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Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  899 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
“Stunning revelations…This is an account that long will be consulted by anyone trying to understand not just Iran but warfare in the 21st century…an important book.” –Tom Ricks, New York Times
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Crown (first published January 1st 2012)
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Mal Warwick
Jun 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Barack Obama's Foreign and Military Policy Viewed from the Inside

When I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, I expected a great deal from his Presidency — much too much, it’s clear in hindsight. What I didn’t expect was that as President he would exercise U.S. military power almost as aggressively as George W. Bush. As the subtitle of this excellent book hints so broadly, the apparently anti-war candidate Obama quickly morphed in office into a resolute, hands-on Commander in Chief.

In his campaign, Ob
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A thorough and engaging book about the complex world that Obama confronted during his first term and his and his team's attempts to deal with it. Singer writes of the "surprising" use of American power, but it's not really that surprising. All presidents have their ideas of how to shape the world to their liking, and all have used various means in that pursuit. Like Obama, many have used covert action by the CIA (in fact, every president since Truman has used it). With such a capability in place ...more
Lori Gum
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A true must-read for any citizen that is interested in our present foreign policy; particularly this administration's responses to what has become known as "The Arab Spring" and more critically maybe, Obama's mostly classified actions to keep Iran from going nuclear while also trying to keep Israel from bombing it's nuclear facilities. This book also does much to explain Obama's defining decision to expand the Drone program in places as seemingly inconsequential as Yemen (an issue I was particul ...more
If you paid any attention to the recently-completed 2012 campaign, you heard a lot of talk from both Democrats and Republicans about America's place in the world. In particular, the Republican presidential primary was dominated by talk of how America must "shape events" and "serve as a beacon to the world." David Sanger's extensively-researched, "Confront and Conceal," uses a massive amount of declassified material and Sanger's far-ranging access to key decision-makers to explore just how the Ob ...more
May 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sanger
finished this one yesterday, 30th april 2017...wasn't that the day (give or take) that the last helo lifted away from the roof of the embassy in saigon. '75 was it? good read. i liked it. 3-stars.

kindle, library loan, and available, so i read it. this was maybe the 5th, 6th nonfiction (give or take) i've read recently (91st title of the year) and as others have noted the title, at least the first portion of it, or actually the middle portion of it, bears little relation to the subject matter. i
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this is a topical, important, and useful overview of Obama’s foreign policy posture thus far, it is not likely to be either politically or historically relevant after the upcoming election (i.e., Tuesday, November 6, 2012). In other words, this is a true “current events” title.

Some critics have rightfully pointed to the chapter on U.S. cyber-warfare efforts against Iran (aka “Olympic Games”) as revelatory. It certainly is a fascinating exposé, one that may very well justify the price of th
Mark Galassi
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an in-depth description and analysis of the Obama administration's efforts in the world's hot spots.

The scope of the book seems impressive; I will give here the list of topics and then discuss what I thought of the writing of the book.

Afghanistan and Pakistan -- the inherited situation, the mistakes before finally forging their own approach, the acceptance of a "good enough" solution.

Iran -- the stuxnet virus, the difficult collaboration with Israel.

Drones -- the drawbacks of an oth
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A truly fascinating book about the foreign policy challenges of Obama's first term and how he responded to them.

But to me its also an embedded discourse about the nature of foreign policy and the necessity and frustrations of embracing complexity, as it is largely an exercise in grappling with ambiguity in a hall of mirrors. Every situation has costs and benefits and a great deal of uncertainty not only about what will happen, but what is currently happening, and why. And so its imperative that
Kahne Parsons Walker
Indispensable for understanding not only the profound challenges facing the U. S. militarily and diplomatically, but also the extreme pressure facing America in the post 9-11 era. Obama gets points for acknowledging and acting upon the reality that American power and resources are not limitless. He loses points--understandably so--as one watches him constructing policy "on the fly", pulled in contradictory directions by American idealism and the cruel realpolitik of maintaining relations with tr ...more
Feb 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book, but the entire tone was overly fawning with very, very little critique or counter-point to the administration. To his credit, Sanger seems to recognize and tries to rebut the fact that the book mostly consists of previous reporting and background quotes provided from inside the White House. I don't know that you can expect much more considering the fact that it was written late in the first term and Sanger needed to maintain access into the 2nd.

