The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan

By Michael Hastings

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cindie
This is an entertaining and ultimately very sad look at the absurdity of our "war" in Afghanistan (it is more appropriately labeled an occupation) that may best be described as unblinking and unvarnished. Mr. Hastings is honest about his feelings towards the principals and what is transpiring. It is, as a result, an important book. The military, one of our proudest American institutions, feels like it can do almost anything, and do it better than anyone else, and most of the media hacks that look at it lap it right up. Having served in the USAF for 6 years, I know it cannot. It is good at destroying things and killing people, though not always the correct things or people, and that is about it. The rest of what it does shows all the frailty and weaknesses of humanity: vanity, hubris, ignorance, greed, and above all, ambition. The huge staffs of these generals are a joke. The budgets are a joke. Their importance to the mission is a joke. The cavalier way they send men and women to their deaths is a joke. It is very unfortunate Mr. Hastings is dead, dying in a very strange way while seemingly on to something about the CIA (yet another den of incompetence), as we lost an important voice to counteract government propaganda.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
saurabh
This book goes into details about McCrystals trip to Europe and all the drinking and loose lip talk that was put into Rolling Stone and brought the General out of the Army .
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
a j jr
I was very curious to see the background of Michael Hastings article 'The Runaway General' from a June 2010 issue of "Rolling Stone". While this book provided that background that led to the professional suicide of General Stanley McChrystal it really provided little else - look at it this way; that article was the Cliffs Notes and this is the book that the notes were condensed from and nearly three hundred pages tells nothing more than what a fifteen minute read of the article did. Anyone looking for insights into what we're doing or why we're in Afghanistan is going to be sorely disappointed - this is more a story of who doesn't like who in politics, the military and the media.

I think the title as well as the subtitle are intriguing. Hastings explains that 'The Operators' encompasses a number of people; the various generals running the war, as well as himself, many gaining a weird fulfillment from it - I get that, as someone on his third tour in Afghanistan. His subtitle, 'The wild and terrifying inside story of Americas war in Afghanistan'? Not so much; Hastings apparently is making his bones over the last decade on war reporting but still shows a basic disconnect with the subjects he profiles, what we do, as well as the basic culture of the area.

I do not fault the author for his gossippy work; it is what it is. The fact that people in the positon of McChrystal and his staff would speak frankly in front of a member of the media says volumes about who they are and the mental disconnect that comes with life in 'the bubble', as Hastings defines it. Hastings himself expresses amazement at their lack of restraint. Hastings does take a disappointingly petulant tone at the end, like the child who told the truth about his crime and is facing punishment for it - 'I was informed I was no longer an embed' along with a claim that the post interview investigation was about discrediting him. No kidding Mike, do you think 'W' has Dan Rather over for drinks after the Air Guard story?

If you want to get the 'Enquirer' version of personalities in this war this is the book for you.
Little Morning Star (Wicked Crown Book 1) :: A People of Cahokia Novel (Book One of the Morning Star Series) (North America's Forgotten Past) :: Custer and The Little Bighorn - Son of the Morning Star :: The Revolutionary New Plan to melt up to 10 Pounds of Fat in Just One Week! :: Wayward Spirits: Witches of Palmetto Point Book 2
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
justin timora
An outstanding book! General McChrystal was not a Ambassador or a Diplomat...he was a soldier...a true Operator on the "Dark Side". This book shows that he had a very difficult mission...controlling the insurgents on a untested means of counterinsurgency. I wish more talk would have been on Special Ops. (small mention of his warrior status) This caused to me start another book "In the Grave Yard of Empires". Stan partied hard and always had the mission in mind.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kristen
Our military hasn't gotten any smarter and the waste is staggering. The press is complicit in keeping myths alive. If Petraus did not lose his luster after giving classified info to his mistress, this will convince you he is way, way overrated....
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cristcaci
Great!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cara cannone
Michael writes well and gave insight into how we often are duped.
One often thinks we are not getting the whole story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kymberlee
Someone gets it! What a boondoggle.
History will rightly paint this mis-adventure in the harshest of terms.
A pointless waste of men and money.
Hastings gets it!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
luis guerrero
this is a great book showing how being honest in government is not good as well as showing nothing has changed since the Vietnam War. Not giving leaders on the ground in country the personnel and equipment needed to win the battle. Should we listen to our commanders in the arena of battle we might win.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
sheereen
very well written and nicely documented. whaThe t interpretation of this reporting of locker room conversations was greatly misread and misinterpreted by the general public and the Obama administration.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
hope struck
The book only held my interest for a short while, but others may like it better than I did.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
lavinia
The last chapter is called "Joe Biden is Right."

I can't understand how someone could write an anti-war book and then cite someone who has voted for every war he can since he's been in office.

I despise both political parties so don't think I'm just an angry republican saying this.

Biden is one of those people who can say something poignant every now and then, but his voting records show it's all just talk.

Biden voted to invade Iraq. He voted to invade Afghanistan. And every time he made a critique, he'd follow it with another vote to keep funding the wars and funding the things he supposedly doesn't agree with.

So what was Biden right about? That there'd be a ruse to keep troops in Afghanistan longer. Do you know how many other people predicted such a thing? Why reference someone like Biden who is a all talk? Why not reference people like the "Iraq Vets Against the War" or reference Code Pink? Why not reference someone who walks what they talk?

Long story short, 4 terms of republicans and democrats and we're still at war in both countries. Looks like those fancy smancy speeches from people like Biden were meaningless.

Weird how the Obama/Biden admin never prosecuted the war crimes of the Bush/Cheney admin. Blowjobs are impeachable. War crimes are just casualties.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
yolande
This is one of the best books I have read in a while. This book highlights the corruption that has become pervasive throughout American politics. I honestly can't believe this story got out. Greatly written and an easy read. I highly recommend it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
eldes
Insight into possible frightening World Events.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
julie
Really excellent piece on Afghanistan from the 30,000 foot so to speak as opposed to the trenches.

After having read many WW2 books in my lifetime and having read about our command structure and the habits/behavior of our Commanders in those days (Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, etc.), they are probably rolling over in their graves at the type of self promotional, kiss up - kick down type of leaders we are churning out these days. Unfortunately, our brass is constantly participating in a self stylized PR campaign, where they are bigger than the actual stage they are on. No wonder the poor soldier on the front lines, who does the best they can do, would be disenchanted with the leadership.

Many times it is noted that these commanders are very well aware that it is style over substance. As long as they get their accolades, stars and pictures on magazines that is what counts.

I find it very interesting that Michael Hastings, the author, died under very mysterious circumstances a year or so ago. This after being threatened numerous times with his life by "Team America" if he wrote a "bad" story.

The Palatium (the nexus of Imperial Roman war planning) will not allow criticism beyond a certain point and when you cross you you are theirs.

Get this book and read it. The way we develop strategy on a grand strategic level is pathetic.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gunnar sigur sson
This gave me some fascinating perspective
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
juliefoz
In one of his books on the Korean War, "This Kind of War," T. R. Fehrenbach observed: "Military men, who are willing to risk their lives have small sympathy with anyone unwilling to risk his office." Michael Hastings's "The Operators," explores this concept on two levels.

