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Woodward - Obama's Wars (2010) - Synopsis

Woodward - Obama's Wars (2010) - Synopsis

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Published by Mark K. Jensen
Synopsis of Bob Woodward, Obama's Wars (Simon & Schuster, 2010). -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on November 8, 2010.
Synopsis of Bob Woodward, Obama's Wars (Simon & Schuster, 2010). -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on November 8, 2010.

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Published by: Mark K. Jensen on Nov 07, 2010
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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper CXLINovember 8,  2010, 7:00 p.m.
Bob Woodward,
Obama's Wars
(Simon & Schuster, 2010).
[
Thesis.
Obama's Wars
has fascinatingdetails about the making of U.S.Afghanistan policy in 2009 and Obama'sdecision to turn his geostrategic focus toPakistan, but it has no single thesis;instead, Woodward presents many pointsof view.]
Author's Personal Note.
Credit toassistants Josh Boak and Evelyn Duffy(author of 
Nighthawks
) (xi-xii).
Note to Readers.
"This book isdesigned to present, as best myreporting could determine, what reallyhappened" (xiii). The "written record"provides the "core of this book," and"more than 100 people" provided"[i]nformation" over an 18-month period,sometimes as much as interviews thatcome to 300 pages transcribed; theirwords are often used "even when theyare not directly quoted" (xiii). PresidentObama was interviewed for 75 minutes inthe Oval Office on Jul. 10, 2010.
Cast of Characters.
40 individuals (xv-xviii).
Ch. 1.
Director of National IntelligenceMike McConnell excludes Podesta andSteinberg from Obama's first post-election briefing on Nov. 6, 2008, inChicago, where Obama hears about (1)the Quetta Shura Taliban, the centralinsurgent group in Afghanistan; (2) theCIA's 3,000-man covert army inAfghanistan consisting "mostly of Afghans"; (3) Yemen; (4) Iran's nuclearweapons program; (5) North Korea; (6)cyber threats (1-12).
Ch. 2.
Appointment of Rahm Emanuelas chief of staff (13-14). Gen. DavidPetraeus (14-17). Obama meets withBush in the Oval Office on Nov. 10 (17-18). Obama meets with Gates, asks himto continue as secretary of defense onNov. 10 (18-24).
Ch. 3
.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zadarigives CIA Director Michael Hayden thegreen light on drone strikes in Pakistan ata meeting in NYC's IntercontinentalBarclay hotel on Nov. 12, 2008 (25-26).Hillary Clinton hesitates before acceptingthe offer to become secretary of state(26-31). On Nov. 21, Obama tells Adm.Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs,"I want to get Afghanistan and Pakistanright . . . but I don't want to build a Jeffersonian democracy" (34; 32-34).Contingency plans for Iran, Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan are lacking; "[Bush]had lost his appetite for militarycontingency planning" (35).
Ch. 4.
Obama's choice of Gen. James L. Jones as national security adviser (36-39). "[Obama] was unsentimental andcapable of being ruthless. [John] Podestawas not sure that Obama felt anything,especially in his gut. He intellectualizedand then charted the path forward" (38).Rahm Emanuel imposes Tom Donilon as Jones's deputy (39-40). The NSCconsiders a classified pessimistic reporton Afghanistan by Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute,on Nov. 26: "ten different wars sprinkledaround . . . Nobody was in charge. . . . nounity of effort or command" (43; 40-44). The Mumbai attack (44-47).
Ch. 5.
Obama slights CIA directorMichael Hayden, not meeting with himuntil Dec. 9 in Chicago at a meeting towhich DNI Mike McConnell inviteshimself, and does not adopt all of Hayden's recommendations (48-56).Because Bush has "tarnished the imageof the nation, especially with theenhanced interrogation techniques and
 
