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The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan Hardcover – January 5, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for THE OPERATORS by Michael Hastings:
 
"The life of a general is something to see, especially when it's Stanley McChrystal, America's four-star, rock star commander, at the height of his power and panache in Afghanistan. It's a hard story to get, and hard to tell it well, but in the hands of Michael Hastings, it's a world-class job of reporting and a joy to read."
—Richard Ben Cramer, author of What it Takes and DiMaggio
 
"The most impact-laden story of the year...written by a perfect specimen of the new breed of journalist-commentator."
—Barrett Brown, Vanity Fair
 
"An impressive feat of journalism by a Washington outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than most insiders did."
—Frank Rich, New York Times
 
"The Operators is a troubling first-person narrative about a bizarre episode in U.S. military history, as well as a trenchant analysis of the disaster in Afghanistan. Hastings … brings a fresh eye and a brutally authentic voice to America's decade-old misadventure in Afghanistan.”
—Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times
 
“The Operators seems destined to join the pantheon of the best of GWOT literature, not just for its rock-and-roll details, but for its piercing chronicles of a world gone mad.”
—Matt Gallagher, Newsweek/Daily Beast
 
“As the situation in Afghanistan grows increasingly muddy, [Hasting’s] disciplined adherence to solid journalistic practices and his acute eye for sharp scene setting makes much of the chaos comprehensible. Hastings has definitely taken up the traditional banner of the intrepid war correspondent, but he’s simultaneously shot it through with iconoclastic holes; the effect is illuminating on many levels.”
Kirkus Reviews
 
“Hastings brilliantly intertwines narratives…. Hasting's first-class, engrossing reportage reveals unsettling yet human flaws behind one of recent history's most lionized military figures, and a war which purportedly began as a response to terrorism, but whose aims--in the author's estimation--remain ambiguous.”
Publishers Weekly
 
"Superb... the book provides vital insights about the war not available anywhere else... One of the most eye-opening accounts provided yet...from one of the bravest and most intrepid journalists who has covered it.”
—Glenn Greenwald, Daily Beast

About the Author

Michael Hastings is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. He regularly covers politics and international affairs for the magazine, including the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. In 2011, he received the George Polk Award in journalism for his Rolling Stone story "The Runaway General." His work has appeared in Newsweek, GQ, Men's Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Salon, Foreign Policy, The Daily Beast, and The Huffington Post. In 2010, Hastings was named one of The Huffington Post's Game Changers of the year. His GQ story "Obama's War" was selected for Best American Political Writing 2009. The author also of I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story, Hastings lives in Vermont.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press; 1 edition (January 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399159886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399159886
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author



Michael Hastings was a contributing editor to Rolling Stone and a correspondent at large for BuzzFeed. Before that he worked for Newsweek, where he rose to prominence covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the recipient of the 2010 George Polk Award for his Rolling Stone magazine story "The Runaway General." Hastings was the author of critically praised three books: I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story, Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama's Last Campaign and the New York Times bestseller The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan, which was optioned for film by Brad Pitt's Plan B Productions. In 2010, he was named one of Huffington Post's Game Changers of the year. In 2009, his story Obama's War, published in GQ, was selected for the Best American Political Writing 2009 anthology. Hastings died in 2013, and was posthumously honored with the Norman Mailer Award for Emerging Journalist. His novel The Last Magazine (Blue Rider Press) will be released on June 17, 2014.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

195 of 215 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are two distinct narratives to this mostly excellent book.

In one, Hastings recaps and expands on his embedded assignment alongside Gen. Stanley McChrystal's team as they traveled Europe and Afghanistan. A variety of inappropriate conversations later reported in Rolling Stone ended up leading to McC's dismissal as Afghanistan war commander. In the second, he presents an after-the-fact roundup of reporting on the Afghanistan situation, and other events in DC.

The book will be reviewed by any number of audiences with preconceived opinions.

There is a set of people who view what Hastings wrote as an attack on the military, which it isn't. Or, that he betrayed his source's confidence, which he didn't - they had to have known he was recording and writing notes. That's what a reporter does, after all, didn't they know it? Or they thought the same relationship that always works would work again - you hang out, you have some late night conversations, you trade stories and you bond...and when the writing's being done, then the reporter should know what to leave in, what to leave out. It always worked before, so why didn't it work now? I'm sure Duncan Boothby, McC's PAO, wondered that when he was resigning.