First, the main story is, of course, about General Stanley McChrystal and his coterie, who were tasked with trying to salvage this country's horrific immersion in Afghanistan's Vietnam-like deadly quicksand. The book relates their disdain for politicos--from the president on down--who do not seem to grasp the things that the military needs to accomplish the goals it's been given. Second, Hastings willingly (or even eagerly) burned his bridges as a reporter in order to use the resulting fire to shed needed light on workings of government that are all too often shielded from view and needed oversight and control. It is rare for journalists to risk a get-along persona in order to get it right.

McChrystal and his group gave Hastings unvarnished access in return for a hoped favorable feature in "Rolling Stone." They got the story, warts and all. "The Operators" relates all of this in a breezy somewhat self-deprecating style. It reminded me of Julie Salamon's superb behind-the-scenes making of the film from Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities," "The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco." Here, however, the stakes are much, much more serious than the making of a film. The Afghan fiasco has wasted, and continues to squander American lives--killed and maimed by a nation-building war that cannot be won--as well as the billions of dollars we have poured and continue to pour into that venally corrupt state.

"The Operators" turns over the rock of pretense and reveals the mulch below. It is an important and fascinatingly revealing book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
wouter
Super interesting first person account of a reporter who traveled with Gen. McCrystal. His reporting in Rolling Stone precipitated McCrystal's firing by President Obama, and some believe led to his ultimate death in a single car accident in 2013.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jeremy peacock
I cannot review the entire book because I was not involved in most of the situations. However, the part where Mr. Hastings mentions my describing the staff as crazy monkeys is completely accurate. It was in fact Mr. Hasting's book that allowed me to piece together some of the simultaneous tom-foolery going on under McChrystal, but I was seeing my part back in Afghanistan. While McChrystal and clan were getting drunk in Paris, I was in Kandahar experiencing the fruits of their drunken wrath. Those days, about 15 to 17 April 2010, are when I began calling them "Crazy Monkeys," which invited so much negativity on myself. I admit -- that may have seemed a wild claim at the time, but it was obvious from Afghanistan..

I had no idea, until Mr. Hasting's book, how correct the Crazy Monkeys idea was. I now seriously wonder if McChrystal's crew was drunk when they gave me the hatchet. It made no sense otherwise. Mr. Hasting's describes one of the drunken officers working his Blackberry. There is a real chance that he sent an email that was heard around the world, which was the email that ended my work with US forces. This, in part, lead me to tell millions of Americans that McChrystal was incompetent and needed to be fired. The rest is history.

I cannot verify Mr. Hasting's reports, other than to say that his general characterization (from my view) of those April days are 5-star. McChrystal needed to take his four stars home.

Michael Yon
[...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cecelia hightower
If you were . Paying any attention at all. This war never made sense and was run by fools. The only clear vision was by a president who couldn't control the military because the military didn't believe in civilian control. The legacy of Iraq has done astounding damage to our economy and our future relationships w with the rest of the world. If you didn't know that t his book will make it clear. If you did, it will fill in details. Interesting and an easy read but not as shocking as it should be.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
janice palko
"As (David Petraeus) has written earlier in his career, it's not what happens that matters; it's what policy makers think happens - the key is 'perception' ... and the perception in Washington is that the surge is a triumph. Though a political failure in Iraq, it proves a political success in Washington."
- Michael Hastings, "The Operators"

And so another U.S. president agrees to another surge of troops, this time for Afghanistan. It is a country in which the U.S. was already heavily invested in a war that it knew privately would never win. But we had to march forward because of the politics and pride of the Military Industrial Complex. Those who find the Afghanistan War both fascinating and deeply disturbing will be spellbound by this book. It historically explains and documents what has been hidden in plain sight, but Americans have not paid attention to this decade-long war. At first we were too busy with our spending sprees, then with our recovery from a national financial nightmare. The war became relatively insignificant, which in part supported its continuation, as well as made possible the rise of military "greats" such as Stan McChrystal and David Petraeus. Even top military brass, numerous elected officials and foreign policy scholars conceded the war was foolhardy - a mistake - but we were mired too far in its layers of politics and corruption to pull back. Generals had big careers at stake. Warmongers like John McCain urged us to stay the course to "secure America." For example, it has cost thousands of NATO and civilian lives and billions in taxpayer dollars - $300 million alone to fund an election in Afghanistan that our leaders (D.C. and military) knew the corrupt Karzai government would win through fraud. But just being able to tout the election - think of the global media coverage - made it appear we were making progress there when our leadership knew we were not. The book is written in a style and tone that are accessible to readers who love politics and reading about military back stories, as well as those who know little about neither.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
debralee
Extremely informative, enjoyable and a very easy read, but also predictable and overly self-assured. Hastings is just too full of himself for my taste. I came away feeling like he had betrayed everyone's trust - intentionally.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ellie
a book of worthy reading
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gita jo
Out of control military adventurism to sell and maintain a war doomed from the start.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
annette burgess
Everyone should read this book
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
meg davis
The book is highly interesting, but also a sad narrative about governments (both republican and democratic) throwing away money. Big money. Money needed in the USA to promote economic recovery. A clear demonstration how stupid Washington is in its foreign and domestic policy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
merle j
Immediately engaging.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
robert hultman
good price and quality
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
laura barcella
Great Story !
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bookworm027
Great book, arrived on time.
Thanks
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cynethia williams
This is an important book that everyone should read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sirisha manugula
Great inside look at Mideast wars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
marcela
The book covers the history of Afghanistan war prior to Obama being elected President to the Present. He talks about the rational behind increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan and why the decision was made. He also goes over the events that led to the firing of GEN McChrystal, the backlash as result of McChrystals' firing, and in his opinion why Counter Insurgency (COIN) doesn't work.

He believes neither the media nor the politicians are questioning whether the war can be won. From Mr Hastings perspective politicians are only concerned with the war when it can be used to exploit their rivals.

I definitely believe Duncan Boothby, McChrystal's media consultant, thought he had a gentlemen agreement with Mr Hastings because he gave him so much access and Mr Hastings is being disingenuous when he says, I was never told any of our conversations were off the record. Duncan Boothby in the end was at fault for GEN McChrystals firing because he never set any ground rules for the article, but Mr Hasting took advantage of the situation.

The best indication that the nation has truly lost interest in the war is when the editor at Rolling Stones decides to put Lady Gaga on the cover instead of the story on GEN McChrystal, even though Mr Hastings story had national security implications. Then the focus of the outrage by all accounts by the politicians and the media were McChrystals' staff comments about the Obama administration and not the field troops doubts about COIN, which was the point he wanted to make.

Mr Hastings is a cynical journalist, who in my opinion, has written a very interesting book about the dynamics of the press, military and politicians during a war.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
bill jarrett
My brother just got back... there's more to this story.... You know what there doing with the
equipment worth millions of dollars... They're cutting it up and selling it to China... for pennies
on the dollar.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
praveenchand
a good read; his untimely death adds drama to that whole time period, but it motivated me to learn more about him and watch interviews he'd done (Your Tube is great isn't it) and get a feel for the intense person that he was.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joe joe
Honest, truthful, and shocking. I couldn't put it down. Hastings is witty, talented, and although very biased a great writer
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
kelly huddleston
Too many retracted passages. Completely ruined the book
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
zane
The writing held my attention throughout the book.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
sewak singh
I can't believe how this "reporter" destroyed the career of one of the greatest General's of the 21st Century... McChrystal's book was sanitized but a great read and other information I've read shows how much this man violated the trust of an embedded reporter. I've talked with dozens of men who served with him and all were livid about how this guy destroyed a man who probably literally ended the quagmire in Iraq and might have been able to get the same results in Afghanistan, but we'll never know due to the destruction of an uncommon and unconventional soldier due to comments about the President who never, ever accomplished a tenth of what McChrystal did, except for getting elected twice. Read McChrystal's biography and then form an opinion.
I didn't see a single item that should have led to McChrystal's resignation after decades of brilliant service. How many General's join their men in the field? How many have ever done that?
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
natasha jones
Very current by a very current writer, Rolling Stone, bye- bye Gen Stan McCrystal, Afghanistan , Paris, DC, The death of Richard Holbrook.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
faith89
A disturbing must read book about the Bush wars. Author ended up dead in one car accident in California
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nick mathers
There are two distinct narratives to this mostly excellent book.

