10/30/10

Obama’s Wars – A Book Review

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

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Bob Woodward is infamous among bloggers, pundits and readers alike. Agree or disagree with him – he is an astounding author. Obama’s Wars does not disappoint… The title seems to mostly refer to the strife within Obama’s national security team and the Afghanistan war itself.

Woodward paints an intricate portrait of President Obama being torn between national defense and progressive allegiances. While on the one hand proclaiming the US could weather another 9-11, he was barraged with reports of terroristic threats. Caught between the need to prevent terrorist attacks and wanting to get out of Afghanistan at any cost, Obama is literally finds himself between a rock and a hard place.

Afghanistan has beaten down countless enemies over the ages. Woodward’s book lays out the dissension among Obama’s rank and file comprising his security team. Infighting, lack of focus, egos – you name it, his A-team seems to be more of a C or D-team. The team seems to agree on little if anything concerning direction, goals, timetables, missions, troop levels and strategy… If this is a defining event for Obama, it may be a miserable footnote in his Presidential portfolio. Without solid leadership to win the war in Afghanistan and the will and backbone to let our military do what they need to do to win, the chances of success are not good.

There is little respect between Obama and his military commanders. To lead in the military, you have to have respect or little will be won in the way of military milestones. In Woodward’s book, you get a detailed window into closed and secret meetings concerning military strategy. It is a fascinating foray into the internal struggles between the President and his top military brass. There is little love lost between politicians and career military personnel and tensions run high. This is not a happy family, it is more of a fractured unit at best. A national defense disaster in the making at worst…

I found it riveting that Hillary Clinton was brought up as someone that could not be trusted. I know, I know… Obvious, but still intriguing.

I also found the fact that Obama is vastly extending CIA covert ops worldwide to be enlightening and worrisome to say the least. The NSA has also greatly expanded their powers under Obama’s leadership.

Obama does not view Afghanistan as a real war, but more of a strategic battle. In my humble opinion, that is a great way to lose. He’s also terrified of a nuke attack in the US, or so he claims that that scenario is at the top of his list and where he can’t afford to screw up.

Pakistan is also a primary topic in the book. Obama believes strongly that the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan are our leading enemies and that Pakistan is not our friend in general. From Obama:

“We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan,” Obama is quoted as saying at tha Oval Office meeting on Nov. 25, 2009. Creating a more secure Afghanistan is imperative, the President said, “so the cancer doesn’t spread” there.

Obama is more than a little concerned that Afghanistan turning into another Vietnam. In the end, Obama has devised his own exit strategy more than a plan to win the war. Obama seems more concerned with what the military should not do, rather than what it should do to win the war.

In depth and detailed, the book provides a close look at the divisions between Obama and our military leaders. It indicates to me an utter lack of leadership on Obama’s part and an arrogance that screams do it my way or hit the highway… This is a terrific book that I recommend you read – if for no other reason to get a good feel for the chaos that is being sowed and the unreality that is impinging on our political leaders and dividing our military might from our clueless politicians. I want to leave you with some points and quotes from the book:

• “I’m not doing 10 years,” Obama told top advisers on October 26, 2009, six weeks into his fall Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review. “I’m not doing a long-term nation-building effort. I’m not spending a trillion dollars.” Such a commitment was not in “the national interest.” (p. 251)

• The CIA runs a secret 3,000-man paramilitary force of local Afghans called Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams (CTPT). Some teams are conducting extremely sensitive cross border operations into Pakistan, as part of stepped up operations against al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens. (p. 8, 367)

• President Obama continued or expanded 14 intelligence orders, or findings, for worldwide CIA cover operations from the Bush administration. (p. 50-56)

• President Obama made an unpublicized determination late last year that al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan would no longer be acceptable. Funded and protected by the Pakistani military intelligence service, the ISI, affiliated terrorist groups have merged as the major threat to both success in the Afghanistan War and stopping a future terrorist attack on U.S. soil. (p. 302, 303)

• Afghan President Hamid Karzai is a diagnosed manic depressive, on medication, with severe mood swings. Sensitive intelligence reports on Karzai claim he is erratic and “delusional.” Woodward writes that common descriptions of Karzae included “off his meds” and high on “weed.” (p. 65, 128)

About the Author:

Bob Woodward is an associate editor at The Washington Post, where he has worked for 39 years. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, first for the Post’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, and later for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has authored or coauthored eleven #1 national nonfiction bestsellers. He has two daughters, Tali and Diana, and lives in Washington D.C., with his wife, writer Elsa Walsh.

Purchase the book here. It’s a great addition to your library.