It didn't work, because Hastings is not Bob Woodward - he's not protecting access by protecting the bridge against enemies from either side. He burned the bridge with everyone, including him, on it. That's what the most honest reporter does - tells the story that he/she sees, and worries about the truth first and last...and relationships nowhere. The reportees aren't called friends, after all - they're called 'sources.'

Hastings shows this in a section where he presents a blistering critique of war reporters in general.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
You may remember how back in 2010 an article in Rolling Stone got General Stanley McChrystal fired from his job running the war in Afghanistan. McChrystal and his team were presented as arrogant, free-wheeling and insubordinate, bashing the President, as well as the civilian leadership. I remember finding very little surprising about how McChrystal was portrayed in the article -- but I'm a cynic, it's my belief that most people who hold powerful positions tend to be burdened with hubris and incompetence. The fact that this is true, but is rarely reported in the media due to the cozy relationship between the power brokers and the court stenographers, is what really caused the firestorm. It wasn't so much that Hastings' story was true that upset so many in Washington, it was that he had the temerity to put the truth in print.

The Operators is a book-length version of the Rolling Stone article, covering the first few years of the Obama administration's efforts in Afghanistan. And those looking for a hero in the story are going to have a hard time finding one. Even Hastings, the narrator and ostensible protagonist, isn't particularly likable.

The war Hastings describes is one dominated by political infighting, with various factions hidden away inside their own insulated bubbles, incapable of recognizing the truth, or refusing to admit the truth when it conflicts with ideology. The Obama administration comes off as weak and ineffective, the Afghan government as corrupt and impossibly incompetent, and the American military as an isolated culture more concerned by its own inner workings and politics than whether or not it can achieve actual "success" in a country as thoroughly broken as Afghanistan (or even what "success" might mean).
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Occam's safety razor on January 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Journalism is a shadow of its former self. The days of Walter Cronkite and a press anxious to fulfill its role in a democracy is pretty much gone. Co-opted by the very people it should be examining and career ambition. Offer a critical comment? Lose your access. Not just for you but possibly for your employer as well.

I am sure there are some here who will give a bad review without reading the book. But this is a story that needs to see the light of day if for no other reason than to remind us of the proper role of the press in a democracy.

Well documented and well written. A breath of fresh air unless you prefer celebrity biographies.
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103 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Francois Theberge on January 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
What some have the nerve to call "yellow journalism" is what journalism is supposed to do: expose the powerful and well-connected failures, mistakes and corruption. Those who want to live in a fish bowl, be fed solely by the benevolence of their betters and avoid any critical thinking can bash Michael Hastings.

OTOH, those who want to know the truth want more real journalists like Hastings. That is why his book deserves 5 stars. There are way too few of his kind remaining in the US, which explains why our country is going down the drain. Without sunlight shed on the powerful, this Republic will collapse.

Guys like Hastings are the true patriots.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Adam Fine on January 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In one of his books on the Korean War, "This Kind of War," T. R. Fehrenbach observed: "Military men, who are willing to risk their lives have small sympathy with anyone unwilling to risk his office." Michael Hastings's "The Operators," explores this concept on two levels.

First, the main story is, of course, about General Stanley McChrystal and his coterie, who were tasked with trying to salvage this country's horrific immersion in Afghanistan's Vietnam-like deadly quicksand. The book relates their disdain for politicos--from the president on down--who do not seem to grasp the things that the military needs to accomplish the goals it's been given. Second, Hastings willingly (or even eagerly) burned his bridges as a reporter in order to use the resulting fire to shed needed light on workings of government that are all too often shielded from view and needed oversight and control. It is rare for journalists to risk a get-along persona in order to get it right.

McChrystal and his group gave Hastings unvarnished access in return for a hoped favorable feature in "Rolling Stone." They got the story, warts and all. "The Operators" relates all of this in a breezy somewhat self-deprecating style. It reminded me of Julie Salamon's superb behind-the-scenes making of the film from Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities," "The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco." Here, however, the stakes are much, much more serious than the making of a film. The Afghan fiasco has wasted, and continues to squander American lives--killed and maimed by a nation-building war that cannot be won--as well as the billions of dollars we have poured and continue to pour into that venally corrupt state.

"The Operators" turns over the rock of pretense and reveals the mulch below. It is an important and fascinatingly revealing book.
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