In one, Hastings recaps and expands on his embedded assignment alongside Gen. Stanley McChrystal's team as they traveled Europe and Afghanistan. A variety of inappropriate conversations later reported in Rolling Stone ended up leading to McC's dismissal as Afghanistan war commander. In the second, he presents an after-the-fact roundup of reporting on the Afghanistan situation, and other events in DC.

The book will be reviewed by any number of audiences with preconceived opinions.

There is a set of people who view what Hastings wrote as an attack on the military, which it isn't. Or, that he betrayed his source's confidence, which he didn't - they had to have known he was recording and writing notes. That's what a reporter does, after all, didn't they know it? Or they thought the same relationship that always works would work again - you hang out, you have some late night conversations, you trade stories and you bond...and when the writing's being done, then the reporter should know what to leave in, what to leave out. It always worked before, so why didn't it work now? I'm sure Duncan Boothby, McC's PAO, wondered that when he was resigning.

It didn't work, because Hastings is not Bob Woodward - he's not protecting access by protecting the bridge against enemies from either side. He burned the bridge with everyone, including him, on it. That's what the most honest reporter does - tells the story that he/she sees, and worries about the truth first and last...and relationships nowhere. The reportees aren't called friends, after all - they're called 'sources.'

Hastings shows this in a section where he presents a blistering critique of war reporters in general. He writes, quoting someone else, but it's really Hastings' point: "They...are invested in being war correspondents. They are invested in the myth of it. They wake up every day and they buff their armor. They make it nice and shiny."

I've actually been an embedded photojournalist several times in Iraq - so there's no way I read a passage like that and not take it personally. But that's fine; I get his point and I can take it. I do think his contempt would have been stronger if he had turned that criticism on himself a little more.

The part of the book that deals with the McChrystal embed is the best. He sticks to what's said and heard, and usually lets the words and observations stand on their own. He provides analysis and conclusions, but he sticks to the evidence at hand. He's documented it, whether written or recorded. Nobody disputed that what was said WAS said - people are simply upset that he actually reported the truthful, embarrassing words. McC's team clearly wanted to get a boost into pop culture by bringing a Rolling Stone reporter along - so they were trying to use Hastings as much/more than Hastings was using them. This is what an embed is like.

Sometimes I wonder, though, if the conversations he reports have enough meat on them to merit all this attention. Just because two people are talking in a room doesn't make it news, and McC's team reserved their derision for their superiors - never those below. Don't we all complain about our bosses? Does it really matter? I don't entirely have an answer.

The book also has after-the-fact reporting about the situation in Afghanistan. Because Hastings is not present for all of the events, it doesn't have the same urgency or passion. It's interesting, but nothing I hadn't read before. The part of the book most compelling and interesting is the embedded narrative where Hastings story IS the story.

There are a couple big missing parts. The first would-be publisher of this book dropped it - why? What happened? And, at what point did Hastings know he had a book deal? If he went in knowing that a high-paying book deal depended on getting some money quotes, that's relevant to the reader. He does not address any of that at all.

Hastings is absolutely right about the "media-military-industrial complex." While we have a "free" press, all that means is reporters are not censored by the government - they do it to themselves. Reporters protect sources, leave out embarrassing info, and work to guarantee a new story that will never quite make enough waves to get anyone in too much trouble. So Sarah Palin can be attacked all day long, but military leaders are above reproach? Absurd.

In the days ahead, there will be the usual harrumphing about how Hastings "blew his chance, and nobody will trust him, and sources will never talk to him now."

Spare me - they'll line up to talk to him, because the challenge works both ways. They think they'll be the one that Hastings makes the hero in his next book. The source wants to talk, they always want to talk.

Great book and powerful reporting about truths that people wanted hidden - while the after-the-fact reporting slows it down, his description of the embed itself is enlightening, controversial, impressive and honest. If a reporter doesn't report what they see and hear, then they didn't report anything at all - and Hastings did that in spades.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
michael brunelle
Save a few good discussions about ROE and the history of COIN, this is a very disappointing book.

Stylistically, the book reads like a gossip column, reporting all the words spoken and actions taken by people who have earned the right to blow off some steam. Keeping in mind that no one's life can bear such scrutiny, the book is as unfair as it is biased. The sad thing is that the author just doesn't get what he did wrong; other reporters try to tell him, but the lessons don't sink in.

The author clearly suffers from an inferiority complex while he battles his own demons (alcohol), yet hammers those using alcohol (OK, perhaps to excess). The manifestation of the author's serious faults is to attack every minor point about McChrystal and his team. This is common by those who don't measure up to our military but feel compelled to try to show that they are better than military men. However, the book just comes off as petty and simplistic.

The only worthwhile use of this book is a "how not to do" example for a class in journalist ethics.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tasnim saddour
Untill we get to that point of the story where Michael Hastings goes public with his story, and everything just goes haywire. And when Michael Hastings started to assumed the "ethical victim of journalism"-role, i stopped reading...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
artesure
another journalistic masterpiece form Michael Hastings
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
natasha o rourke
What a crazy mess. Not the book, but the characters in it. Stranger than fiction - it's a cliche that fits. Invite a writer into your midst, act more like frat boys than the men responsible for running a war, then wonder why the writer "betrayed" you. I don't believe Michael Hastings has ever received the thanks of a grateful nation, but he goddam well deserves it.

I'm no "hawk", but you'll never mistake me for a dove. My beef is not with the war itself, it's that a General I respected, that we entrusted to the very lives of the best of us, and you know, a few billion dollars in funding, equipment and such; this damn fool...

Ahh Hell, just read it. You don't wanna know, but you should.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sky zajd
Great product. Exactly what is expected.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
antje
Journalism is a shadow of its former self. The days of Walter Cronkite and a press anxious to fulfill its role in a democracy is pretty much gone. Co-opted by the very people it should be examining and career ambition. Offer a critical comment? Lose your access. Not just for you but possibly for your employer as well.

I am sure there are some here who will give a bad review without reading the book. But this is a story that needs to see the light of day if for no other reason than to remind us of the proper role of the press in a democracy.

Well documented and well written. A breath of fresh air unless you prefer celebrity biographies.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
stacy hiemstra
Higher ups are disconnected from those boots on the ground. The General wants to be on the cover of RS. Obama feels pressure from the military to not appear soft on national security -- so he sends thousands of troops to fight a war that cannot be won.

Troops urinate on dead and photograph it. Guards and MP's photograph ''terrorists'' locked up at Abu Ghraib.

Anyone seriously running this show? Not really.

