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The Invisible Man Strikes Again: A Review of Bob Woodward’s Book Obama’s Wars

"There is no fighting in the war room!!!"

If Bob Woodward were a superhero, his special power would be invisibility.  No modern writer better understands how to get out of the way of a good story and let the events unfold like Woodward.  His new book, Obama’s Wars, is an attempt to inform the reader about what it was like to be part of the decision making process for a President during wartime.  He has a genuine love for detailing the way that decisions get made and it shines through in all of his work.  Woodward disappears into the fabric of the story leaving us in the fascinating position seeing the story unfold before our eyes.

Obama’s Wars is a story about process.  The book details Barack Obama’s system of decision making during the ongoing Afghan War.  Obama is surrounded by human beings with differing agendas, egos and belief systems, all of which have an impact on the course of the war.  Obama himself is presented in a very human way.  The reader is given a first hand account of a person making critical decisions that may well affect the fate of the nation.  If you didn’t like him before you read the book you don’t like him after, if you liked him before you read it you probably still do.  It’s not a book about judgment; it is a book about explanation.  You get to be a fly on the wall for a major event in history.

Obama’s Wars is not a political book in the modern sense.  The writing is devoid of any clear political, social or economic agenda.  The audience is never clear on how Woodward feels about the war.  Woodward’s commitment seems to be only to the art of journalism.  He wants to get the story as correct as possible based on the insights and beliefs of the people who were there.  Woodward has access to all the major players and gives them room to tell their story.  They confess their mistakes, laud their own triumphs, admit their petty dislikes and acknowledge their most base desires in a shockingly candid way.   At the end of the book, the reader is left with the distinct impression that they are being governed by real, imperfect people who struggle to make planet altering decisions in a way that best serves their picture of reality.


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