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Showing 1-10 of 152 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 237 reviews
VINE VOICEon June 17, 2015
Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars would probably be more aptly titled Obama’s War as the primary focus is Afghanistan. When Iraq is brought up, it is usually as a counterpoint or contrast to the events in Afghanistan. With that said, it does not diminish what Bob Woodward has accomplished in this book. At the basic level, everyone assumes that every presidential administration has a degree of infighting. These people are obviously very prideful and opinioned subject to the same feelings of pride, jealously, rivalry as the rest of us.

Woodward is able to construct a narrative that shows the reader the civilian-military and even military-military rivalries within the Obama Administration as they try to figure out how to deal with the Afghanistan War and our “allies” in the Karzai family. It really isn’t a question of right or wrong as most rational actors will act in their own self-interest or their organizations interest as the case may be. I thought it was also interesting because the American public hears the decisions presidents make, but often little about the decision making process itself.

Obama’s Wars is a terrific book for those who want to know about presidential decision-making processes and those who just want a juicy narrative about the conflicting parties in a presidential administration.
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on January 22, 2014
For anyone who is interested in the nitty-gritty of politics, this is an excellent read. For those who are only casually interested in politics, give this one a pass. I loved the book, but I am very involved in politics.

Obama's Wars is well-written, comprehensive, and un-biased, which is refreshing for a book about politics. Woodward has amazing access to all of the top leaders in both Congress and the White House, and takes the reader into the discussions and decisions that took place in the White House.

The fact that this book is as un-biased as is humanly possible bears repeating. Political books usually are written from a partisan point-of-view, but this one is the exception. The reader feels as if he was actually present and able to come to his own conclusions, instead of reading the author's conclusions.
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on November 23, 2010
This book opens your eyes to the mess that Barack Obama has to deal with. It's one thing to have a certain ideology and belief, but it's another thing when you are confronted with challenges posed as a result of actions by others. In this case, the President of the United States is trying to nicely cleanup the mess the Bush Administration had created by invading then ignoring Afghanistan for 10 years as a retaliation to the 9/11 attacks. What you don't hear often--especially if you are an avid follower of the news--is the sheer pressure and uncertainty that is surrounding the Afghanistan war.

What is obvious from the get go in this book is that the US military is not grappling with the fact that the mission in Afghanistan is basically there-is-no-mission. The president persistently pushed the military to come up with a clear mission with definite goals without avail. All they kept saying is that they were there to reverse the Taliban and Al-Qaeda's momentum. He would ask them about their progress and they would more or less state that they are losing--10 years into the war. What he ended up doing is listening to all that the military had to say, and then basically said; what you guys propose to do is to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely until the country is fully developed and has an army of 400 thousand well trained officers. This mission would have the US spending an additional $700 billion in the next ten years without any guaranteed benefit to the United States. This almost one trillion US dollar will come at the expense of other domestic spending that the government could do or simply use it to reduce the US budget deficit.

After countless meetings with Secretaries Gates and Clinton, VP Biden, military officers and other government leaders, Obama made his famous decision to hand over the country to the Afghan government in July 2011. Therefore, the mission in Afghanistan ended up going from defeating Al Qaeda and Taliban to "hold, build and transfer" to the Afghan government the control of the country. It also emphasized the fact that Taliban and Al Qaeda were using Pakistan as their new safe heaven, and the US should expand its efforts into Pakistan-effectively forcing Pakistani's cooperation-to degrade the operations of these terrorists groups. Under Obama's watch, the mission went from being open-ended to having a two years time line.

It is truly a fascinating telling of the way Obama made his decision and a window into his decision making process. He is very intellectual and methodical in his approach to problems and his decisions always came after deep thought based on all the data that is available. He does read every detail and tries as much as possible to be aware of everything that he decides on and challenges whatever is thrown at him by "experts." He even often consults experts from outside the administration, like talking to former Secretary of State General Colin Power, to verify or challenge what his own "experts" are telling him. It's a definitely fascinating book written as if it were a thriller/suspense novel!
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Every time I read one of Bob Woodward's books, I wonder why people are so open to speaking with him. They must know that their words and ideas will appear in print. And not always in a flattering manner. . . .