Hastings was interested in the story and nothing else. It mattered little to him who he brought down. Had he wanted to respect this crowd, he would have told them look this is on the record, my tape recorder is on, and I'm going to print everything you're saying. Or, if he liked them, and the military, he would have told them look I can't do this story. It's not going to look good for you and I don't want to be the cause of it.

Selfish, self centered and out of touch. Immature, dishonest and lacking in integrity. Hastings doesn't deserve the honor of shining the boots of the men he brought down.

The Gen and his staff slept with a dog, and got fleas. Doubt anyone learned any lessons from what happened.

The politicians are running the war and those higher ups in the military don't know what they're doing.

And the beat goes on.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nicole mcneil
Such a refreshing, honest, no BS perspective on our involvement in Afghanistan. This books should be required reading at West Point.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carla brantner
Gift for someone else, they loved it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
pilar
It was great, used it to write a college term paper!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
charlotte newman
Absolutely amazing book. It has the behind-the-scenes narrative like you would find in a Bob Woodward book, the humanity you would expect from a great piece of literature, and the reflections of a truly original thinker.

Read this book!!!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
andrew condouris
Rating of okay might be generous. Book was interesting but I'm not convinced it was objectively written. Seemed to pick facts to support politics of author.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dieuwertje
An excellent background to Michael Hastings assassination. His new Mercedes - 3 explosion crash; they had to be sure it burned, running it into the homing device on that tree at 80 mph probably wouldn't kill him within all those airbags. In the book he talks about the most heat he got for the "Rolling Stones" story about Gen. McCrystal was from the press - Hastings violated the "con code" of the machine - "Media/military/industrial complex". I don't think McCrystal's people killed him, he was murdered as an example for those who step outside the "brotherhood", most probably the CIA/FBI and covered by the LAPD - part of the "brotherhood" of America's gangster police state. Killing Michael Hastings ended reporting on the Afghanistan War. I learned KAF is the busiest airport in the world - 5,000 flights a day and 200 shipping containers - what are they shipping? Opium? Hastings moral courage is extremely rare in America's press. This book is a classic.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mateo
Great book, A very gripping read. Slightly frightening though seeing inside the USA Forces.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
brett nordquist
I’m of two minds about The Operators. I was impressed by Hasting’s analyses and anecdotes: he can write. I also agree that the US and our allies have no reason to be there. The majority of this review explores these topics. Conversely, I disliked the hatchet job Hastings did on McChrystal. Hastings’ Rolling Stone article reprinted every ill-considered comment uttered by the general’s team. The result was Obama fired the general within forty-eight hours of publication. Hasting’s defense was that the people quoted actually said what he attributed to them, and by saying it on tape they got what they deserved. He ignores that McChrystal’s inner circle confided in him, thinking him at least honorable enough not to sink them with their own words.

“The Vietnam Principle”

I’ve read many books about the US’s three most recent wars: Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie told the story of America’s misadventures in Vietnam through a biography of John Paul Vann. It’s a brilliant book and won a Pulitzer Prize for Sheehan (dubbed “The last prisoner of the Vietnam War” as it took him sixteen years to complete his masterwork). The takeaway was that the US shouldn’t be fighting wars to support unpopular leaders and/or dysfunctional governments. If the population of a particular country wasn’t rallying around the government, then the war would eventually prove unwinnable and the US must keep away.

Against that backdrop, Hastings has this to say (paraphrased by me) about President Hamid Karzai and his government:

1. Karzai came to power in 2001 on the back of the US invasion post-9/11. Elected president in 2004 with medium-level polling fraud. Re-elected in 2009 after massive voting fraud (e.g. 200% turnouts in pro-Karzai cities) despite $300 million spent by NATO democracies supporting fair elections. Karzai as of 2009 was hated by most locals and the US officials who interacted with him. However, Karzai ran the security forces and state media, and there was no credible alternative.

2. The corrupt Afghanistan government wasn’t worth supporting, so most talented Afghans left or squirreled money abroad. Of the $70 billion in aid money given from 2002 to 2009, at least $18 billion couldn’t be accounted for. The Afghan elites cynically referred to the present as “The golden era: the time when we all get our gold.”

3. In a particularly damning chapter entitled, “President Karzai has a Cold,” Hastings described the disconnect between the US military and Karzai. Karzai unilaterally opted out of a joint military initiative conceived by McChrystal and supplied by the US. All Karzai had to do was take a short trip and pose for photos, but he decided to spend the day in bed instead because he had a cold.

General Mike Flynn (McChrystal’s 2IC and in the news more recently over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador post-Trump’s election) said that when Karzai was elected president in 2004, the US should have bowed out. Instead the US plowed on, and the Afghans in the government and army got lazy and greedy. Now it’s a morass.

So Afghanistan didn’t pass muster under the Vietnam Principle. That alone is reason enough for the US to take the advice of Senator Richard Russell in 1964 when he advised Lyndon Johnson on Vietnam, “Declare victory and get the hell out.”

Three more compelling reasons not to be in Afghanistan

Hastings notes many other reasons against the ongoing US troop deployment as well, but three struck me as particularly pertinent.

1. Counterinsurgency (“COIN”) warfare as endorsed by McChrystal & Co was falsely equated to the War on Terror via the linkage to denying terrorists safe havens from which to launch more attacks on the US mainland. By 2009, there were maybe one hundred al Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan. Did the US need 50,000 troops to nullify this threat?

The planning for terrorist attacks against the West took place primarily in the West (from 9/11 through to the recent Paris-Brussels outrages). Fighting in Afghanistan to keep the Taliban from coming to power as a way of safeguarding home soil employs flawed logic. A RAND study from 2008 entitled “How Terrorist Groups End” said that military force worked in only 7% of the cases. (A negotiated settlement was the most effective approach.)

The strong believers in COIN said that between one and four hundred thousand US troops would be needed to win a “hearts and minds” campaign, something that was politically and financially infeasible.

2. Afghans hate foreigners. It’s perhaps their single defining trait and far more powerful a motivator than any flavor of Islam or ideology. The more foreigners are visible, the greater the inclination to oppose them. Afghanistan is a very conservative society, tribal and xenophobic. Most disputes in Afghanistan are local and warlord-based. The Afghan people hate the warlords, yet the US mostly ignored local crime bosses unless they were allied with the Taliban.

To portray the Taliban as a national force arrayed against the domestic army and ISAF forces was a gross simplification. The real issue was the unwelcomed presence of the International Security Assistance Force (“ISAF”, essentially NATO and a few other allies) troops. To Karzai’s credit, he was consistent in saying he didn’t want additional foreign troops in-country.

There was a deep split between the Afghanistan security forces and the people ostensibly there to help them. Quote from an officer at a firebase, “Ninety percent of the people are not friendly. All they want to do is kill us.”

• US soldiers cited their counterparts’ drug use, thievery, dishonesty, no integrity, incompetence, corruption, bad morale, side deals with insurgents, AWOL a lot, lazy, bad hygiene and mean to dogs.

• Afghan soldiers said that the US troops were arrogant, bullying, unwilling to take advice, unconcerned about civilian casualties, urinated in public, cursed at the locals, and shot farm animals. Furthermore, Americans were cowards, traveling in armored vehicles and relying on close air support in battle.

