"The Operators: The Wild And Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan" by Michael Hastings, New York: Blue Rider Press (Penguin Group), 417 pages. Hardback, $27.95.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Today, polls show most Americans have come to oppose continuing the Afghanistan War. Yet many media discussions about the war -- discussions that helped its escalation and its continuation -- routinely overlook or downplay the flawed thinking of our top leaders, including top military generals.
National discussions about our involvement in Afghanistan often ignore the key negative impacts wars have on Afghanistan and the future of the increasingly troubled Middle East.
Michael Hastings raises these questions in his recent book, "The Operators: The Wild And Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan."
In July 2010, "Rolling Stone" magazine published "The Runaway General," an article by Hastings that profiled former Gen. Stanley McChrystal, focusing on his arrogance and his constant pressure on the White House to escalate military confrontations in Afghanistan.
The article quickly led to McChrystal's resignation.
"The Operators" focuses on the arrogance and problems created by both McChrystal and Gen. David Petraeus -- the two top military leaders in the American invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11.
A contributing editor to "Rolling Stone," Hastings writes about time he spent talking with troops and top military leaders -- in the Middle East, Europe and at home in the U.S. -- in his new book.
"The Operators" is filled with questions raised by troops on the ground and by other top military and foreign policy leaders.
Many political leaders and the media routinely ignore those questions, Hastings writes.
Hastings quotes people like Roberts Gates, who spoke to cadets at West Point after he retired as Secretary of Defense in 2011, after four years of service in that top post under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
"Any future secretary of defense who advises the president to again send a big American land army into the Middle East or Africa," Gates said, "should have [his] head examined."
Hastings's new book stresses the impossibility of controlling a country like Afghanistan, a point so many have made before, including Andrei Sakharov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
But when Sakharov wrote an "Open Letter" to Leonid Brezhnev in 1980 warning against Soviet expansionism by invading Afghanistan, Soviet authorities arrested him and exiled him to the remote town of Gorky.
"Super militarization of our country, especially disastrous in our difficult economic conditions, is increasing," Sakharov wrote. "As a result, vitally important economic and social reforms are not being implemented."
Sakharov died in 1989, shortly before the Soviet Union collapsed, an historic event sparked by the brutal and disastrous occupation of Afghanistan.
Local disputes, warlords and a dysfunctional society
In Afghanistan today, Hastings believes, American "forces are not fighting and dying to combat terrorists, but are fighting and dying in local political disputes."
The American presence in Afghanistan has done nothing to get rid of the warlords that dominate so many areas of the troubled country.
"Once we begin to leave Afghanistan, it will be warlords ... who'll take over."
Hastings praises Matthew Hoh, a former Foreign Service officer and captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. In September 2009, Hoh became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war.