...more
Lynn Dolan
Read the article that was the genesis of this book when it came out and promptly forgot about it. I was recently prompted to pick up the book when I heard McChrystal was coming to town to promote his counter-insurgency practices as solutions for the private business sector. The accounts of Hastings' time with the principal characters (Flynn, McChrystal, Petraeus, ...) was neither terrifying or wild, but sad and stupid. These men, lauded as "rock stars" in their insular, bubble world were painted ...more
Clyde Curley
Oct 13, 2014 Clyde Curley rated it really liked it
Readers may recall President Obama's decision to relieve Army General Stanley McChrystal from his command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan several years back. You may also recall that his decision was largely based on an article in Rolling Stone by Michael Hastings titled "The Runaway General." "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan" is Hastings's expanded book version of that piece. The book is strengthened by added detail, but weakened somewhat by the ...more
Eric
Apr 06, 2012 Eric rated it it was ok
Michael Hastings is a total dick. I read this book because I was fascinated, as a public affairs specialist, that Gen. McChrystal would give such candid access to a Rolling Stone reporter. What Hastings ended up catching and reporting on was water cooler talk. Just a bunch of worn out dudes venting during their downtime. Hastings knew exactly the type of story he wanted to tell about the war. Unfortunately, our top brass handed it to him.
Marti Martinson
Jan 21, 2016 Marti Martinson rated it really liked it
Before lauding the book, I have to point out 2 errors. On page 281, the word "inherently" is misspelled as "inherhentyly". On page 285, the location of Walter Reed hospital is given as Springs, Maryland. Well, the city of Silver Spring (singular, no ending "s"), Maryland IS just across the DC/Maryland line, but Walter Reed is in DC.

His book makes it very clear why we are in Afghanistan: douchebags (page 117), dildos (page 127), and ass-kissing little chicken shits (page 346). When I say the book
...more
Daniel Elder
Feb 24, 2014 Daniel Elder rated it it was amazing
Bam! Here's a book! The sentences are tight! The action moves. And the information, dizzying in its scope, is rendered entirely digestible. The result: you get the picture, you get the story, all the pieces, and are able to follow the bureaucratic nightmarish clusterfuck that is America in Afghanistan with a mix of horror and awe. It is a damn shame that Michael Hastings died in a car crash in June of 2013, because he has left behind all the markings of a writer and a journalist with immense amo ...more
Gavin
Nov 22, 2014 Gavin rated it really liked it
I was fascinated by this book, both because of the casualness of Hasting's interviewees, and also by the seemingly ease of getting there with Rolling Stone (in this day and age). I could picture some of this group still salivating over a cover photo for R.S., and perhaps it's a dash of hubris that allows you to think that your present status in life is some type of entitlement, or without responsibility.

In any event, there is much to think about here based upon the modern Thirty Years War, or ba
...more
Jennifer
Jun 19, 2013 Jennifer marked it as to-read
so sorry to hear of Hastings' death. This book was under consideration for the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism....
Chris Ross
I listened to the audio book and Lloyd James is one of the best narrators for audio books ever. This is a great book. While listening to it I Googled Michael Hastings and learned that he died in a car accident in 2013 and was only 32 or 33. There are reports online that he believed he was being followed or hunted by the FBI and possibly the CIA for a story he was about to break and there are reports that his car accident is an act of cyber terrorism. I am not certain I believe this though I do b ...more
Bruce
May 17, 2014 Bruce rated it it was ok
The subtitle of this book is "The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan", but this book is neither wild nor terrifying.

The majority of the book tells the tale, now famous, of how this reporter got General Stanley McChrystal fired as head of our forces in Afghanistan. What is amazing to me is how superficial and minor the alleged 'offenses' were that got him fired by the White House. Theoretically there was evidence that the soldiers over there were in disagreement with
...more
David Gallin-Parisi
Mar 07, 2012 David Gallin-Parisi rated it really liked it
At first, I couldn't get into Hastings' book-length, extended mega-mix, treatment of his Rolling Stones article. The tone is casual, almost an On the Road-style of self-reflection, objective reporting, and straight facts about Afghanistan. After about fifty pages though, I was hooked. Knowing the outcome of his article, General McChrystal's firing, doesn't hurt. Instead, Hastings portrays a tumultuous snapshot of people reading pdf versions of his article the day of publication, asking him, "Hey ...more
John
Jan 18, 2013 John rated it liked it
Hastings gives a deep, ground-level view of his time traveling with one-time commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal. He also gives a higher level overview of some of the politics behind various diplomats and commanding officers coming and going from Afghanistan in the first days of the Obama administration.