The result? US and Afghan forces didn’t trust each other: green-on-blue violence in one six-month period resulted in 16% of total ISAF casualties. (For the overall war, the proportion fell to “just” 6%.) Afghanistan troops surveyed said they thought a suicide Taliban bomber stood a better chance of entering heaven than a US soldier who died in combat.

3. The cornerstone of the US withdrawal plan was the professionalization of the Afghanistan police and army: train them up and the ISAF forces would go home. It was an abject failure in the early years. Lt. General William Caldwell arrived in late 2009 to Camp Eggers to take over. It was a $12 billion a year operation under NATO’s auspices located in downtown Kabul, spread over six blocks. Cumulative 2002-2008 prior spending on the same topic: $30 billion.

Only 20% of new recruits could read. A quarter deserted. Over half smoked hashish regularly. Child rape was endemic. “Boys are for pleasure, women are for children” was a popular expression. Caldwell’s starting point was to teach the recruits how to read. Nothing improved longer term.

McChrystal’s War (June, 2009-June, 2010)

Four-star General Stanley McChrystal, legendary leader of JSOC in Iraq, had a high-powered team who came to Kabul armed with energy and ideas. Stan’s team worked insane hours to try to change the Big Army mentality. McChrystal espoused COIN, minimization of civilian casualties, and a less trigger-happy military.

Hastings wrote that McChrystal’s predecessors had said the same thing since 2004, so in the author’s mind the media mistook style for substance now. This is unfair to McChrystal: even Hastings’ own reporting shows that the general’s team was far more effective about changing how the US waged the war than any of his predecessors. (Whether these changes went too far or fell short is another topic altogether.)

The following points give a flavor of how McChrystal’s thoughts and doctrine differed from those of the mainstream US military mindset.

1. Empower the good Afghans who display competence, care and commitment to their people.

2. The insurgency is the Afghan people: they are conservative and averse to change. If you kill insurgents, it multiplies the people you’re fighting. In one presentation, he wrote “10-2=20” to mean “If you kill two bad men out of ten, the unintended result is that another ten join the opposition.

3. “Winning hearts and minds in COIN is a cold-blooded thing, but you can’t kill your way out of this war. The Russians killed one million and lost.”

4. Instead of focusing on killing the enemy, protect the civilian population. Don’t cause excessive damage and alienate people.

5. His team asked intel officers about land ownership, water rights, local power brokers, tribal affiliations and similar, but no one at ISAF headquarters in Kabul had answers.

6. Troops should spend 95% of their time helping build schools and resolve land disputes. He didn’t want “shoot-first and blow-shit-up” soldiering.

McChrystal’s approach makes sense, but was pre-ordained to failure because his point of departure was that the US would work with a credible government and honest, capable leaders who inspired their citizens. In the absence of this, all the US could accomplish was to shore up a doomed regime and hope for better days.

There’s also a secondary reason why the ISAF mission might have failed even if Afghanistan had been under better management. The US Army troops in the field—regular infantry, Marines and Special Forces—weren’t trained for this type of deployment. Hastings visits forward operating bases (“FOB”) where the troops have incurred casualties as a result of following McChrystal’s new, much more restrictive rules of engagement. They are demoralized and hostile almost to the point of mutiny.

Hastings’ Rolling Stone article The Runaway General (June, 2010) caused a firestorm in the press. Obama fired the general (perhaps doing him a favor by extricating him from an already-lost cause). Hastings profited from the notoriety and turned the article into The Operators which became a bestseller. McChrystal retired from the military and now teaches international relations at Yale University.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
aimee
I can't say enough good things about this book. Although it's based on the author's interviews with General McChrystal and his staff, it is so much more than that. I consider myself to be an informed person who watches the news regularly, reads the newspaper and discusses world events with friends. (I also think the invasion of Iraq and our nation-building in Afghanistan has drained our country of money that should have been spent on anything but war.) As Americans we are not kept informed and truth is hard to find. Many times we're blinded by others using patriotism to disguise what's really going on.

Hasting's book highlights the lives that have been lost in Afghanistan and the money spent in trying to tame a country where we should not be. McChrystal and others like him fight wars because it is their profession. They also have the hubris to believe they know more than anyone else and start to believe their own nonsense. They are nothing unless they are engaged in combat, and it does not matter whether such combat is justified; they have been asked to do a job.

Hastings pulls back the curtain on our involvement in these war zones and the waste of it all. I have suggested this book to everyone I know and the sad part is that no one really cares enough to read it. No one is angry enough about our 15+ years of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq to be informed on what's really going on.

I listened to the electronic version of The Operators and hung on to every word. I'm going to listen a second time because there was so much there it was hard to take it all in. Hastings told an unpopular story that took guts to write and publish. I wish there were more journalists like him. God rest his soul; I believe his curiosity and honesty brought about his early death. He is the true hero of this story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
martin horwarth
The Operators by Michael Hastings began as article for Rolling Stone magazine. Michael Hastings was given access to the highest military officials in Afghanistan. By providing such access the military’s goal was to help “sell” American policy in Afghanistan to the American public, particularly the younger (military age) generation. Not to give away the story, but like so many other objectives in Afghanistan the plan backfired. Hastings’ observations lead to changes in military leadership. However, this was clearly not his objective. He just wrote the story as the story presented itself.

Roughly the first two-thirds of The Operators is written without agenda or even an obvious thesis. It is just the story. Hastings admires much about the military leaders. So much so, this reviewer began to wonder “this book started as an article for Rolling Stone?”

In the roughly the last third of the book, Hastings thesis becomes clear. The writing is like one would expect from Rolling Stone. This doesn’t mean the last third is biased. Rather, the last third of the book gives the book meaning and substance. By taking such an understated approach to making his points, Hastings writes a powerful book. A book that almost deserves five stars.

The Operators loses one star because of Hastings fairly frequent references to how a scene or event in real-life corresponded to a certain movie scene. Many of the movies referenced this reviewer hadn’t seen. Moreover, such comparisons somehow cheapen the real lives (and limbs) lost in war. Real-life soldiers are not actors. Also, some Hastings’ journalistic high-ground is list when he informs the reader about his personal behavior (e.g. getting very drunk after years of sobriety, lighting a cigarette). Without these minor flaws, The Operators, as noted, would deserve five stars.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
max avalon
I refuse to review this book when your f'ing computer prohibits me from finishing the first sentence ! !
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
utpal
I recall well standing twenty blocks north of the collapsing World Trade Center Towers, wondering to what degree our world would change. The answer was provided several days later during one of the better moments of the George W. Bush presidency. The President standing amid charred rubble proclaimed that "those responsible would be hearing from `us' very shortly".

Thus began our involvement in Afghanistan and by extension - misrepresented or otherwise - Iraq. `The Operators' served as the undoing of General Stan McChrystal as commander of the war in Afghanistan. It began as an article by Michael Hastings writing for Rolling Stone magazine. The book expands on the article by providing a more detailed look at the relationship of the military and our civilian government, the personalities involved in the `management' (spin) of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more poignantly the relationship between perception and reality.

Candidly, this reviewer was a proponent of the war in Afghanistan. I saw clearly a cause and effect relationship between the unprovoked killing of innocent civilian non-combatants and those members of Al-Qaeda responsible for a heinous cowardly act. However, those responsible for 9/11 have largely been killed or are in custody. The question remains, why are we still in Afghanistan?

