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Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward

A book by Bob Woodward

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Commit , Limit Exposure and Learn from the Bloody Past in Afghanistan

  • Oct 1, 2010
Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward
Simon and Schuster    2010

By: Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

The author did a considerable job of documenting and fact checking
numerous  White House internal memos, meetings, interviews,
critical decisions on Afghanistan and the campaign in Pakistan.

The counterinsurgency envisioned by David Petraeus is
delineated in the book at some length.  Inherent in this strategy is the
task of marginalizing the influence of Al Qaeda and non-cooperative
elements in the Taliban.  To accomplish this feat, our troops must have
the concurrence of the local population . Even Niccolo Macchiavelli
explained that an occupying force must have the concurrence of the local
citizenry before attempting any further action.

The book anticipates a USA exit plan in Afghanistan .   First, the country has a number of
constituencies  like the Pashtun (40%) , Tajik (25%) , Hazara (19%)
Uzbek and Turkmen - 10% and others .  We need to get better information on
the goals of these various subgroups in order to establish areas of
congruency, as well as areas where concurrence may be difficult or
impossible.  In addition, the religious mix is about 85% Sunni and
15% Sh'ia Muslim.

The population has a life expectancy under 50 years of age  and the literacy
level is under 40%.  These statistics indicate that the job of educating
the population will not be easy.  The United States cannot be responsible
for nation-building in Afghanistan; however, our military must be concerned about
getting political quiescence concurrent with a rational
phaseout of  troops and eventual governance by the local people.

Some nation building may be necessary in order to stabilize the
country and preclude the return of factions within the old Soviet Union
or elsewhere. The United States simply cannot expend all of this effort in
Afghanistan only to experience a repeat performance of the
Soviet ( or some faction thereof)  invasion of Afghanistan.

Vice President Biden is inclined to limit the military vision in
Afghanistan . This "gut feeling" makes sense based upon the
bloody history which includes experiences by the Soviets,
Great Britain and Alexander the Great ( of all people).

The book makes clear that there are no uniform goals for our
Afghanistan involvement despite a 6 year incremental involvement.
Let me establish some goals after having read the book .

(1) The United States should withdraw incrementally and train
Afghani forces to take over the job of managing resistance from
Al Qaeda , the Taliban and even hostile foreign influences.
Here, commando training is in order concurrent with the use of some
military hardware. Our experience with drones has had some success.

(2) The United States should engage in some nation building
activity to promote higher literacy rates and better life expectancy.
We have at our disposal  IT technologies , Advice Giving systems in artificial
intelligence, the Red Cross and other international agencies to assist.
Generic drugs are available at affordable prices due to the expiry of patents.

In addition, we have up-to-date technologies to organize and operate municipal
accounting systems and processes. Soon, we will have commercializable
desalination plants powered by solar energy or the "Artificial Sun".
Afghanistan could gain access for desalination plants via pipelines
to the Caspian Sea proximate to the Kara Kum Desert, the Gulf of Oman or the Arabian Sea .
We may need desalination because the workforce is over 60% agriculture.
Some mountain rivers produce intermittent fertile valleys.
These are massive infrastructure undertakings traversing all of  the engineering arts.

(3) The United States should encourage the development of Afghani
energy resources to fund post-war economic activity .  There are models;
such as,  the Grameen Bank to provide affordable financing.

Britain's war in Afghanistan turned out to be an exercise in futility. 
At the height of its power in India, Britain sought to create stability
in the subcontinent.  Another goal was to prevent Russian and Persian
encroachments.  To some extent, the USA has to encourage the same goal
today in order to facilitate our withdrawal. The British implementation plan
was to remove a colorful and popular leader from the Afghan throne. 
The replacement was with an unpopular , though legitimate, king.

The experiment ended when a British resident in Kabul was brutally murdered by an
angry crowd.  A British envoy was shot by an Afghan leader during an encounter.   
His dismembered corpse was hung in effigy in a Kabul bazaar.
The ill-fated retreat of the British resulted in the death of  thousands of people .

