Vivian Valvano's Reviews > Obama's Wars

Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward
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Dec 17, 10

Read in December, 2010

I have respected Bob Woodward's reporting ever since the Watergate reporting and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. This book leaves me very scared and upset. Woodward's research and reporting, his uncanny ability to get numerous sources to speak even if he cannot name them, and his excellent conducting of on-the-record interviews yield a frightening picture of the Obama administration and Afghanistan. Obama comes across as essentially too much of a professorial deliberator (he has a penchant for outlining items by number or letter as meetings go on, and he takes far too long to come to any conclusions ... if he ever does). His one real conclusion recounted here is his November 2009 decision of Afghanistan Pakistan strategy, including the 30,000 troop buildup. It is painful to read about how long it took for the president to make a decision and how much time was spent, a good deal of it not productively, as far as I can see. Obama's "supporting cast," so to speak, of the vice-president, strategic cabinet members, an assortment of military men, the presidential advisers, some intelligence personnel. . . (seemingly ad infinitum), continually vie for his attention; most, in the meantime, seem to be self-serving; some seem to be outright fools, in my humble opinion. I will record here a few items that cement my prior opinion that Afghanistan is a futile war and we should get the hell out. In March 2009, General Petraeus and Richard Holbrooke ran into Helen Thomas, the 88-year old Hearst columnist, and she accosted them: "What the hell are you doing in Afghanistan? This is Vietnam all over again. . . . And anyway, what are you screwing around in Iraq for? You know it's going to hell when we leave." I would never have imagined myself agreeing with something written by Bill Kristol, but in summer 2009 (after Woodward had gone to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India with General Jones), in Kristol's weekly column he "suggested that General Jones was in over his head and that Obama was on the path of a 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot presidency.'" "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" is a euphemism for "WTF," i.e., "What the ----" (I shall be decorous and trust that you understand). (I am sorry to say that it seems to me that Obama is in over his head in the Commander-in-Chief department.) After President Obama announced the new strategy in November 2009, according to Woodward, "Petraeus said privately,' You have to recognize that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It's a little bit like Iraq, actually. Iraq is a bit of a metaphor for this. Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives.' Perhaps the most pesssimistic view came from Richard Holbrooke. 'It can't work,' he said." (Dear God, did we learn nothing from Vietnam? Let us get out of there.)
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