This work focuses on Obama's work with his often fractious foreign policy-national defense-intelligence team. We read of the actors' views of the process of whither to go in Afghanistan. The focus is the run-up to President Obama's decision on a "surge" in Afghanistan.

We see many facets of this choice. The intelligence community, the military community, Obama's advisors, his foreign policy-defense team, Pakistani leadership, the Pakistani military, and President Karzai of Afghanistan, among others.

We read of the jockeying for power, the selective use of media to carry on debate over decisions that had putatively already been made, and the tension between the military and the tradition of civilian control of the military.

Key personalities: David Patraeus, Stanley McChrystal, Bob Gates, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, James Jones, Michael Mullen, and so many others.

Another fine work by Bob Woodward on what is going on deep inside Washington, D. C. and throughout the world.
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on March 16, 2011
Very easy to read book by Bob Woodward in which he uses his incredibly insider sources to bring to light all of the decision making that took place behind the 30,000 troop surge announced by President Obama at West Point in early 2010. Definitely a must-read for anyone that wants to figure out what makes this White House tick. The book gave a great insight into how hands-on and involved Obama is compared to his predecessor, especially this passage about David Petraeus' reaction to Obama's orders to the military:

When he [Petraeus] later learned the president had personally dictated the orders, he couldn't believe it. "There's not a president in history that's dictated five single-spaced pages in his life. That's what the staff gets paid to do."
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on July 22, 2015
An inside look at decision making or non-decision making in the White House. As usual, you get the inside story when Bob Woodward writes the book. It reads quickly and easily, however, you might not like what you read about the political gamesmanship. It's current history told as only Bob Woodward can convey it. You'll never go wrong with a Bob Woodward book even if you don't like his political point of view. I highly reco0mmend it. JoAnn Van Tassel
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on November 2, 2010
Bob Woodward proves once again his ability to get insiders to talk. Obama's War is an important account of recent history about a key decision President Obama faced. Despite a down economy and a war weariness on the part of the American public, he is being asked to recommit to the effort in Afghanistan that was started in 2001. Does he send more troops? How many? What are the goals? What is the strategy? For how long does America's commitment run? And what does an ongoing commitment look like?

Woodward takes the reader behind the scenes to the strategy review sessions that take place among the top advisers: SECDEF Bob Gates, NSA James Jones, SECSTATE Hilary Clinton, CENTCOM Dave Petraeus, ISAF Commander Stanley McChrystal, Chairman of the JCS Mullen, and administration officials GEN Lute, Rahm Emanuel, and many others. There are deep divisions but also thoughtful and thorough discussions. The President himself is very ambivalent about a long term expensive commitment that he will have to pass on to HIS successor and distract his administration from domestic goals. Yet, he campaigned on a promise to properly resource Afghanistan and criticized the Bush administration for concentrating too much on Iraq and forgetting about where the genesis of 9/11 was -- Afghanistan -- and where the al Qaeda threat still remains -- along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He puts in his own handpicked General, Stanley McChrystal, to turn things around. Yet when McChrystal comes up with his assessment, detailed here in Afghanistan Commander's Assessment, the president is not sure he wants to send in so many additional troops that McChrystal is requesting.

Some in the Obama administration argue that the president is "being rolled" by the military. They think that Obama is being boxed in where he HAS to give McChrystal what he wants. However, think about it from the point of view of the military. They were rolled by Bush/Rumsfeld through 5 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, given a counterinsurgency mission without the resources to effectively carry it out. Rumsfeld goes so far as to dictate individual unit assignments for the theater -- holding back on most them for the initial Iraqi invasion. When Iraq started looking like a failure the military leadership were criticized for not standing up to Rumsfeld and telling him the truth about what was happening and how to stop the losses. THEY had been rolled. So, having learned from that catastrophe, they took a stand on Afghanistan and told the president this is how it needs to be if he wants to achieve his objectives in Afghanistan.