Hastings is a reporter seemingly without an axe to grind. As a veteran I know well the stress of life in uniform. Add in combat in a land half a world away from home and a soldier, sailor, airman swears a lot, tends to be politically incorrect, sometimes cynical and at times capable of taking advantage of a good time(s) as it comes along. When done in the company of a journalist there needs to be a defined line of what is or is not `on the record'. Otherwise, everything is fair game.

The author provides an unvarnished look at the role of politics, life in D.C. vs. Kandahar or Helmand province. The visual is often not pretty (corruption, civil war, drugs, etc.) and unravels the prevailing stream of consciousness created by media complicit in pre-packaged messaging. The sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform are not to be diminished in any way. However, if this book rings true the question remains unanswered. Why are we still in Afghanistan?
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
biju bhaskar
The top three most helpful reviews on this page are spot on. As a military man myself, i was skeptical of Hastings's story as simply self-serving and anti-military. When his magazine article got McChrystal fired, II initially viewed him with disdain. So, I came to his book expecting to hate it. But quite the opposite. I believe he spared no one, including himself, from the exposition of their faults and hypocrisy. And it comes off believable. The best thing about this book is how READABLE it is. Very fast paced and concise while simultaneously crystal clear. Like a great 1940s movie script. Also reminded me of "Jarhead" in that regard. It's an antidote to the self-serving and politically slanted books you'll see out there.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
roald hansen
I had a hard time deciding on a rating for this book. On one hand, the store's guidelines say that one star means "I hated it", and I did sort of hate it. It left me feeling angry, baffled, irritated, duped and in serious need of a bath. On the other hand, I could justify giving it five stars because of the importance of the material presented. Every American should know that our own government has considered Afghanistan to be somewhat of a cross between a joke and a lost cause since nearly the day we invaded. But I finally settled on an uncontroversial, if wimpy, four star rating, first because I have some issues with Hastings' writing style and second, and more importantly, because I don't want it to be about the rating, I want it to be about the book.

It took me a long time to get a feel for this book. The book alternates between chapters chronicling Hastings' travels and interviews with General Stanley McChrystal and his staff, vs. chapters providing various background stories culled from research (usually) rather than direct experience. This jumping back and forth makes the story rather choppy to read, and it's often difficult to understand the point of some of the background stories until later. The sheer number of players - generals, their staffs, ambassadors and their staffs, various politicians, Afghan leaders, warlords, etc. - also makes the book rather dizzying to read. And would it be too much to ask that Hastings keep his verb tenses consistent, at least within the same paragraph?

Hastings' style during the direct experience chapters is basically neutral, if not even somewhat approving, and its often difficult to distinguish the various players' voices from Hastings' own voice. It's only toward the end of the book that the dynamic between and among Hastings' feelings of personally liking the guys on McChrystal's staff, his sort of awe at being given access, his concern over betraying and losing such access, his feelings of distaste and disgust over what he sees and hears, and his own self-admitted war junkie cravings soldifies into some degree of clarity.

But once that dynamic is made clear, the book suddenly snaps into focus. We start to understand how important it is to examine how it is we know what we think we know about the war on Afghanistan. Very few journalists, especially English-speaking journalists, are covering the war directly. Most of what we know about the war (and all modern conflicts, for that matter) comes from journalists who, one way or another, have to get access through the U.S. military. Some embed with various military units. A few lucky others like Hastings get access to high-level figures like General McChrystal. Such access is hard to come by and easy to lose if journalists cross unwritten lines in the sand. And then they're stuck getting their war "news" the same way most "journalists" do - directly from White House press releases and briefings.

So what motivates a guy like Stan McChrystal to allow a guy like Michael Hastings nearly unfettered access to him and his staff over the course of several days in both Europe and Afghanistan? And what allowed them to act in the casual, non-self-observant way they did around Hastings? An examination of those questions tell us a lot about not only McChrystal and his staff, but about the isolation of top, elite military officials in their own self-reflecting hall of mirrors, the propagandizing of war, and the attitudes and expectations of the American people.

Perhaps the biggest factor in Hastings' access was his employer. Stan McChrystal wanted to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. After all, McChrystal s "cool" and liberal (he let his teenage son dye his hair purple) and Rolling Stone is "cool" and liberal, so it's a natural fit, right?

Furthermore, it rarely, if ever, seemed to dawn on McChrystal or his staff that perhaps they needed to watch their step and mind their p's and q's. That what seemed "cool" to them with their bird's-eye view of the war might not seem so "cool" to those of us on the ground who are paying for this war or, worse, those who have to fight it. It never seems to occur to them that the elite, shielded, jaded view of the war and the world in general would be anything objectionable to people as "cool" and liberal as they are. Because they are "cool" and liberal, they "get it", so they can get away with saying things that, had some conservative said it, would be proof of how racist, sexist, hyper-militarized and out of touch they are. If a conservative had been involved in the cover-up of torture or the blatant misrepresentation of Pat Tillman's death, that would just show how insensitive conservatives are. This book is both eye-opening and gut-wrenching in portraying just how meaningless party lines are in a war zone.

Another thing that struck me in this book is how the elite American military officials and politicians think that there is some kind of "reset" button that will make all the past failures magically turn to success. If we elect a "Hope and Change" liberal president to undo the Bush-era abuses, if we draw down on the "stupid" war in Iraq to focus on the "important" war in Afghanistan, if we replace this general with that one, or this ambassador with that one, or focus more or less on counterinsurgency or nation-building, or this strategy or that strategy, somehow our failures will disappear, our "mission" will be successful and the civilians will finally emerge throwing those long-awaited flowers at our tanks. So each new general, ambassador or other official has to spend their first several months trash-talking everything that went before, tearing everything down and re-inventing the wheel rather than learning from and correcting past mistakes. And when those civilians not only continue to not be grateful for all our efforts, but, bafflingly, continue to shoot at our soldiers, it just doesn't compute. Sure, we made some mistakes back then, but things are different now, so why can't "those people" see that? What are they, animals?

This book is another one of those difficult things to read that is nonetheless very important to struggle through if "Support the Troops" means more to you than a yellow ribbon slapped on your bumper. We have been fed a view of the war that comes almost exclusively from the protected confines of the elite military and political establishments, but that view bears so little resemblance to the actual reality as experienced by our soldier and the Afghan people that it is like an alternative reality. Or a theatre production, more accurately. One that even it's own producers don't buy.

The cover on this book is particularly apt and telling. The front cover shows an anonymous 4-star general, tie slightly askance, holding a whiskey in one hand and a gun in the other. The back cover shows an anonymous soldier with a beer in one hand and a knife in the other. These images perfectly capture the disconnect between the "Operators" - the movers and shakers who make things happen - and the soldiers on the ground - the ones things happen to. If you have no idea what's going on in Afghanistan, you need to read this book. If you think you know what's going on in Afghanistan, you need to read this book.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
katelyn
Terrifying? Wild? not so much. Gates' book is much more detailed and insightful "inside story". Too bad for McChrystal - not sure I understand why he did that to himself.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
anggraini
Well written and researched. The book has an air of "gonzo journalism" in it because the author sort of lucked into a place that he didn't belong, with access that he never dreamed of, and he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut and just go along for the ride. And what a wild ride it was.

Sort of like the military version of "Almost Famous."

