Saturday, September 25, 2010

Obama's Wars

What I have noticed is that Bob Woodward tends to feed into prevailing impressions, not go against them, which I suppose is why his books become bestsellers.  Seems he will have another one in Obama's Wars, timed perfectly with the midterm elections.  From what I've read of the blurbs, there isn't much more Woodward is saying that hasn't already been said,

The book, “Obama’s Wars,” by the journalist Bob Woodward, depicts an administration deeply torn over the war in Afghanistan even as the president agreed to triple troop levels there amid suspicion that he was being boxed in by the military. Mr. Obama’s top White House adviser on Afghanistan and his special envoy for the region are described as believing the strategy will not work.


  1. It would be interesting to read if Woodward understands the international commitment involved here. Unlike Iraq, the Afghan War had full UN and NATO backing, and a large international contingent is present in Afghanistan, which like American soldiers have suffered a large number of casualties over the years.

    Obama made Afghanistan a foreign policy priority during his campaign and his lived up to that commitment, realizing I believe that US credibility was at stake here after the Bush admin had all but abandoned Afghanistan to NATO. Without beefing up the US presence in Afghanistan, I doubt Obama would have been able to get many European countries to accept Gitmo refugees in 2009.

    Afghanistan is an exceedingly complex issue and deserves a lot of attention. Unfortunately, it has become little more than a political football during these midterms.

  2. Thanks for posting the book, Gintaras. My guess is, like Game Change, it's good gossip if nothing else.

    Actually I don't see anyone focused on the war here (other than the brief, shameful skirmish over don't ask don't tell). It's a difficult policy for Democrats to talk about because if they oppose it, they oppose the president, and vice versa for the republicans.

    I heard William Polk on NPR the other day. I'm pretty sure he's a republican but like Bacevich I tend to agree with him on the occupations. He said the US needs to set a deadline for total withdrawal so that it's clear the US military really is leaving and not planning on long-term occupation. He suggested the end of next year. My guess is Obama is up to that commitment.

    The only really good account of Obama's assessment of the war that I've read so far was a lengthy feature in the Times. There was something about working to find compromise between Biden and the military, finally agreeing to the military strategy but moving the "bell curve" of engagement over. That's a detail that has stuck with me -- partially because it is so visual but also because it rings true (no pun intended). (Finding compromise also has the ring of truth to it as well.)

  3. From a different perspective, there was a mayor from some city in the south -- Alabama I think -- on my local NPR station promoting public transportation. Interesting interview -- but the take away point for me was the importance of improving our transit systems because we can no longer afford lengthy occupations to ensure our access to oil. Seems like the message is finally getting through.

  4. Retired Colonel Bacevich has been savage in his criticism of Bush and now Obama over the Afghan War,

    I supposed if Obama suggested a withdrawal to NATO he probably wouldn't find too much opposition, as I think everyone is weary of the war in Afghanistan, not least of all Afghanis.

    The sad fact of the matter is that the Bush admin gave up on Afghanistan pretty quickly despite, pawning the war off on NATO, and Obama feels that the US should honor its international commitment to Afghanistan.

    I don't know if a corner can be turned in Afghanistan like there was in Iraq. The political dynamics of the country are far too unstable and the geography much more difficult to work with. If the US had made the least effort in rebuilding the infrastructure of the country over the last 9 years they might have made some headway by this point. But, as it is, the situation is pretty much the same as when they started back in 2001.

  5. I've been hearing more and more about Woodward's book. Not sure if it is worthwhile to read, but I'm starting to come around . . . well, a little, but probably won't get it. I'm overwhelmed with the amount of reading material I have, including library ebooks. Just started Tony Blair's My Journey -- something I wouldn't have bought but spotted it online at NYPL. Got on the list and it was available for download after just a week.

  6. I'm going to take a pass as well. From what I have read of the book, he is exactly covering any new ground here, and I don't imagine the WH made him privy to very much inside information.

  7. I'm just about to the end of Obama's War, and though not a great book or particularly well written, it's certainly worth reading. You get the sense that this is probably as close to what happened in the decision-making process that any one individual can get.

    He suggests by the way that NATO troops are really irrelevant and that the Americans view them as sort of in the way. This is perceived in Afghanistan as an American and British war -- or as I prefer to say _occupation_.