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Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power Hardcover – June 5, 2012
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"Penetrating history of the presiden'ts effort to grapple with a world in flux..." --New York Times
"Sanger is one of the leading national security reporters in the United States, and this astonishingly revealing insider's account of the Obama administration's foreign policy process is a triumph of the genre.'' --Foreign Affairs
"Meticulously reported, immensely readable..." --The Washington Post
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Top Customer Reviews
Here is a rough summary of the most interesting part of the book in my view: the author's description of how a Bush initiated project called "Olympic Games," unfolded and got played out under Obama's direction:
Following up on previous efforts to surreptitiously install faulty parts into Iran's German made computer systems and power supplies, General James Cartwright, of the U.S. strategic command, convinced President GW Bush that launching a cyber penetration effort could be at least as effective as the stratagem of trying to introduce faulty parts. Bush bought into Cartwright's idea, which outlined a way of gaining access to the Natanz plant's industrial computer controls by the innocent introduction via a thumb drive of a small bit of "sleeper" code called a "beacon.Read more ›
I won't give another summary here; others already have. I will echo another reviewer's irritation at Sanger's introduction of Obama as "typical dovish Democrat" and transition to "Hawk." Sanger needed to tell a story here; like many in the Washington press corps, he is shocked (SHOCKED!) to find the President would act like either a "Hawk" or a politician. Sanger has difficulty moving away from that bit of conventional wisdom, an understandable problem given his own position as a New York Times reporter.
The only other point the book seems to lack is a deeper discussion of the legal and geo-political ramifications of nation-states' use of cyberwarfare in peacetime. Sanger brings up the point of nations using military-designed computer programs to weaken or spy upon other nations. Is this an act of war? Where is that line to be drawn? Sanger asks the question but doesn't search very far for his own position, nor does he look to any other outside voices on the subject.
So, we have an extended news article here, focusing on several challenges to the United States around the world and how this Administration has met them, for good or ill. Sanger doesn't take much of a position of his own, but this won't stop reviewers, talking heads, the left-wing blogosphere or right-wing shriek radio from spinning this book to their own ends. I believe this book is worth the money to read and decide for yourself.
Confront and Conceal is organized into five parts, covering: Afghanistan & Pakistan, Iran, drones & cyber warfare, the Arab Spring, and China & North Korea. The section on Afghanistan & Pakistan is the longest by a fair margin, taking up almost one third of the book. China & North Korea, by comparison, is given short shrift. In my mind, it's hard to argue that the Arab Spring deserves twice the space as China & North Korea.
A renewed exuberance for the Afghan war (reflecting Obama's campaign rhetoric) soon faded under sober inspection. Transforming Afghanistan into a modern nation was not and never had been feasible. There is simply no way to replace the development aid and military spending that accounted for the vast majority of Afghanistan's GDP. So our focus shifted to warily watching Pakistan and (rightly) putting our pursuit of al-Qaeda first, even if it means jeopardizing our relationship with Pakistan, as the mission to kill Osama bin Laden did.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a very interesting book and I enjoyed it. Unfortunately it probably disclosed some things that will turn around and bite us in the rear, and we will undoubtedly lose some... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Joezenith
An excellent read which fills in the ongoing story behind the daily news casts & newspaper headlines. Read morePublished 9 months ago by W. Williamson
Up-to-date review of the complexities of the Middle East and other problem areas.Published 10 months ago by Santiago
I am pretty near the end of this book -- Part V, "China and North Korea." I bought the audio version from Audible.com. Mr. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Steve
I ordered this book because the review that I read suggested that it would make sense of the public chaos that I have seen of President Obama's flip-flopping in public with... Read morePublished 14 months ago by David Ecale
Lots of good stories and interesting recaps of events and great research. I think its slightly too much Iran but as we all know its a pivotal ingredient to US FP. Read morePublished 16 months ago by @DavidFalt
It's so easy to say that Obama is doing nothing, that America is declining and all threats our mounting - and the tipping point is so close! Read morePublished 17 months ago by Piotr W.