A high-ranking general's gripping insider account of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how it all went wrong.
Over a 35-year career, Daniel Bolger rose through the army infantry to become a three-star general, commanding in both theaters of the U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. He participated in meetings with top-level military and civilian players, where strategy was made and managed. At the same time, he regularly carried a rifle alongside rank-and-file soldiers in combat actions - unusual for a general. Now, as a witness to all levels of military command, Bolger offers a unique assessment of these wars, from 9/11 to the final withdrawal from the region.
Writing with hard-won experience and unflinching honesty, Bolger makes the firm case that in Iraq and in Afghanistan, we lost - but we didn't have to. Intelligence was garbled. Key decision makers were blinded by spreadsheets or theories. And at the root of our failure, we never really understood our enemy. Why We Lost is a timely, forceful, and compulsively listenable account of these wars from a fresh and authoritative perspective.
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An apolitical account of our recent wars.
I had resisted purchasing this book for quite a while. I had seen the author in many media appearances as he promoted it. When I saw an extensive interview with Brian Lamb of CSPAN on the hour-long Q & A program, I realized that I had made wrong assumptions about the work. By way of explanation, before retiring, I worked for the Army in a civilian position in which I recorded and observed many of the Distinguished Visitors (DVs) which came through our post during our nation's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. This included a majority of the full Generals and Admirals (four stars) in all of the services (about 24) and most of the Lieutenant Generals (3-star) in the Army (43, according to LTG Bolger). I do not remember encountering the author during his time on active service so I assumed, wrongly, that he might have been a National Guard or Army Reserve general with limited time in either theater. No, quite the opposite, he was deployed extensively. From the title, one would expect this to be a kind of anti-war screed. It is anything but that. Bolger obviously has great admiration for his fellow soldiers and general officers. A very famous general once told me why a retired general (which I had asked about) wouldn't write a memoir. "Because if you do, you must either settle old scores, or gloss-over the inevitable differences." Bolger avoids this trap by writing as a trained historian (which he very much is - PhD in Military History from the University of Chicago). He gives extensive credit to senior officers and their civilian overlords where credit is due, but doesn't hesitate to criticize short-comings, either in policy, strategy, operations or tactics. He includes himself, if not in the praise, in the criticism. His extensive accounts of Operation Anaconda, Roberts Ridge, and other battles in Afghanistan and most of the major battles in Iraq are wonderful -- full of the inherent heroism which occurs, along with realistic depictions of the tedium, dirt, sweat and mundane tasks of war. Having read or listened entire books on many of these engagements, I found them well researched and thoroughly engrossing -- usually better than the accounts written by veteran war-correspondents and journalists.If you care about the military or want a accurate accounting of our two latest wars and the lessons that should be learned from them, you listen to or read this one. It is really good.--Don M. od Queen Creek, AZ
- Don Middleton
Good, but not great.