Hastings' weakness as a writer is the occasional need to spell out references in humorlessly exact detail. He can't mention that McChrystal's plane goes by "Ocean 11" with
...more
Adam Heffelfinger
Aug 09, 2012 Adam Heffelfinger rated it it was amazing
There's a somewhat meta moment early in The Operators when author Michael Hastings references Cameron Crowe's 'Almost Famous' and its fabled story of a Rolling Stone reporter swept along on a whirlwind tour with a band that quickly forgets that as a reporter he is "the enemy."
The Operators is very much that story, but instead of the Allman Brothers/Led Zeppelin stand-in of Stillwater, we get the very real 4-star General Stanley McChrystal and his team of strategists and PR people. The book is al
...more
Stefan Fergus
Oct 18, 2013 Stefan Fergus rated it really liked it
The article that this grew out of, published in Rolling Stone, resulted in General Stanley McChrystal's ousting. Only, the article itself was pretty innocuous, as far as things went. In fact, much of the media furore took place BEFORE the article was available to the general public. (Which, at the time, irked me no end...)

Now, if this book had been published first... That would have been an entirely different matter. The Operators is FILLED to bursting with examples of Administration incompetenc
...more
Nicole
Apr 24, 2012 Nicole rated it really liked it
If you're a political junkie (like me) I would recommend this book. It is the behind-the-scenes lead-up/background/full story to the Rolling Stone article that was the ultimate undoing of General Stanley McChrystal (and the subsequent appointment of General David Petraeus to the command in Afghanistan).

It was well written (although could've benefited from some better editing - a few typos that were distracting). There were times I felt that Hastings was trying too hard to justify his story, and
...more
Chris
Apr 17, 2012 Chris rated it liked it
In July 2010, the author of this book wrote an article, "The Runaway General", for Rolling Stone magazine. As a result of this article, President Obama fired General Stanley McChrystal. This book expands upon that article and lists some of the after-effects of his story.

The book itself is an interesting read. I just think the author is a bit confused. On the one hand, he says he feels guilty that he gets a rise out of the war. But he hates the war. So he blows McChrystal out of the water in a 20
...more
Carolyn
The author, a journalist, was assigned by Rolling Stone Magazine in April, 2010, to write a profile of General Stanley McChrystal, then Commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. He was given extraordinary access, with almost nothing off the record. He was invited to join the general and his staff for a celebration in Paris during which everyone except Hastings got "totally shit-faced" and the general made some impolitic remarks about Joe Biden and other government officials.

The
...more
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Military Authors ...: The Operators 1 6 Oct 16, 2015 06:55AM  
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  • Back in the Fight: The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up
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  • In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan
  • The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War
  • Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War
  • The End Game: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama
  • Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--from 9/11 to Abbottabad
  • The War I Always Wanted: The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War: A Screaming Eagle in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth
  • With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful
  • War from the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics. Emile Simpson
  • Not A Good Day To Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda
  • Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War
  • Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden's Final Plot Against America
  • Intel Wars: The Secret History of the Fight Against Terror
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Michael Hastings died June 18, 2013, at the age of 33.


Michael Hastings was a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. Over a five year span, he regularly covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He started his career at Newsweek magazine in 2002, and was named the magazine’s Baghdad correspondent in 2005. In 2008, he reported on the U.S. presidential elections for Newsweek. His work has appeared in
...more
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“The simple and terrifying reality, forbidden from discussion in America, was that despite spending $600 billion a year on the military, despite having the best fighting force the world had ever known, they were getting their asses kicked by illiterate peasants who made bombs out of manure and wood.” 6 likes
“Janet Malcolm had famously described journalism as the art of seduction and betrayal. Any reporter who didn't see journalism as "morally indefensible" was either "too stupid" or "too full of himself," she wrote. I disagreed. Without shutting the door on the possibility that I was both stupid and full of myself, I'd never bought into the seduction and betrayal conceit. At most, journalism - particularly when writing about media-hungry public figures - was like the seduction of a prostitute. The relationship was transactional. They weren't talking to me because they liked me or because I impressed them; they were talking to me because they wanted the cover of Rolling Stone.” 4 likes
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