Tag Archives: Iraq

Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars by Daniel P. Bolger

Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – By Daniel P. Bolger

 

The 21st Century U.S. Military Post-Mortem

 


 

 

 

Daniel Bolger is a 35 year veteran in the U.S. Army. He retired in 2013 as a Lt. General. During his career he was awarded five Bronze Stars.

 

As a U.S. citizen, this book should be required reading for the lay person with no military experience. Why?

 

Bolger provides unparalleled access into the lives of U.S. military men and women who were engaged in these wars – and provides uniquely, frank and descriptive accounts of the conditions and challenges they encountered. Bolger’s insightful accounts provide the reader with an appreciation of their service, sacrifice, courage and bravery that one simply cannot garner from the mainstream media coverage of the same. You walk away from this book with a deep and renewed sense of appreciation for the bravery and courageous contributions of our men and women who were/are involved in these conflicts.

 

This book is written in a brutally honest fashion. It is definitely not a muckraking attack on the U.S. military – nor is it a one-sided justification treatise for all things military written by a insider zealot. It is a fair and balanced treatment of every dimension of these conflicts from a participant’s perspective…Bolger’s voice is refreshingly fair, providing uncanny, forthright commentary surrounding the genesis of these wars, the conduct of the wars, and U.S. attempts to extract ourselves from the aftermath of this mayhem.

 

Finally, Bolger’s insights into “now what” regarding the lessons learned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq provide fertile ground for the essential dialog that must take place regarding the role of the U.S. military in the 21st century.

 

Who is the enemy? This is a central theme throughout the book, and remains the question today embedded in the threats to geo-political stability that continue to inhabit our globe. There are some quotes Why We Lost that should serve to provide the basis for a dialog far too many in the U.S. choose to avoid. Here are a few:

 

“The war cost the U.S. a lot of money, almost a trillion dollars since September of 2001, about two-thirds for Iraq, the rest for Afghanistan. Just how much permanent damage this did to our country’s economy is hard to determine. War funding certainly elevated the Federal government’s already burgeoning annual deficits and added a few more unwelcome strata to the accreting mountain of long-term debt. Both political parties pointed accusing fingers even as the spending continued. By any measure, fighting a protracted war on the opposite side of the world with a volunteer military and a lot of expensive contractors is no cheap” (p.419).

 

“We did not understand our enemies. Indeed, drawn into nasty local feuds, we took on too many diverse foes, sometimes confusing opponents with supporters and vice versa. Then we compounded that ignorance by using our conventionally trained military to comb through hostile villages looking for insurgents” (pp.429-430).

 

“The record to date shows that no senior officers argued for withdrawal. Instead, like Lee at Gettysburg, overly impressed by U.S. military capabilities and our superb volunteers, commander after commander, generals up and down the chain, kept right on going. We trusted our invincible men and women to figure it out and rebuild two shattered Muslim countries and do so under fire from enraged locals” (p. 430).

 

“Stay the course. Add forces. Pull out. Over time, in both countries, all three approaches were tried. Only the third one, pulling out, worked, and that in the finite sense that it ended U.S. involvement. But it left both friends and foes behind, sowing the seeds for future troubles” (p. 431).

 

As Dwight Eisenhower warned decades ago, the military-industrial complex is – well – a business. Like any organization, it knows what it knows and does what it does – learning along the way.

 

However, after reading Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, I came away with an appreciation for another reality of organizational behavior; inertia.

 

Inertia is an energy that propels an organism/object/organization ahead, knowing what it knows, doing what it knows how to do. The problem with the energy of inertia is that it possesses an intrinsic characteristic; motion. Once you combine energy and motion and a huge organization begins lumbering downhill into vast and remote terrain – it is terribly difficult to pause, take account of oneself, change direction and rethink what we thought we knew. It is difficult for organisms and organizations to unlearn, reconstitute themselves and become more fit for the challenges that will undoubtedly unfold in the future.

 

In my mind, the dialog about the role of the U.S. military in the 21st Century is the unequivocal contribution of Daniel Bolger’s Why We Lost – A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

 

This is a superb contribution for anyone desiring to become more informed about the role and future of the U.S. military…a discussion that we should not avoid or postpone.

 

BUY THIS BOOK!!! I deeply appreciated General Bolger’s masterpiece. I’m confident you will too.

