Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 12 Critic Reviews



In Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward provides the most intimate and sweeping portrait yet of the young president as commander in chief. Drawing on internal memos, classified documents, meeting notes and hundreds of hours of interviews with most of the key players, including the president, Woodward tells the inside story of Obama making the critical decisions on the Afghanistan War, the secret campaign in Pakistan and the worldwide fight against terrorism.    

At the core of Obama’s Wars is the unsettled division between the civilian leadership in the White House and the United States military as the president is thwarted in his efforts to craft an exit plan for the Afghanistan War.   

 “So what’s my option?” the president asked his war cabinet, seeking alternatives to the Afghanistan commander’s request for 40,000 more troops in late 2009.  “You have essentially given me one option. ...It’s unacceptable.”  

 “Well,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates finally said, “Mr. President, I think we owe you that option.”   

It never came. An untamed Vice President Joe Biden pushes relentlessly to limit the military mission and avoid another Vietnam. The vice president frantically sent half a dozen handwritten memos by secure fax to Obama on the eve of the final troop decision.   

President Obama’s ordering a surge of 30,000 troops and pledging to start withdrawing U.S. forces by July 2011 did not end the skirmishing.   

General David Petraeus, the new Afghanistan commander, thinks time can be added to the clock if he shows progress.  “I don’t think you win this war,” Petraeus said privately.  “This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”   

Hovering over this debate is the possibility of another terrorist attack in the United States. The White House led a secret exercise showing how unprepared the government is if terrorists set off a nuclear bomb in an American city—which Obama told Woodward is at the top of the list of what he worries about all the time.   

Verbatim quotes from secret debates and White House strategy sessions—and firsthand accounts of the thoughts and concerns of the president, his war council and his generals—reveal a government in conflict, often consumed with nasty infighting and fundamental disputes.   

Woodward has discovered how the Obama White House really works, showing that even more tough decisions lie ahead for the cerebral and engaged president.   

Obama’s Wars offers the reader a stunning, you-are-there account of the president, his White House aides, military leaders, diplomats and intelligence chiefs in this time of turmoil and danger.

About Bob Woodward

See more books from this Author
Bob Woodward is an associate editor at The Washington Post, where he has worked for forty-one years. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, first for The Washington Post’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, and later for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has authored or coauthored twelve #1 national nonfiction bestsellers. He has two daughters, Tali and Diana, and lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, writer Elsa Walsh.
Published September 27, 2010 by Simon & Schuster. 468 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Obama's Wars

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

Jones, the national security adviser, he is depicted in these pages as a disgruntled whiner who regards the president, in Mr. Woodward’s words, as “cerebral and distant,” who is “unsure about” Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and who describes the president’s aides (including Mr. Emanuel, David A...

Sep 22 2010 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

As a chronicler of American politics, Bob Woodward needs no introduction.

Oct 09 2010 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

BC Books

See more reviews from this publication

The title of Bob Woodward's book is bound to confuse many readers, for one would think it refers to Afghanistan and Iraq, the two wars that President Barack Obama inherited when he took office.

Oct 19 2010 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

The Wall Street Journal

See more reviews from this publication

'Obama's Wars," Bob Woodward's latest epic of insiderdom, quotes National Security Adviser James Jones telling his deputy, Tom Donilon, that he had made a mistake—"he had never gone to Afghanistan or Iraq, or really left the office for a serious field trip.

Sep 30 2010 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

New York Journal of Books

See more reviews from this publication

Obama’s Wars is the first real, living history of the Obama Administration as told by many White House insiders: including the President himself.

Sep 27 2010 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

The Washington Post

President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year, repeatedly pressing his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him, according to secret meeting notes and documents cited in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

Sep 22 2010 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

The Telegraph

But as Bob Woodward details in Obama’s Wars, the President’s instinct to apply the same cut-and-run approach to America’s military involvement in Afghanistan has been the cause of arguably the most vituperative policy turf war of his presidency.

Oct 12 2010 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

The Daily Beast

“It wasn’t until well into the Obama presidency,” Woodward writes, “that Holbrooke learned definitively how much the president didn’t care for him.” In a revealing anecdote, Holbrooke asks Obama to call him “Richard” rather than “Dick.” For some reason, Obama finds the request highly bizarre and,...

Sep 22 2010 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

The New Republic

Woodward has written three books about the Iraq War and never visited Iraq, and he has written two books about the Afghan War and has visited Afghanistan for forty-eight hours (a visit well milked here).

Dec 16 2010 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars


Anderson, May 1, 2007 at 8:25 am Link to this comment(Unregistered commenter).

Apr 30 2007 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars


A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

Nov 29 2009 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

eInternational Relations

Even a brief examination of Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars reveals a meticulously and exhaustively researched chronological account of the Obama administration’s travails in regard to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the moment of then-Senator Obama’s election victory in late 2008 to the summer...

Jan 22 2013 | Read Full Review of Obama's Wars

Reader Rating for Obama's Wars

An aggregated and normalized score based on 472 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review