So, as long as you ta
Jack Sussek
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like this kind of stuff it is a great read, current as of three months ago. Fascinating insight into Obama and his administration and fills in all the blanks of the last year and a half with respect to American foreign policy. Highly recommend it, Sanger writes well and has a good sense of narrative.
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful and well-written recap of Obama's challenge in managing secrets and spying. Sanger's analysis is insightful, and especially interesting given the way Obama campaigned where these issues were not emphasized. I also think the impact on Obama of his political allies was interesting. Must read for politicos.
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reminiscent of Woodward's books about Bush, this book gives an extremely detailed look inside the Whitehouse and the operations within. After reading all these books I walk away with much more confidence in both of these Presidents.

I highly recommend this book.
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am not an Obama fan. His domestic and economic policies are terrible. However, I have a new found respect and appreciation for his foreign policy, his involvement, his decisions, and how he has dealt with what he inherited. I am glad I found this book.
Oct 04, 2012 rated it really liked it

In 2009 and 2010, a sophisticated computer virus dubbed Stuxnet by cyber security commentators infected programmable logic controllers (PLCs) at an Iranian nuclear facility, altering the speed of some of the plant’s centrifuges causing them to spin out of control and explode. Reporting by the New York Times’s David Sanger revealed Stuxnet as part of the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush’s top secret Olympic Games program which explored the prospe
Rick Howard
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cyber Security Professionals; Foreign policy enthusiats
Executive Summary

This book is an interesting read for foreign policy buffs but a must-read for cyber security professionals interested in the evolution of cyber warfare. It is the first published book that chronicles the current US government’s thinking about the merits of cyber attacks as a middle-ground diplomacy option between invading a country on one hand and sanctions or negotiations on the other. It is also the first book that gave the public details about operation “Olympic Games,” a mul
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Confront and Conceal is, in many ways, the sequel to The Inheritance. The Inheritance was about the foreign policy challenges Obama inherited from Bush. In Confront and Conceal, Sanger examines how Obama has faced those changes and attempts to pin down an “Obama Doctrine.” In Inheritance, Sanger presented America’s foreign policy challenges as almost siloed. Here, he makes clear that our continued presence in Afghanistan is largely driven by our strategic interests in Pakistan, and those strateg ...more
Aaron Schmidt
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyed David Sanger's look into the Obama administration. The depth of sourcing and reporting is incredible, and I really appreciated how consistently even-handed the perspective remained throughout. My slight critique is with the title; not so much that it doesn't quite fit (I still don't feel that it does), but that it makes a pretty bold statement that seems bolder than the thesis of the book. The title seems a little sensational for a reasoned and rounded report of the Obama admi ...more
David Maynor
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Look inside Obama challenges

Worth a read if you are a fan of national security policy. Stuxnet even gets its own whole chapter. Great read.
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barack Obama may have been the only Nobel Peace Prize winner in history to order lethal force used on a regular basis, but things could have been worse. Confront and Conceal attempts to make a case for an "Obama Doctrine", one which avoids epic disasters like the destruction of Iraq, but still asserts American influence via surgical operations and international organizations. Sanger reviews the actions of the Obama White House regarding Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, China and Iran, w ...more
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
This book is a fascinating look into current events in the Middle East
and Asia and how President Obama and his team of advisers are reacting
and dealing with those events.

