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Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Hardcover – November 11, 2014
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—Andrew J. Bacevich, New York Times Book Review
—Wall Street Journal
"I am glad to see someone of [Bolger's] caliber tackling this subject."
“With vigorous, no-nonsense prose and an impressive clarity of vision, this general does not mince blame in this chronicle of failure.”
Top Customer Reviews
Bolger was active duty for the entire duration of the Iraqi War, retiring in 2013. His references include his own meetings he attended, military journals, briefings. As a LG, many of the people he writes about where in his command. He tells the story the way it unfolds, starting with Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Things could have been so different then had the US Army gone into Baghdad and taken Saddam Hussein. Instead, we backed off, allowing the enemy and its allies to regroup and resupply for the bigger war ten years later.
Veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan from 2001 to 2013 may recall many of the names in this book. Bolger holds nothing back. This is a history of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and war is never nice. Some of the battles come back to life with details not released to the media at the time. Others end with an analysis never before mentioned by a general.
Bolger starts with the bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden on October 12, 2000.Read more ›
His narrative is a full-on, but terse, military history of both conflicts, post-9/11, and he includes background with the Soviet and British empires' experience there. His post-9/11 story is almost episodic: a series of tactical incidents that demonstrate, time and again, that US and coalition forces fought well, fought smart, adapted, in a never-ending cycle of victory, withdrawal to base, return. The men and women fought superbly, he asserts, and their efforts weren't the reason for the ultimate end. He even demonstrates that coalition forces, including Iraqi army and Sunni militias, could be part of the successes, and tells us much about the Awakening ("sahwa") offensive by the latter in Iraq.
He also tells of the personalities involved, the minor US and local tactical leaders, and of the generals - Abizaid, Casey, Odierno, among others, not to mention the charismatic and puzzling David Petraeus ("Malik Daoud," King David), a T.E. Lawrence figure in Gen. Bolger's telling, complete with his own book, Army Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency. It's a small but telling aside that Gen. Bolger mentions other Army doctrinal writing - the 1976, 1982 and 1993 editions of FM 100-5, Operations - which suggests both the Army's evolving tactics and also Gen.Read more ›
He has on-the-ground insight across the theater, and steps in now and then to provide additional context, although it's mostly an objective historical account.
However, it is not as provocative as the title led me to believe. While I didn't expect full-on regret and recrimination, I did expect deeper reflection than I found here. My instincts say that he wrote the history first, and the publisher knew that a more in-your-face title would do better in the marketplace. His opening, where he compares himself to an alcoholic admitting he has a problem is not followed up on. Dramatic prologue, sure, but the book quickly settles into a more objective - and always US-centric - narrative.
He does provide an epilogue of more serious soul-searching, but it has a bit of a tacked-on feel. During the narrative itself he never steps back to explain why a decision was wrong, and why it led to such disastrous outcomes. Even Paul Bremer's catastrophic decision to fire the Iraqi Army is hardly critiqued at all (and I'm not saying Bremer was even wrong - simply that the outcome was a fiasco). I have read many narratives of small-unit combat - those aren't new to me. I wanted something more honest and far-reaching - an explanation of WHY certain small events led to larger failures.
Very occasionally, and very subtly, his disappointment with events comes across.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The most in depth clinical dissection of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The good the bad and the ugly, the reader gets the unvarnished truth behind the "losses" in both... Read morePublished 18 days ago by Christopher arnoldy
From a General's perspective I thought we would get more explanation of the strategy of the war. But is was a different perspective.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Great summary of these two wars. Compelling and insightful. The dedication the troops gave is beyond. !at we honour them for ever for their sacrifices.Published 1 month ago by jules
Very good book but also very vague as there are many information he cannot sharePublished 2 months ago by Yousif T.
A person that wants answers to question that they have already answered in a manner that agrees with how they feel they should be answered should not read this book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by j lynch
Excellent description of the nuts and bolts of combat. As vivid a portrayal of the hell our fighting men face,
and an honest enumeration of the countless acts of heroism and... Read more
Well written, good transitions from strategic discussions to small unit actions, very thoroughly researched and well documented. Excellent contemporary history. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Thomas Newman
Never really gets to the main questions, as in "should the USA been involved in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place?" until the last chapter. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Joshua