expansive electronic eavesdropping,"Obama turns at Rahm Emanuel'ssuggestion to Leon Panetta for CIAdirector, who is "floored" by the offer,and Dennis Blair as DNI (56-60).McConnell, in parting, makes the DNI thedecider of the senior intelligencerepresentative in each foreign country(60-61).
Ch. 6.
Vice President-elect Joe Biden'sstraight-talk visit to Afghanistan andPakistan with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Jan.9-13 (62-71). Obama is briefed on Jan.14 (72-73).
Ch. 7.
Obama won't show Jones anadvance copy of his inaugural address(74-75). Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan(75). After the national security meetingin the Situation Room on Jan. 21, 2009,Petraeus is told to stay in Washington todiscuss Afghanistan (75-76). Petraeusrealizes the DNI has no mission managerfor Afghanistan and Pakistan, and"decided to create his own intelligenceagency inside CentCom," of whichCongress remained ignorant "for severalmonths," with Derek Harvey of the DIA,as its director, designing a moreelaborate system of intel collection (78;76-79). At a Jan. 23 meeting onAfghanistan in the Situation Room,Obama says he has not yet made adecision on increasing troop levels, butPetraeus indicates his intention to "moveforward on the [infrastructure andsupplies for] 30,000 new troops" (79-81).
Ch. 8.
Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane,close to Hillary Clinton, urges that Gen.Stanley McChrystal be made Afghanistancommander (82-86). Afpak coordinatorRichard Holbrooke meets with HusainHaqqani (86-88). On Jan. 30 Obama asksBruce Riedel [b. 1953, B.A. Brown, M.A.Harvard, 21 years at CIA] to do astrategic review of Afghanistan andPakistan in 60 days; Riedel does a quickcut-and-paste from his 2008 book,
TheSearch for al Qaeda
(88-90).
Ch. 9.
Hayden gets Panetta tobackpedal from statements about CIAtorture at his Feb. 9-10 confirmationhearings (91-93). Hayden gives his lastbriefing on Predator strikes inAfghanistan (93-94). After a critique byGen. Lute of an ill-thought-out andinadequate request for 13,000 troopsimmediately for Afghanistan, Donilongrows suspicious of the military (94-96).On Feb. 13-17, 2009, Obama decides tosend 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan,with no speech, no press conference, justa four-paragraph press release (96-98).
Ch. 10.
Mar 11: Riedel gives Gates &Mullen "a sneak preview" of his review,which will recommend the U.S. "give thePakistani military what it needs to fight acounterinsurgency" (99; 100; 99-101).Blair endorses Riedel (101). At an NSCmeeting on Mar. 12, Biden challengesRiedel's recommendation in a 21-minuteresponse, but Hillary Clinton endorses itin the name of women's rights andsupporting the U.N.; Gates also supportsRiedel (101-03). Rahm Emanuel isastounded we don't know where binLaden is (103). On Mar. 17, the NSCendorses Riedel's strategy, Bidendissenting (103-04). On Mar. 18 Riedelboards Air Force One en route toCalifornia for Obama's appearance on JayLeno; Obama reads Riedel's review and istold by him that the threat from al Qaedais greater than before Sept. 11, that binLaden "communicates with his underlingsand is in touch with his foot soldiers. . .Unless we kill them, they're going tokeep trying to kill us. . . . You have to seethe threat as a syndicate . . . don't relyon drones" (104-07). On Jul. 10, 2010,Obama reaffirmed to Woodward his focuson Paksitan (109). On Mar. 20, 2009,despite Biden's "concerns," Obamapronounces himself "in general accord"with Riedel's approach (110).
Ch. 11.
Petraeus continues to promote a"fully resourced" counterinsurgency
 
campaign though this is not mentioned inObama's draft speech (111-13).Obama's [Mar. 27] speech (113-14). Lutefeels too much depends onIraq/Afghanistan trade-offs (114-15).Obama's meeting with PakistaniPresident Zadari in the Oval Office onMay 7 is a warm one because of Pakistan's offensive against militants inSwat (115-16). Zadari reveals to ZalmayKhalilzad, former ambassador toAfghanistan, his fears that the U.S. istrying to destabilize Pakistan (116-17).On May 11, Obama remplaces McKiernanwith McChrystal as Afghanistancommander on the recommendation of Mullen and Gates (117-20). On May 20,the Presidential Daily Brief contains awarning of danger from al Qaedatrainees from North America; RahmEmmanual offends Blair by challenging itas a cover-your-ass tactic (120-23).McChrystal's confirmation hearing, Jun. 2,shows signs McChrystal and Mullen arecampaigning for more troops; Jones hitson the idea of McChrystal doing anassessment to defuse tensions (123-25).
Ch. 12
.
Gen. Jones invites Woodward toaccompany him on a six-day trip toAfghanistan, Pakistan, and India (Jun. 21-27); the trip convinces him the situationthere is dire (126-40). Jones is critical of the organization of White House aides,whom he compares to "water bugs" (137-40). After Woodward's July 1 article inthe
Post 
, Jones tries to rein in Mullen, butby now it is clear that there is a "growingdivide . . . between the White House andthe Pentagon" (143; 140-43).
Ch. 13.
In mid-July, Gates succeeds inhaving the mission in Afghanistanchanged from "disrupt" to "defeat" the Taliban—a "classic example of missioncreep" (146; 144-46). The August 2009Afghan elections; Karzai, who thinks theU.S. is supporting a runoff, is"increasingly delusional and paranoid"(146-48). A strategy review teamconvened by McChrystal in June 2009finds the military is ignorant aboutAfghanistan (149-54). McCain andGraham visit McChrystal in Afghanistan(154-55). McChrystal lets Gates knowhe'll be requesting 40,000 more troops(156).
Ch. 14.
Petraeus promotescounterinsurgency with the press in Sept.2009 (157-58). Obama is "determinednot to repeat" mistaken escalations of the past (158). Petraeus feels sidelinedby Obama (159). Biden devises analternative "counterinsurgency plus"strategy (159-60). Jones plumps forstaying within "the formal NSC system"for making decisions (161). The nationalsecurity team meets on Sun., Sept. 13,2009, in the Situation Room to considerMcChrystal's 66-page report; Obamademands a deeper consideration of thesituation, beginning with intrests andaims before considering resources (161-69). Holbrooke believes the decision-making on the initial Riedel review wasflawed: Jones is weak and is notprotecting the president (169-70).Petraeus thinks his exclusion from themeeting is "ridiculous"; he disagreesabout Pakistan being all-important (171).
Ch. 15
.
 
Emanuel and Donilon arefurious that Mullen tells the Senate at hisconfirmation hearing on Sept. 15 that a"properly resourced, classically pursuedcounterinsurgency effort" "probablymeans more forces": "The president isbeing screwed by the senior uniformedmilitary" (173; 172-74). Obama invitesColin Powell to the Oval Office on Sept.16; he urges the president to "take yourtime" (174-75). In Sept., someone leaksMcChrystal's 66-page assessment;Woodward judges it a "
cry from theheart 
" (176, emphasis in original) (175-59). The
Post 
's discussion with thePentagon on publishing the report (179-82). Publication of redacted version(182-83). According to Obama,McChrystal's report revealed the"ambiguity about what our central

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