A blunt assessment of America’s recent military engagements and the looming confrontation with Iran.
In this pithy collection of essays, former CIA officer Hart pulls no punches in his criticism of President Obama’s 2009 decision to expand the war in Afghanistan. The author’s experiences helping to build a successful anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan in the 1980s leads him to conclude the war is both “unnecessary and unwinnable.” A better approach, he argues, is to stop fighting an endless battle with the Taliban, which is not our real enemy in the war on terror. Instead the U.S. should help restabilize Pakistan and from there conduct surgical operations against al-Qaeda as needed. Hart is equally pessimistic about the prospects for Iraq and Iran. After American troops withdraw, Iraq’s fragile democracy will be threatened by a meddlesome Iran. Meanwhile, Tehran’s nuclear ambitions continue to jeopardize U.S. interests. While the author is quick to find faults, he shouldn’t be dismissed as just a talking head. With the shrewd eye of an intelligence officer, Hart analyzes U.S. policies and proposes alternatives. Each piece was written as events were still unfolding, yet the author draws from his unique background to explore possible outcomes. Two essays in particular—“The Third Afghan War” and “President Obama and Iran”—distill firsthand knowledge into potent commentaries that shed light on the enigma of the Middle East. Hart utilizes the same unflinching, matter-of-fact style in his more controversial arguments, including the selective use of waterboarding against captured terrorists. The essays were first published on the author’s blog between 2009 and 2010, so regrettably there is no discussion about the death of Osama bin Laden or other recent developments. While some of the opinions are sure to find detractors, the book nevertheless presents an educated perspective as America exits one battlefield and continues to fight on another.
A CIA veteran bravely asks a vital question about war: With thousands dead and billions spent, is there a better way?