Obama's Wars will be studied in the military schools and by senior national security policy makers for years to come. The decisions made will be evaluated, in due time, on their success and failure. Understanding the decision making process and the issues involved is a major contribution of Woodward's latest. Highly recommended.

If you like this book from Woodward, also recommend U.S. Army U.S. Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual by none other than GEN David Petraeus, USA.
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on November 17, 2010
By this time in his career, Bob Woodward's Washington Scene has become automatic Best Seller material for the rest of American. Probably his best audience is in Washington, itself, as "insiders" closely scrutinize the texts to see how they, their political friends and their political enemies came out.
I did not read this book to see who did what to whom or whether Obama gets an A- or a D+ as compared to his immediate predecessor nor to see whether Secretary Clinton outshines Secretary Rice. Having no political axes to grind I was not sensitive to the political implications in terms of the recent (as of this date) Midterm Elections nor of the forthcoming ones two years from now when the President will be reviewed by the Public. Woodward seems to me to be making no judgments himself although mentioning election significance to the President's staff and the President, himself. Indifferent myself to the relative success of Democrats or Republicans, I may have missed a partisanship that was unrecognizable to me for that reason.
The major overt "conflict" which is central to the book is a quite normal one impacting all Presidents and all Congressional and Military leaders in the modern era. That is the problem of line and staff, that is, how do the people who are obliged to make command decisions deal with the advice given by those who have the necessary technical knowledge upon whom they are reliant. A crucial secondary problem is that faced by higher level commanders in assessing how well their commands have been carried out and what the actual results in action have been. That is, did subordinates do what they were told to do, and, if not, why not; and, what happened because of the action taken.
The inability to predict social futures to any high degree and the lack of control over primary variables influencing impact, makes the job of formulating commands, assessing the degree of their conversion into action patterns, and judging the ultimate results, an enormously difficult one for leaders of the highly compex United States in the almost infinitely complex World situation of today. When the key leader, the Commander of Chief, brings nothing to the table save a wit trained in law, his job, the job of his civilian and military staff, and that of the military line and staff, who must both inform and conform to his decisions, is fraught with potential disaster.
Woodward takes us through these difficulties with as much depth and objectivity as the journalistic enterprise allows. Even the hundreds of volumes that will follow in due time will leave lacunae in our knowledge and understanding. For a book written while the ink is not yet dry on the commands which ensued from the deliberation therein considered to be as good as this one is, is a credit to the skill of Mr. Woodward and to the sources which are said to be among the best for any journalist dealing with these matters.
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on November 5, 2010
This was my first exposure to a Woodward book (other than Primary Colors which only half counts). As someone interested in current events, US politics, and understanding the world around me, this was a great first exposure.

Woodward gives an open, honest, unbiased, and very detailed account of the aspects of the Obama administration's investigation and decision-making process into the Afghan war and the extension of that war into Pakistan. Most of the book covers the administration's review of the current military situation and their subsequent decision on the number of forces to add to Afghanistan and the role those forces should play.

For the first time I felt that I had a somewhat accurate picture of many of the people at the top of the US government. While most of this material is not surprising, the accounts of Vice President Biden and the top military leadership did take me by surprise and gave me a new understanding of those parties.

My only complaint about the book is that it doesn't always give dates or a clear picture of other events unrelated to the war discussions going on at the same time.

This was a very good book and I have already begun going through Woodward's older books. I very much recommend it for anyone with political interests, regardless of political affiliations.
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on January 27, 2011
After each national election, I always ask myself "Why would any person want to be the President of the United States?" With all the problems, criticism, and military actions the United States is involved in, what drives a person to seek this high office? So far I haven't found an answer to that question.

In "Obama's War" Bob Woodward details the many challenges left to this new administration by the previous one, especially as they relate to the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the continuing occupation of Iraq. Woodward uses first person quotes, and interviews, much as he did in "The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008" about the Bush Administration. Woodward notes the multitude of voices both within and outside the White House that seek to drive our national narrative.

Highly recommended reading for persons interest in current events, and American History.
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