The last Bob Woodward book I read was “State of Denial” four years ago, also one of the first books I reviewed on this blog (four years ago–my God!! I was just a little BABY in swaddling clouts!). 2008 was a U.S. election year. Since 2012 is obviously another one (as evidenced by my father’s rants at the dinner table), it felt like an appropriate time for another dose of Woodward, despite the fact that I really don’t follow U.S. politics that closely–I guess don’t want to get sucked into the vortex i.e. the black abyss of pain, frustration and despair.
I’m glad I read this book. It made me feel super smart. The book is a VERY detailed (as in memo by memo, meeting by meeting) account of Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan, a piece of news I greeted with wearied numbed indifference when it was first flashing across the headlines, back in the day. I think my reaction at the time was along the lines of “oh wow, more death-pain-and-murder in the world, big surprise.
The main thing this book made me think about is that politics and international relations (much like shrimping in Forrest Gump) is TUFF. I would not want to do it. Ever. Not even if you paid me a bajillion dollars. I do not see myself reading 66 page reports every night and then trying to decide to send off a bunch of young people for either death or PTSD in the Middle East.
Another important thing this book made me think about is (to put it bluntly) how much I hate war. From the way Woodward presents it, he makes it seem like the U.S. military was basically totally OK with have an increased military presence in Afghanistan, with NO specific objective about what they’re trying to achieve or a timetable for withdrawal. Like, are you kidding me? Are you seriously–effin’–kidding me. See, now I’m getting all upset; I knew it was a mistake for me to try to review this book. But can somebody honestly tell me what would be the point of hanging out in Afghanistan FOREVER with no GOAL?? That would be like me taking the kids out to recess and just being like oh yeah, we have no plan, no objective and no timetable. I’ll tell you what would happen if I did that consistently–I WOULD BE FIRED.
God, now I’m getting all worked up. Now I’m remembering that story on NPR I heard when I was driving back from Seattle at like 3am, after the Tori Amos concert. The story was basically “Iraq War: THE REVIEW!” The conclusion was basically that Iraqis are unsafer, unhappier and hate the U.S. more than they did under the rule of Sadam Hussein, and the U.S. has spent billions–BILLIONS!!!—of dollars in order to achieve. It makes me sick, it really does.
The last thing I have to say is that for what it’s worth I am glad that Obama is in office. Can you imagine if we’d had some pushover president in office who was like “oh sure military, let’s just do whatever you say! I won’t question, contest you or challenge you at all! Sign me up!” Boy, it would be horrible to have a president in office be like that!! ….. oh wait, I just remembered eight years of my life.
I know progressives criticize Obama a lot and that people are, like, unhappy with him for being kind of a wimp for imagining that he could actually get along with the insanity that is the Republican party. But man oh man, this book really made it seem like he was in just this IMPOSSIBLE situation. Trying to deal with Afghanistan sounds to me like trying to clean up a carpet where somebody vomited, took a dump, set themselves on fire and then blew themselves up, with no soap and a really crappy sponge. And that is basically the situation that Obama is in, cleaning up Bush’s party. To his credit, he is quoted by Woodward as saying “I can’t let this be a war without end.” So thank you for that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Forget this, now I’m all agitated. Now do you see why I can’t follow politics too closely?! My last comments about this book are the following:
– Woodward’s gossipy observations about the president of Afghanistan is basically manic depressive made me both LOL and feel intensely depressed.
– Biden honestly comes off as the most sensible person in this book. His constant insistence to focus on Pakistan was the smartest thing that anybody says. Biden, run for president! Bring your motorcycles and hot babes with you! (Go read an article about Biden on the Onion if you don’t believe me…)