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

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,928 Ratings  ·  206 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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Feb 18, 2012 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
Dave Cullen
Jan 05, 2012 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.
Bill LaBrie
Nov 25, 2014 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
Bradley Farless
Jul 02, 2012 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
Aug 02, 2013 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?)

Philip Girvan
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've read a fair number of book concerning the Iraq War (less so about Afghanistan), and I would rank The Operators at or near the top.

The book provides a good account of General Stanley McCrystal from his West Point escapades to his ruthless efficiency as head of Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq. Among other successes, JSOC troops captured Saddam Hussein and killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. There were a number of scandals and controversies along the way, suc
Dan Bell
Jun 24, 2012 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
Barry Eisler
Feb 13, 2012 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
Apr 16, 2012 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
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
May 10, 2013 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
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
What a clusterfuck.

Hastings impressed me with the way he pulled the narrative together in the end. It’s not the story of McChrystal, or his team, or Hastings himself— it’s the assembly line of interchangeable generals in the unwinnable war. One of the most powerful parts is one of its simplest: two pages, back to back, with each side’s blunt opinions of the other. No spin, no politicking.

Just a clusterfuck. And it’s ours. We made it. With no way to get out.

(With regards to the movie, the one N
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all readers
Recommended to Brent by: Atlanta-Fulton Public Library
This is such an involving book. Has anything changed in Afghanistan since this was published five years or so ago? Well, we've lost a fine writer and reporter in Michael Hastings, whose car went off the road in Los Angeles; check Wikipedia.
Highest recommendation.
Ryan Williams
Dec 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Recently made a point of reading works written by Rolling Stone journalists. Not the equal of Generation Kill, but rewarding nonetheless.
David Vaughan
Jan 22, 2012 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
Chris DePoy
Aug 13, 2013 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
Marti Martinson
Jan 03, 2016 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
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
Daniel Elder
Feb 15, 2014 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
Adam Floridia
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Strong four stars.

I’m amazed at how ignorant I was about all of this. Yes, largely ignorant of any actual facts about the war in Afghanistan—which is a big part of Hastings’ point—but also about all the subsequent events in Hastings’ actual life (and death…). Spoiler: he’s dead. I’m actually glad I didn’t know that until I was at the last 50 pages or so; it’s not strange that learning about him changed my image of him, but it’s interesting and unsettling to think that that might affect how I re
Apr 06, 2012 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.
*This is going to be a long review, I hope, which I still need to think through when I don't have a vicious headache & have to get up early for work...

The American male, as a species, is in crisis. At least in the realm of public life, the norms for masculine behavior in our society have deteriorated to such an extent that American men are now expected to act like frat boys for the rest of their lives. You just wouldn’t be manly if you acted any other way. This is the message we get from our popular publications, television and movies. The wild bachelor party where a prostitute is accidentally (or purpos
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Średnio znam się na polityce zagranicznej USA i niewiele wiem o kulisach prowadzonych przez Stany wojen. To ważne: chociaż nie interesuję się tymi tematami na co dzień i niewiele wiem o przebiegu wojen z Iraku i Afganistanie poza tym, o czym mówiło się w powszechnie dostępnych mediach, to od "Wszystkich ludzi generała" nie mogłam się oderwać. To po prostu świetnie napisany reportaż.

Ci, którzy są zaznajomieni ze sprawą, wiedzą mniej więcej, o co chodzi: Michael Hastings miał za zadanie napisać te
Adrian Carpio
I wish I would've read this a few years ago. It's so horrendous how politicians of every stripe lies to the public about the conduct of wars. You would think that everybody learned some lessons from the Vietnam War.

I think McChrystal's story is the epitome of the American military conduct in Afghanistan. McChrystal and his crew have no respect for the civilians in charge of the military. That lack of respect trickles down to the conduct of individual soldiers on the battlefield. This goal of th
Evan Kostelka
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
A fascinating behind-the-scenes report of the top military officials over the Afghanistan war. Adding to the intrigue is the mysterious circumstances of Michael Hastings' death shortly after this book came out. Supposedly he had some information for a story on the CIA, but the coroner and local police do not see evidence of foul play. A Wikileaks document did seem to show that the CIA had a file for Hastings, fueling conspiracy theories.

I was expecting more 'explosive' revelations considering Mc
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ciężka książka, mimo że lekko się czyta. Opowiada na przemian o blisko miesięcznych spotkaniach i wywiadach autora z generałem McChrystalem, dowódcą armii USA w Afganistanie (oraz z jego najbliższą ekipą) - podczas pisania reportazu do Rolling Stone. Przeplatane jest to retrospekcjami odnośnie zmian politycznych i wojskowych w Afganistanie oraz przepychankach na szczytach amerykańskiej armii.
Z punktu widzenia polskiego czytelnika dość ciekawa pozycja, aczkolwiek zbyt szczegółowa. Po publikacji
Dot Edwards
An eye-opener

I really was not aware of the level of deception within the military. I would have liked to have more insight into the devastation the wars have had on the local populations. However it is a bit outside the purview of this book that focuses very much on McChrystal's transgressions. There is certainly enough material just on that topic.

So why only 3 stars? As a magazine article this would be fine. In a book I think a wider view should be taken. Agreed he looks at the Whitehouse and P
Reko Ukko
It's an entertaining read, but also reading McChrystals' "My Share of the Task", it's evident how Hastings had an incredibly narrow focus on what was going on. Coming off from the latter book (having read Operators first), I couldn't help but think how his command steam was pretty much blowing off steam during the off-hours of their work and the actual work done by McChrystal in Afghanistan (given the history of the country and America's long involvement there) was incredibly difficult. McChryst ...more
Riaad van der Merwe
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm a massive fan of Hastings. A journalist that doesn't drink the cool-aid of any administration and one that's not afraid to tell it like it is—no matter what the outcome might mean for him.

The Operators is no different. An honest and brutal look at America's folly in war, and their insatiable lust for it.

Any general/soldier/president/cabinet member/Senate member or just about anyone should read this book. It truly is an eye-opener.

It saddens me immensely that we've lost a voice so objective
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Military Authors ...: The Operators 1 9 Oct 16, 2015 06:55AM  
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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 GQ, The Washington Post, the L.A. Times, Slate, Salon, ...more
More about Michael Hastings...

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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.” 3 likes
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