And yet, I find many of his observations to be either sensationalistic or trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. So some Army officers got drunk at a bar in Paris and staggered home at 1 in the morning? Show me any Fortune 500 company or sales convention where the exact same behavior doesn't take place every day. So McChrystal is a fitness addict who eats one meal a day? There are a hundred Silicon Valley CEO's who are far more austere in their personal habits.

So a good read, but just be aware of the angle from which it is coming- that being a touch of sensationalism.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
chelsey
The book provides and "inside" perspective to the "life and times of General McChrystal (former). That said, a couple of points:

Regardless of comments, General McChrystal's five years of his association with JSOC made a tremendous differences on the battlefield.
His abilities to "fight" the political inroads to build an organization like no other to find, fix and most often terminate those who would to terrible damage to American and its allies. There are many successes that few on the street no about or understand. That said, he should go down in history and a Soldier and Statesman.

1. The Pat Tilman "cover-up" was on McChrytsal's watch. H is office misrepresented (and those are kind words) the facts and circumstances behind the tragic "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan that took Pat Tilman's life. The awarding of the Silver Star validated and approved by McChrystal was absolutely a major error in judgement.

2. The COIN concept which "McC" embodied once birthed by General P in Iraq was far less than advertised in terms of success, either in
concept or in implementation. General P paid the "bad guys" for protection and "peace sustainment". These were the same Iraqi soldiers which the Bush people totally disbanded resulting in 400,000 former Iraqi soldiers on the street with no money, fully weaponized and with knowledge of location of the ASP's (ammo supply points). McC attempted to implement COIN in Afghanistan by "planting" COP's (combat outposts) through provinces like Kunar.These bases were eventually disbanded..but, not without tragedy. As those Soldiers from Blessing, Ranch House, Wanat or Resptreo. In short, the COIN "push" in Afghanistan by McC was a failure.

3. The book simply follows the contempt for anyone who did not conform to McC "vision". Many ask..where were these "visionaries" when post Iraq planning was in conversation prior to the invasion..or the disbandment of the Iraqi Army (as mentioned above); or the fact, too few Soldiers in Iraq post invasion for security, especially for the weapons depots.

One of the most critical components of the decision making process to prosecute the war in Afghanistan was the "inconcert" push for infrastructure development attempting to win the "hearts and minds" of the locals. By most accounts, infantry Soldiers were tasked with the dual tasks of the hearts and minds initiative and "killing the bad guys". Sometimes..or many times, each were essentially the same.

Some might ask...how do you come to these revelations?

I (1st downrange direct contract USAID representative in Afghanistan) was part of standing up the 1st Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at that time (Feb/2003) Fire Base Gardez in Paktia Province. The "crew" was 5th Group SF Soldiers, CA Soldiers and security, a PLTN plus from the 2/504/82nd. Upon the invasion of Iraq (03/18/2003), most 5th Group contingent were gone in a matter of days. The replacement were SF Solders from the 20th SFG.

In quick summary, the local tribal leaders really did not wish anything to do with the US military. They were encouraged by promises (some rarely kept) of infrastructure development which would enhance their standing..but, nothing more. This was make very clear enroute to the border with Pakistan in "real bad guy" territory; the tribal leader while sitting in an improvised "shura" meeting offered "Coke a Cola"...I though, like this others the name was generic for something else. But, no, they brought the cans out and upon opened, were thumb size crystals of ice
...they had refrigeration! Looking in the distance of 300-1000 meter were perfectly manicured opium poppy fields..something out of "Shangrala"..beautiful and perfectly cared for..when one of the guys asked in a reserve manner.."is that yours"...the reply was "no"..with a smurk or two. (had we been on a poppy assessment eradication mission..I would not be writing this today)
In closing, many of our generals failed us: Many will include General P (who lied to the FBI); General McC (who also lied about Tilman); and General Sinclare/Deputy 82nd Abn (who was spending more time having relations with his female CPT than attending to supporting the troops in combat/Afgh)

The book should be mandatory reading for West Point Juniors as an example of field grade hubris!

In short, Afghanistan is and will be written about at the War College, CGSC and Building Four/Ft Benning..but the word "what a mess" will be somewhere in the summary. We failed both in Iraq and Afghanistan, simply put!
RH
Nothing Follows
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
doug wilson
warfighters and sons of warfighters have a very strong desire to do as thier fathers or heros did. how do you snap this chain reaction. how do we teach real strength and leadership involves holding back from "kicking ass" in all but the clearest of cases. not sure if its possible if your father went to war. great great movie, i remain a huge fan of Stan M..but this movie really cuts to the gist of how stupid the extended and prolonged C.F. these wars turned into.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ceres lori
Hastings has drawn out a magazine article story into book length with
poor results.

His writing is self centered and slapdash. it seems to be his attempt to
write in a voice similar to that of Matt Taibbi.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
merle
Michael Hastings' 'The Operators' is much more than simply an elongated version of his seminal Rolling Stone article that brought down the command of Stanley McChrystal, commanding general of international and US forces in Afghanistan. Instead, it's really three tales woven into one compelling read: Hastings' recounting of how he got the story (and what led up to it); a fuller telling of the initial story itself; and - most fascinating to me - the after-effect of the story's publication, when it 'blows up' and the author himself becomes the story. Of that last part, his description of life inside that swirling vortex of sudden, worldwide interest is gripping stuff.

It's worth noting here that the General McChrystal depicted on these pages is by no means a loathsome character. He's complex, driven, flawed, sharply intelligent and a natural leader. Hastings paints a full and frank profile that is - while far from the adoring Paula Broadwell-esque 'general as demi-god' (and more) oeuvre - on the balance, positive. While he never set out for hagiography, it was surely also not his plan to sabotage McChrystal's command. It's McChrystal's intolerance for suffering fools gladly, dislike of politics and palaver-free speaking style - all exhibited in full in Hastings' presence - that combine for an explosive article. Still, no one is more shocked than the author when McChrystal's military career is suddenly terminated.

Hastings' strong, well-reasoned final words about Afghanistan come on news of Osama Bin Laden's death: "[It] revealed the biggest lie of the war, the 'safe haven' myth, Afghanistan's version of WMDs. The concept of waging and extremely expensive and bloody counterinsurgecy campaign to prevent safe havens never made sense. Terrorists didn't need countries. Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, an American ally and recipient of $20 billion in foreign aid since 2001."
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lafcadio
"The Operators" tells the story of author Hastings encounters with General McChrystal and his staff en route to publishing his 'Rolling Stone' article that ended the general's military career. My primary reaction is that author Hastings knowingly betrayed the trust of General McChrystal and his staff by revealing comments that he knew would create havoc for their careers. McChrystal and his head civilian PR flack - Duncan Booth, seemed to have made a major error by not establishing the typical 'ground rules' imposed on reporters. On the other hand, McChrystal had a track record of going over the edge - eg. fudging the account of Pat Tillman's death, publicly criticizing V.P. Biden's ideas on how to 'handle' Afghanistan, releasing an analysis that he'd been told to keep under wraps, etc. - maybe the general wanted this. A third reaction is that Hastings did a good job of both exposing the reality of Afghanistan - a hopeless encounter that has no realistic relevance to America's security, and the political complexity of dealing with America's military, acerbated by infighting between Holbrooke, Eikenberry, and Jones, as well as McChrystal's apparent competition with Petreus. Our commitment to democracy didn't help either, leading to a $300 million election in a populace where 70% couldn't read the ballot, and credible allegations of massive fraud followed (fake polling centers, ballot boxes filled in Pakistan, 200% turnout in some area) that were ignored so we could have a 'legitimate' partner.