WHY-WE-LOST

 


 

 

 

 

WANTED WOMEN: Faith, Lies & The War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui – by Deborah Scroggins

 

WANTED WOMEN: Faith, Lies & The War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui, by Deborah Scroggins – Harper/HarperCollinsPublishers New York, NY Copyright © 2012 by Deborah Scroggins.

 A review by Bill Dahl

A Legitimate Pulitzer Prize Candidate:

 

When I received my copy for review – the title and cover made me skeptical…but…I started reading…then – I couldn’t out it down.

 

This book is unique and profoundly distinctive in so many ways. The following are noteworthy:

 

a) Deborah Scroggins spent 6 years on this project.

b) Initially, I viewed the structure of the book as a gamble – alternating chapters for Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui – I came to absolutely adore it.

c) The author had never interviewed either woman directly during the research and writing of the book. Yet, the tertiary sources Scroggins plied to obtain the pertinent material are both comprehensive and intimate – providing the reader with the ability to become acutely familiar with each subject.

d) You can’t write a book like this without placing your personal safety and welfare in jeopardy (no matter what the author says).

 

This work has it all: religion, women’s rights, equality, terrorists, murder, birth, faith development, human development, intrigue, political intrigue, Somalia, the war on terror, the disconnect between the west and the rest, family relations, refugees, terrorism, suicide bombings, contradiction, lies, deception, death, Africa, immigration, racism, Guantanamo, secret CIA prisons, abductions, prejudice, divorce, intolerance, relationships, misunderstanding, certainty, fundamentalism, Judaism, Pakistan, charisma, injustice, finance, bodyguards, assassinations, court proceedings, mental health issues, separation, The U.S., extremism, the media, anarchy, survival, irrationality, mystery, children, misperception, military engagement, war, genocide, foreign policy, Iran, Iraq, the oppressed, poverty, affluence, the pursuit of personal achievement, strategic international relations, CIA, FBI, ISI, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Daniel Pearl – and running for your life…whatever that may mean.

 

In the absence of such an incredibly gifted investigative journalist/author (Deborah Scroggins) – this book might have easily become a mediocre mess. I garnered a deep appreciation for both the writing and storytelling skill of Scroggins, as well as the unimaginable perseverance she aptly displays – crafting a page-turning, insightful examination of the intersection where the issues I enumerate above collide…in the lives of real people…today. She lets the story speak for itself (if there really is such a thing). The voice Scroggins equips the two central characters with is a feast for the reader.  The manner in which she shares this story is so terribly poignant and powerful yet, unequivocally uniquely creative – causes the reader to become curious, engaged, concerned, educated, perplexed, angry — to ponder deeply — and arrive at a place where one understands just how much difficult work we have yet to accomplish — in directly addressing the innumerable challenges, contradictions and life shaping/threatening conditions WANTED WOMEN: Faith, Lies & The War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui so cogently illuminates.

Today, as a species, in our current historical epoch, homo-sapiens (that’d be us) – particularly those who are sufficiently fortunate to be free from worry about survival on a daily basis – also seem to have acquired another peculiar tendency this book illuminated for me. It’s epistemological self-righteousness – We humans have an infernal capacity to come to believe what we think we know is both adequate and sufficient. As Princeton research psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Dan Kahneman has said in his most recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow – we develop the tendency to think What You See Is All There Is. Kahneman writes: “At work here is that powerful WYSIATI rule: You cannot help dealing with the limited information you have as if it were all there is to know. You build the best possible story from the information available to you, and if it is a good story, you believe it.”[i] Kahneman refers to this as “pretended knowledge” – a phenomenon very apparent in the lives of both Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui…and our world.

 

As any superlative literary work of non-fiction requires Deborah Scroggins’ WANTED WOMEN: Faith, Lies & The War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui leaves the reader with the veil epistemological modesty firmly affixed to ones’ heart and soul. Yet, the work clearly defines the challenges ahead, prompting the essential dialog required to re-think our current beliefs, policies, practices and past approaches to the ongoing, unresolved issues so vividly and persuasively illuminated by this book. There’s vastly more import to this work than your what you see is all there is mechanism might suggest.

 

Like I said…a legitimate Pulitzer Prize candidate. Believe it!

 

NOTES:


[i] Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – Farrar, Straus and Giroux NY,NY Copyright (c) 2012 by Daniel Kahneman, p. 201