My Attempted Book Review – Obama’s Wars

8 10 2010

Before I get into my review, I’m going to warn you that it’s not, strictly speaking, my thing. My cousin reviews books and authors a lot on her blog, but she is pursuing her MFA in creative fiction from Fairfield University and knows the technical components which distinguish a good book from a pile of dung with a dust jacket. Alas, she is not writing this review, I am. I apologize in advance.

The first thing that becomes clear when you start reading Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward’s latest foray inside the Oval Office, is that there was a lot of cooperation from the administration. An exposé this is not. President Obama even sat for an on the record interview with Woodward. Quotes from that interview, which appears to have been conducted at the end of this process, are interspersed throughout the book. This is also not a light read by any stretch of the imagination. It’s packed with facts and figures. At 380 pages (hardcover version) I figured it would take me a day or so to read – it took five and then another day to review it. I liked it, but I like policy stuff. If you’re looking for suspense and fast-paced action, pick up some Tom Clancy. If you’re looking for some insight as to how military actions are decided upon in the Obama White House, this is the book for you.

This book is not going to make you like or hate any of the people in it if you don’t already but it does bring them down from their senior staff pedestals and humanizes them all a bit – some more than others. It also shows some people in a manner they aren’t usually seen. Joe Biden, the goofy, gaffe-prone Vice President comes across as a lot smarter than he’s usually given credit for being. General Petraeus, in addition to being an exemplary military man, is also quite the politician and knows how to get his friends in the Senate to make his case when he can’t. The mistakes made in Vietnam are never far from any of their minds and neither is politics – either the 2008 presidential race or the 2010 mid-terms. It’s omnipresent. The book also casts a harsh light on the situation in Afghanistan – just how bad things were over there, how much of the problem is in Pakistan, and the problems we face with our allies in those two countries. If you take one thing away from Obama’s Wars, it is that essentially “pausing” the conflict in Afghan was a huge mistake that left us in a very bad way.

I liked the book, but I’m a bit of a policy geek – well, I’m actually just a bit of a geek in general. If you to know what went on in the Situation Room that lead to 30,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan, it’s right here. It’s not action-packed, but it is what happened.





Why Vote?

6 10 2010

Last night, for the second night in a row, in the name of being an informed citizen, I subjected myself to the debates for our state election. The night before it was the senatorial debate which was conducted mostly in that great New England style of intense hatred concealed by well-mannered smiles. Fangs were bared occasionally and then the gentility returned. Last night’s gubernatorial debate was a grudge match, a slug-fest with mics and three-piece suits and without the chair-throwing. I lost count of how many times the two called each other liars without actually saying the word “liar”. It was an annoying, tedious display which makes me wish there were another option out there. I was left with one question bouncing around my mind – with two candidates who I doubt could successfully figure out the way to the restroom, let alone how to sort out the state’s economy, why bother voting? I figured others might be faced with the same thought, so here’s my two cents.

Plenty of people can give good, solid reasons for voting. Some will talk about your patriotic duty as a freedom-loving American. Some can really get going, invoking the images of the service men and women currently deployed in harm’s way, the founding fathers, Abraham Lincoln, God, your mother, apple pie, Uncle Sam, and “Old Glory” to a point where you start looking for a large, robed choir to stand in rows, sway gently from side to side, and start humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic while a bald eagle flies overhead. Others will carry on about getting your message heard, taking a stand, and making DC hear your voice raised loud and proud about <insert volatile issue here>. After a good dose of that, you’re starting to think about marching around outside your town hall carrying a sign with your particular grievance aired on one side and “Fight the Power” emblazoned on the other. Well, while all of that stuff is important, I’m just not that intense. Perhaps I’m suffering from a deficit of patriotism or an overabundance of apathy, but the reason that’s drving me to haul my sorry carcass down to my local polling place, get in the little cubicle thing, and fill out a ballot is a little more pragmatic and a little less theatrical.

It is my personal belief that, if you choose not to vote, you have automatically forfeited your right to bitch about the outcome of that election. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people going on and on about what a terrible person Senator “X” or Representative “Y” is – they’re lairs, they’re criminals, they’re the child of Satan – and then, when somebody asks them who they voted for since their so upset, it turns out they didn’t vote at all. Usually there’s no good reason why they didn’t – just pure, unadulterated laziness. I hate that. I’m left wondering where all their passion was on election day and, even if their arguments for why the political figure in question should be incarcerated are perfectly valid – this is Connecticut after all – it all turns to noise pollution as far as I’m concerned when the complainer admits they never bothered to vote against their current nemesis. It’s hypocritical bull funky, I tell you! So, if you want the ability to firmly plant your forehead against your palm and bemoan the sheer idiocy of your elected officials, get thee to a polling place come November 2nd.

America, please, either get out and vote, or shut the hell up!

Thank you.