If ever you wanted to sit at the table with the President of the United States, his cabinet, our country's military and national security leaders and listen first hand to their heated debates, renowned journalist Bob Woodward gives you that opportunity in “Obama's Wars.”
Woodward's book gives detailed accounts of the transition from President George Bush to President Barack Obama, his initial meetings on how to address the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the constant give-and-take between the Obama administration and some military leaders.
Woodward uses internal memos, classified documents, meeting notes from those involved and hundreds of hours of interviews with all the key players to report the story. Woodward, famous for his work on breaking Watergate in the Nixon administration with fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, writes the book as a journalist should – as if he were a tape recorder. He allows the subjects to tell their own story with the notes and interviews, allowing the reader to draw his/her own conclusions.
The book provides insight regarding just how prevalent Pakistan is in the United States' ability to “win” the war against terror.
One of the most telling exchanges is early in the book when Pres. Obama is asking the various military leaders how the war in Afghanistan can be won.
“I don't think you win this war,” General David Petraeus said. “This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives.”
Woodward also breaks down many of the debates from within Pres. Obama's staff on picking his various cabinet members.
David Axelrod, Pres. Obama's senior political aide, was strongly opposed to Hillary Clinton being chosen as Secretary of State.
“How can you trust her?” Axelrod asked the president.
“Hillary and I were friends before this started,” Obama said. “We had this very vituperative campaign, but she is smart and we ought to do something with her.”
Retired General Colin Powell's private meeting with Pres. Obama about the future of the Afghanistan war interested me.
“Don't get pushed by the left to do nothing. Don't get pushed by the right to do everything,” said Powell, a former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. “If you're going to send more troops (as the generals were urging) make sure you have a good understanding of what those troops are going to be doing.”
Among the most heated debates routinely comes from Vice President Joe Biden. He was bitterly opposed to increased troops in Afghanistan, routinely emphasizing the heart of the Taliban and al Queda are in Pakistan.
“Bottom line – it doesn't necessarily matter what you do in Afghanistan,” Biden said. “If you don't get Pakistan right, you can't win.”
Biden is one example of the numerous people in the book – Afghan President Hamid Karzai; then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell; U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry; Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates; Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to name only a few –?that you learn much more about regarding their personal views related to the political scene and the scope of the two wars.
Regardless of what side of the political fence you sit on, Woodward's insider's look at the critical power struggle and debate involving these two wars is at a minimum extremely enlightening.