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.”