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The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan Paperback – November 27, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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.” -The New York Times

“Hastings has written the funniest book I have read on the war and the US presence in Afghanistan--and it’s not easy being funny about Afghanistan or the US Army. The last time someone tried it was in the 1980s, when P.J. O’Rourke wrote hilarious pieces—also for Rolling Stone—about the Mujahideen in Peshawar and later the Taliban…. Hastings’s sense of humor is sly, cynical, and disrespectful, but it is honest....Hastings is an American kind of dissident. ” —Ahmed Rashid, The New York Review of Books



“Superb…One of the most eye-opening accounts…from one of the bravest and most intrepid journalists.” -Salon.com



“It demands to be read…this is a book of great consequence, not a pop-culture puff piece, which some of its deriders claim it is. 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.” -The Daily Beast



“Brings a fresh eye and a brutally authentic voice to America's decade-old misadventure in Afghanistan.”-Los Angeles Times

About the Author

 Michael Hastings started his career at Newsweek in 2005. He is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, covering international affairs and politics. He lives in Vermont.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (November 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780452298965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452298965
  • ASIN: 0452298962
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,624 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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
Journalist Michael Hastings hit it big when his Rolling Stone profile of Stanley McChrystal, the hard-partying, wisecracking, egotistical, and irreverent Special Forces head of the US forces in Afghanistan, triggered the general's removal by President Obama.

The Operators tries to capitalize on that, expanding the profile to book length. Even if you never read the Rolling Stone piece, but read the news reports of the firestorm that it caused, you probably are already familiar with most of what would be of interest in the book. Much of the rest is rehash or filler coupled with a little insight.

If you're surprised by Hastings's revelations that the war in Afghanistan has little or nothing to do with 9/11 or alQueda, that no one seems to know why we are there or what to do there, that politicians and the military lie to the public and each other, that corruption is rife in Afghanistan, and that journalists often exchange ego strokes with politicians and the military, well, where have you been?

Told in a conversational style that sometimes borders on the comically egotistical (Was I really dealing with a spy or was she a high-end prostitute?), the book is a very easy read.
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