Pot, Kettle, Et Cetera

by Joshua Foust on 10/1/2010 · 6 comments

Max Boot doesn’t like Bobby Woodward’s new book:

While chronicling the Obama administration’s Afghanistan policy, Mr. Woodward apparently visited Afghanistan only once, traveling with Mr. Jones. His description of the trip is inadvertently hilarious and revealing. He recounts flying “into the heart of the Taliban insurgency in Helmand province.” Here, he proclaims, “was the war without the filter of a Situation Room briefing. The cool evening air hit my face as the plane’s rear loading ramp was lowered. . . . All that was missing was the haunting and elegiac theme music from Oliver Stone’s movie Platoon.” The experience, he continues, is “exhilarating and frightening.” The camp is “supposedly safe from sniper and mortar fire,” but when he makes a midnight head call, he is decidedly nervous, “anticipating a random shot.”

You would think that Battlefield Bob had bivouacked in a foxhole a few hundred yards from an enemy position. Actually he is in Camp Leatherneck, a giant Marine base (1,500 acres housing 10,000 personnel) in the middle of nowhere. The greatest danger at Leatherneck is overeating in the chow hall. That Mr. Woodward makes it seem like a frontline position is indicative of how far removed he is from the war.

This, of course, stands in stark contrast to the months Boot has spent in the foxholes of Afghanistan, hearing directly from sol…. oh, bother. Boot does the same damned thing: taking week-long tours arranged by 4-star generals to showcases bases. He’s done it for years. Now, I do this too—poke fun at writers who exaggerate the “risks” they take by traipsing around with soldiers on secured bases—but Boot has little room to talk.

Whatever. All that’s forgivable, part of the inevitable posturing that comes from one pundit interviewing another’s book on a topic he thinks he knows well. But what the hell is this?

It is too soon to know whether this decision will be judged wise. That will depend on the outcome of the war itself. And that, in turn, will be determined by a lot of factors, including the views of Afghans, which are absent from Mr. Woodward’s hermetically sealed narrative.

For Max Boot to complain that Woodward didn’t interview any Afghans so therefore he doesn’t know about the war is… umm. Well it’s not exactly honest, now is it? Unlike Boot, Woodward doesn’t pretend to write anything beyond a recounting of Team Obama’s internal deliberations over the war—and unlike Boot, his views of the war therefore don’t really require personal contacts amongst the Afghans. Also, Boot’s concern-trolling for normal Afghans is ridiculous and petty, considering how little (if ever?) he’s ever done it for his own general-tours of the “battlefield.”

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Don Anderson October 1, 2010 at 8:39 am

Wow…Joshua…Have you forgotten that Max Boot has a direct line to General Petraeus? He is the gate keeper, and the divine oracle to the Kings of COIN.

I mean, questioning Max’s impecable combat experience in the “trenches” is close to questioning God himself.

When Max Boot pronounces, we mere mortals must quake at his knowledge of the authentic dinner table “experience” in Wazir Akbar Khan. I can just smell the cordite every time I read his blog.

COIN rests alone on General Petraeus. And..more than that Why are there not more General Petraeus’s?

Throw a nuke on the barbi and aim it a Tehran-Max Boot will lead you to the promised land-And do not forget it.

Max Boot has all the experience anyone needs -to know everything anyone needs to know. How could you ever question HIM? Mr. Foust you should be turned into the Thought Police for this post-and right away.

Joshua Foust October 1, 2010 at 8:42 am

Indeed, I am quite familiar with Boot’s relationship to General Petraeus.

Caleb Kavon October 1, 2010 at 9:03 am

I agree Don. It is sacrilege.

Mr Foust how could you?

First you indicate flaws in the ASG report and dare to question
Steve “Establishment” Clemmons and Matthew-“State Department Official” Hoh.

Then you actually have the outright gall to look at Hamid Karzai in a different light.

NOW-you dare question the battlefied experience of MAX BOOT?

What will you do next?

I am shocked beyond words at the moment. I think a migraine is coming on. This alternative reality here at Registan is more than I can support.

Boris Sizemore October 1, 2010 at 9:16 am

Me too. I am mortified.

Questioning MAX BOOT???

NO ONE questions Max Boot’s expertise. NO ONE.

Joshua-you have just crossed the line of no return.

Have fun over there!! Cheers!!

CTuttle October 4, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Aloha, Josh…! It’s been awhile since I’ve stopped by…!

Btw, did you read Ray McGovern’s excellent critique of Woodward’s book…?

CIA Analysts Shut Out on Afghan War

Boris Sizemore October 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Max Boot has stepped in it this time. Big time.


When he writes we to a degree need to assume he is following direct party line from his benefactor CG Petreaus. If this is the case, there is a huge problem at ISAF in regard to the tragic loss of Linda Norgrove.

It is damn “distressing” if this was ANOTHER of many failed rescue attempts and we see this attitude coming from someone we know is in the loop directly with the CG ISAF.

We know….

A. The Tribal negotiation team was trying hard to honor Linda and her efforts and pushing hard to via the Governor of Kunar to get her released. The feeling of the Afghans is that they were very close. ISAF panicked and overruled this possible outcome.

B. The Negotiation team was ignored, and ISAF launched nearby operations related perhaps which made it impossible for the Elders to continue.

C. There was a final decision okd by the British PM and Petraeus or Obama to go ahead because they feared NOT for her life, but the feared she might be taken ALIVE to Pakistan.

D. Put A/B/C together we have a very risky operation which was NOT necessary. A lot of people are VERY distressed about this.

They knew her location and they could have blocked the exit and negotiated, or surrounded the position and negotiated. There was NO threat to Linda’s life before this attack, I repeat she had not been threatened once. The Afghans are outraged, the rest of us should be too.

For Max”I might as well be a General too” Boot, it is one thing if you are a deployed soldier to be neutral on friendly fire…

It is ANOTHER thing if you are a deployed civilian. Many of us deployed civilians would prefer being kidnapped to being likely killed in a unlikely rescue attempt. We would prefer to live,
we are not soldiers.

Please note this Mr. Boot and CG Petreaus if Mr. Boot does represent your position on this.

If this post represents CG ISAF’s position we have a serious breach of respect for our Civilian effort, and a caustic disregard once again for the principle of using local knowledge to help solve local problems.

Most critically this represents a failure to note that most of these rescue missions do indeed FAIL and result in loss of life, many times that of the innocent persons involved.

Max Boot should come out clearly with what is the ISAF position, since we know he has become an unofficial spokesman for the Commander. He is seriously always compromised and needs to be clear for whom he speaks.

Max Boot needs to think before he writes. A kidnapping is one thing, a life is another. There are many that would do anything to have that life back. Not important enough for Max Boot to note.

Security on the roads is an ISAF responsibility not the Aid Workers, the first thing we must blame is the lack of security. If 100K soldiers and the surge cannot protect the road between two provincial capitals we have a problem- Max Boot is a problem, and this time he is a problem for the ISAF CG he so vociferously defends day after day after day.

Boot is just wrong wrong wrong wrong and wrong again on this.

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