The book's author seems to be in on the inside track when it comes
to getting access to President Obama's key people in the Oval
Office. I'm impressed that the author was able to relay candid
interviews from such people as Hilary Clinton, Gen. Stanley
McChrystal and Robert Gates. The author also relays conversations
with people fro
David Brooks commented in a recent NYT piece ("Where Obama Shines", July 19, 2012) that Obama has been a pretty effective president, from a foreign policy standpoint: "He, Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the rest of his team have created a style of policy making that is flexible, incremental and well adapted to the specific circumstances of this moment. Following a foreign policy hedgehog, Obama’s been a pretty effective fox." David Sanger's Confront and Conce ...more
Nov 09, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a sequel to David Sanger’s previous project, The Inheritance, a volume the New York Times reporter released in 2009 to chronicle “the national security challenges left to President Barack Obama.” As such, it’s based on reporting Sanger himself did as a chief Washington correspondent following Obama’s inauguration up through April of 2012. By his own admission, Sanger used his own news stories as well as “selective use” of State Department cables WikiLeaks released as published by the Lon ...more
Nate Huston
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another very enjoyable and easy read. While books like this sometimes make me frustrated (who knows how "truthful" everyone is when speaking anonymously), the book is easy to follow and generally follows well known stories throughout President Obama's first term, focusing on details that the general public mostly has not been privy to. Sanger's purpose is to examine what he calls the "Obama Doctrine - a lighter footprint around the world, and a reliance on coalitions to deal with global problems ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it
David Sanger's level of access to top-level sources in the Obama White House and elsewhere means that this book is chock-full of surprising revelations - about our cyber-attacks on Iran, about the philosophical rifts in Obama's foreign policy team, about the insane backlash from Pakistan after the bin Laden raid. The amount of legwork and the intimacy of the stories make for a breezy, consistently fascinating read.

That having been said, I do wish that the writing was consistently more compelling
Parker F
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Sanger's "Confront and Conceal" is a remarkably up-to-date account of Obama's foreign policy decisions in the White House and should be read as soon as possible by anyone with an interest in the current state of affairs with regard to the US and Syria, Libya, Iran, or Israel. "Confront and Conceal" is far more gripping and complex than any of Bob Woodward's recent fly-on-the-wall foreign policy books. Critics of Obama's foreign policy should read this book and appreciate how difficult it i ...more
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provides an intelligent insider's view of the Obama administration's foreign policy. The book covers the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan (and the assassination of Bin Laden), Iran and the deployment of Stuxnet (aka "Olympic Games"), Egypt and the Arab Spring, and China. The relationship with each country is highly complex, and the book helped make me aware of some of the intricacies of policy making at a national level: perspectives of insiders and outsiders, resources, business ...more
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In "Confront and Conceal, or "The Reckoning" as it's CD release is called, David Sanger, the Chief Washington Correspondent for The New York Times, provides an insider's look at the Foreign Policy President Obama, and how it transitioned from that of George W. Bush to his own.

There may be some individuals hesitant to read this book given that Mr. Sanger has three strikes against him (he's from NY, a Harvard graduate, and working for the NY Times). But being bright and having the credentials to
This book has some interesting and genuinely new material on the Stuxnet attack on Iran in particular. And it is very readable as one would expect from a journalist. Sanger is a Washington insider and as such he appears unable to examine critically the assumptions prevailing inside the narrow American policy-making elite.
For example on the subject of Iran Sanger just goes along with the simplistic thinking that says "we don't like Iran so we shouldn't allow them to have any capability to develop
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must read for political junkies. The book is a follow up to Inheritance, in which the author discussed the wars and economic troubles that Obama was inheriting from the previous administration.

This book focusses on how Obama deals with the two wars he inherited as well as new threats and challenges he faced. Readers get an in depth look at the little known world of drone strikes and cyber-warfare. After covering wars in the Middle East, Sanger takes inside the situation room as Obama
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Restraining the Tiger 1 7 Nov 01, 2012 12:14PM  
  • Counterstrike
  • The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today
  • Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency
  • Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
  • 500 Days: Decisions and Deceptions in the Shadow of 9/11
  • On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines - and Future
  • Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan
  • Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power
  • The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics
  • A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran
  • The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War
  • The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan
  • Black Code: The Battle for the Future of Cyberspace
  • Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party
  • Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power
  • Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War
  • It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the Politics of Extremism
  • Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West
“We are in a strange world,' one senior Israeli official said to me, 'where the defense minister and to a lesser degree the prime minister are focused intently on the military option, and the intelligence services and the military, with some exceptions, are deeply doubtful.” 2 likes
“China's internal divisions have made it far harder to strike the kind of deals that made it possible for the two countries to open up diplomatic relations decades ago or get China entry into the World Trade Organization. If Nixon were going to open China today, the Interior Ministry would probably get into an argument with the Chinese president's office about whether to let Air Force One land, and then demand the plane's antimissile technology as the price for refueling” 2 likes
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