Source: Retreat from Kabul: The Catastrophic British Defeat in Afghanistan 1842
by Patrick McCrory    The Lyons Press  ( November 2007)

There are Islamic radicals in Afghanistan.  Many of them are more concerned with maintaining
ancient tribal customs than in supporting global Islamic conquest. These tribal customs include
keeping women from school and banning popular music.  A few Pashtan tribes can
be problematic .

The Pashtun people are about 40 percent of the Afghan population.   Most Pashtuns live across the
 border in Pakistan. The radical elements operate on both sides of the border and have done so for many centuries  (long before those borders were drawn.) The Pashtuns still pride themselves on delaying Alexander the Great well over 2000 years ago.   Alexander the Great defeated the Pashtuns
although there may be some debate on this subject.  Eventually, Alexander exited and the tribes
carried on as before. 

Pashtun society consists of many tribes and clans who  were unsucessful in establishing an independent government in their land until the rise of the Hotaki dynasty and Durrani Empire
in the early 18th century.

Alexander the Great pursued Bessus, Darius III's kinsmen and one of his murderers. The pursuit was
into the territory of modern Afghanistan. Bessus declared himself successor and enemy to Persian invaders. Afghanistan was part of the Persian Empire which, with the defeat of Darius,  belonged to Alexander's Empire.

Eventually, some of Bessus's commanders would turn him over to Alexander.
Nevertheless, Alexander continued to meet with resistance from men like Spitamenes.
He and his resistors were defeated over time and all of the Persian provinces fell to Alexander eventually.

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More Obama's Wars reviews
review by . November 15, 2010
 The midterm elections of 2010 came and went and one issue that was not discussed was one of the most important, the war in Afghanistan. Even though it remains one of the most costly issues, even the most conservative estimates are that it will cost close to a trillion dollars, and the budget deficit loomed large in the election, no one talked about it.    No one has more and better access to the major players in government than Bob Woodward and he demonstrates that again in …
review by . November 15, 2010
No one has more access to decision makers and then is able make them share their stories than Bob Woodward. When the word is received that he is writing a book about an event and he wants to interview the principals, all reluctance to comply is dropped. The people become eager to share their recollections and notes so that their side of the story is told. Laurence O'Donnell of MSNBC confirmed this when he was conducting an interview of Woodward. O'Donnell talked about how eager he was to provide …
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Dr Joseph S Maresca ()
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Dr. Joseph S. Maresca CPA, CISA      26 Amazon / KDP Books including:      http://www.amazon.com/Dr.Joseph-S.-Maresca/e...11866699&sr=1-2-ent      … more
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About this book


In Obama's Wars, Bob Woodward provides the most intimate and sweeping portrait yet of the young president as commander in chief. Drawing on internal memos, classified documents, meeting notes and hundreds of hours of interviews with most of the key players, including the president, Woodward tells the inside story of Obama making the critical decisions on the Afghanistan War, the secret campaign in Pakistan and the worldwide fight against terrorism.

At the core of Obama's Wars is the unsettled division between the civilian leadership in the White House and the United States military as the president is thwarted in his efforts to craft an exit plan for the Afghanistan War.

"So what's my option?" the president asked his war cabinet, seeking alternatives to the Afghanistan commander's request for 40,000 more troops in late 2009. "You have essentially given me one option.... It's unacceptable."

"Well," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates finally said, "Mr. President, I think we owe you that option."

It never came. An untamed Vice President Joe Biden pushes relentlessly to limit the military mission and avoid another Vietnam. The vice president frantically sent half a dozen handwritten memos by secure fax to Obama on the eve of the final troop decision.

President Obama's ordering a surge of 30,000 troops and pledging to start withdrawing U.S. forces by July 2011 did not end the skirmishing.

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ISBN-10: 1439172498
ISBN-13: 978-1439172490
Author: Bob Woodward
Genre: History
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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