Daniel Bolger’s ‘Why We Lost’

Andrew J, Bacevich in The New York Times:

BookThe author of this book has a lot to answer for. “I am a United States Army general,” Daniel Bolger writes, “and I lost the Global War on Terrorism.” The fault is not his alone, of course. Bolger’s peers offered plenty of help. As he sees it, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, abysmal generalship pretty much doomed American efforts. The judgment that those wars qualify as lost — loss defined as failing to achieve stated objectives — is surely correct. On that score, Bolger’s honesty is refreshing, even if his explanation for that failure falls short. In measured doses, self-flagellation cleanses and clarifies. But heaping all the blame on America’s generals lets too many others off the hook.

Before retiring in 2013 as a three-star general, Bolger served 35 years on active duty, a career culminating with two tours in Iraq and another in Afghanistan. As he ascended through the ranks, he earned a Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago. While teaching that subject at West Point and after returning to the field army, he published several books on military subjects. “Why We Lost” arrives well padded with war stories. Recounting combat actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, those stories testify to the bravery, resourcefulness and resolve of American soldiers — mainly sergeants, captains and lieutenant colonels. Yet “above that tactical excellence,” Bolger writes, “yawned a howling waste.” At the very top, the troops were ill-led. Perhaps so, but Bolger’s critique of that leadership distorts even as it purports to expose.

More here.