“All the President’s Men” is one of my favorite movies, and I believe the dynamic duo of “Woodstein” should be remembered with a statue on the mall in Washington, DC, some day, but I’m not a fan of the Washington insider books that Bob Woodward has been churning out for many years. Still, I bought “Obama’s Wars” a couple of weeks ago because I wanted to learn more about how President Obama works on the staggeringly complex issues that define his presidency. This book claims to be the inside story of the White House decisions on war policy from the post-election period in 2008 through mid-2010, when he fired Gen. McChrystal after the insubordinate comments by military leaders in Afghanistan made to a Rolling Stone reporter.
Agree or not with the policy on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, anyone reading this book with an open mind has to admit that Barack Obama is the kind of intelligent, thoughtful, determined person who should be elected president on a regular basis. The deliberations on the direction of the “AfPak” policy are painstakingly chronicled by Woodward—maybe in too much detail, but he has the inside information so he uses it. When the president finally settled on the “terms sheet” for Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy in November 2009, here’s how Gen. David Petraeus reacted:
“Petraeus had privately concluded that the terms sheet, though a little heavy-handed, was not just to get clarity, but to show the president was in control. When he later learned that 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.'”