One again, another misleading title! I thought for sure the book would address the duel wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, Afghanistan steals the stage (not at all a mirror of reality) and Woodward marches the reader towards yet another war in Pakistan. I don’t believe this was his intention at all but the overwhelming message seems to be Pakistan is really the root of America’s problems with terrorism. (The book was written in 2010, long before Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan.) The back and forth over Pakistan and Afghanistan boils down to an interesting debate over control of the military.
The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, but he (and, hopefully one day, she) are often a civilian rather than a person with military credentials. Woodward explains how President Obama (a civilian) clashed repeatedly with the military over strategies and, most frequently, troop deployment sizes. Neither side seems to respect the other side. The civilian is painted as unknowing; the military presented as a big bully. One of the interesting observations Woodward makes during this book is how focused the top commanders of the US were on future wars rather than the two they were currently engaged in, how focused they were on preserving the relevance of the military in the future.
It’s also one giant good ol’ boys club; the only female voice is that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Even her voice is marginalized in the administration over fears she is trying to eclipse the President politically and secure a chance of being president herself. Yet the most self-serving people in the administration are the ones whom Obama brought with him from Chicago, a group of people coined the “Chicago Mafia”. The voices of those in the National Security Agency, particularly James Jones, are disregarded in order to make certain voices and ideas carry more weight. What a frustrating situation!
The book ended up being one of the most readable books on politics and war that I’ve read. A fascinating, accessible read.
- Woodward, Bob. Obama’s Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print. 464 pgs. ISBN: 9781439172490. Source: Purchased.