America's 'coalition' in Afghanistan was less than met the eye. First, because of the 43 nations involved, only 9 contributed over 1,000 troops. In addition, NATO originally imposed 83 restrictions on its troops, the French paid ransoms to the Taliban, the Dutch only wanted to work about 8 hours/day, the Germans had to stay on base at night, and the Turks wouldn't leave Kabul.

Early in his presidency, Obama met with top military leaders, and appeared 'intimidated by the crowd' according to one military observer. Shortly thereafter, General McKiernan - our leader in Afghanistan, was supposedly fired because the Pentagon wasn't happy with his accepting 21,000 more troops instead of the original 30,000 asked for, and because he'd made weak impressions with political leaders. (The Pentagon has 27,000 working on PR and costing $4.7 billion/year, per Hastings - why not send all of them?) McChrystal was appointed to replace McKiernan, but expressed disappointment that his subsequent meeting with Obama was merely a photo op, without discussion of strategy, opinions, or experiences.

The 'modest' (compared to the 104 acre, $700 million Baghdad version) Kabul embassy early-on displayed its incompetence by requesting 180 new positions without first working out how they would be used. And it turned out that the term 'Taliban' was a catch-all name for locals who didn't want foreigners around - thus, the more troops, the more resentment and opposition.

McCrystal then asks for 40,000 more troops, Biden points out that there are less than 100 Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and the military fails to send Obama a revised plan per Obama's request. Obama fears Petreus will resign. (Hastings thinks Pakistan is the real reason we stay in Afghanistan.)

Bottom-Line: Afghanistan has been at war for 31 years, the Soviets killed over 1 million Afghanistani civilians (the U.S. killed about 3 million in Vietnam) - and our approach is not succeeding. American troops despise their Afghani counterparts, and vice-versa for numerous reasons, and its government and ours are not on the same page either. Regardless, I was very impressed by General McChrystal's response to the consternation caused by his efforts to tone down the American-led violence, including spending time out with a small unit on patrol after being requested to 'walk in their shoes' by a letter from its Staff Sergeant; he also personally visited again with that unit upon learning of the death of one of those troops that he met during that prior patrol.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amin zayed
1. This is one of those books that's hard to review and put into one neat category. As a consevative, I knew ahead of time that I was going to have to deal with this author's left leaning biases, but... this was a fairly well balanced book... actually very well balanced book. Furthermore, it's so ironic that the General who got canned was apparently a Democrat, a supporter of Obama.
2. I'm realizing that this review isn't making much sense and thus the bottomline is this: this is a well written book (yes there is filler), it has many ironies and contradictions as life often is, it does offer an interesting glimpse into the Afganistan war (which I found the most interesting) as well as the politics of politics and since the book doesn't neatly fit into one little box, one can conclude that the author did a pretty good job of relaying the story pretty much as he saw it (good job).
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
yamid hr
Michael Hastings holds a prism to the war in Afghanistan and reveals a broad spectrum of colors: The back-story of the runaway general whose hubris destroyed his career; the history, culture, and politics of Afghanistan that make "winning the hearts and minds" of its people a ridiculous goal; The dark reality that we've stepped into another quagmire that asks so much of our troops.

Hastings examines each factor of this unwinnable war with his journalistic loupe - arrogance, insubordination, pettiness, greed, corruption, and political wrangling. He seems surprised at the fall-out he suffered professionally after his "expose" in RS was published. For both writer and general, there was more than enough arrogance and hubris to go around.

An interesting read. Liked it but didn't love it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sally jane brant
This book grew out of, and is an expansion on, the now infamous Rolling Stone article that effectively ended the previously spectacular career of Four- Star General Stanley McChrystal, and which won Michael Hastings the George Polk Award for magazine reporting for his story in Rolling Stone Magazine entitled "The Runaway General. "http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-runaway-general-20100622

This is something that McChrystal didn't really address in his own memoir, so for those of you wanting to know what happened, you should read this book. The result is a book that is by turns funny, sad, raw, revealing and disappointing. It is an exploration on civil military relations, some of the things that are said in order to continue a war, and what happens in a war zone. The result, is that no one involved comes out uncovered in mud- not the military, the civilians, the NGOs or even the Afghanis who live and work in Afghanistan, in or out of the government.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in either government planning, civil-military affairs and relations, leadership, command climate, the military or the wars in Iraq and especially Afghanistan. It is all there sadly: the careerism, the greed, the ability to not be honest with your boss, even when it is in his/her best interest, the hypocrisy, and the idealism. If you're looking for hero-worship, again, look elsewhere. It also includes a wrap up of how McChrystal wound up at the White House, and how David Petraeus managed to get out Afghanistan after agreeing to take over the handling of the war, with his reputation intact. He would see it shattered after his next post, but that's a separate book, an only gets a very brief mention.

It should also be required reading for all in the military- initially, at ROTC level, OCS and the Service Academies, and then again, at mid level, as a cautionary tale of those who forget that civilians run things in the military, because our tax dollars pay for all of it, and woe be unto s/he who forgets that, as MacArthur did.

The Late Michael Hastings writing style resembles the blunt spoken style of the child, with ADD, blurting out that the emperor has no clothes on, or Sheldon Cooper's bluntness on the TV Show, The Big Bang Theory. His lacerating comments spit out one honest, unpleasant truth after another that no one wants to hear or read, where ever he finds them. This is regardless of locale, country, or organization. The result: this book is not for the faint hearted - no one comes out covered in glory and no one can accuse the late Michael Hastings of Hero Worship. To see what he faults them with, you'll have to read this book.

Finally, having seen an interview of Michael Hastings on Piers Morgan, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3eKaXVe-7A , here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shKGAggOKMI , and here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkWiZEiBqMA,
and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eUATfloWH8

It's also either incredibly hubristic, or truly stupid that these folks in the military let Michael Hasting in to embed with them even if he was writing for Rolling Stone Magazine and they thought their general McChrystal was a rock star.. Maybe that is what underlay all of this- they had all been inside the bubble for far too long, and had no idea of what they sounded like.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amber fuller
While some reviewers may think that what is in this book is a "rehash" of what is already "known", the level of detail, backed up by the author's referenced notes in the appendix, really explains the nuances of corruption, misguided financial support and inefficient resource management that both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have embodied. Yes, part of Stan McChrystal's bio that was published in Rolling Stone is in there but that has to be included to connect all the dots of what and who came before him and after him. Seeing as how Petraeus has now been drummed out of the CIA due to infidelity only shows that the book was accurate in the descriptions of the generals and their modus operandi.
Additionally, the insight as to how the White House, State Department and assorted civilians associated with the wars have acted in their own behalf, without a clear agenda and almost never mentioning Al-Qaeda or the War on Terror shows that these wars are unnecessary and, at worst, a crime against humanity. This book also shows that the military factions are as much controllers of the media as anyone and put their spin on the Common Citizen via reporters that rely on them for sound bites and, directly and indirectly, paychecks.
Lastly, it names names and places and processes that allow war lords, drug kingpins and mentally-questionable leaders to be financed to "represent" a people that don't want or need our presence. It is that exact presence that is offensive to the people of Afghanistan because they see the corruption and human rights violations that are supported by the supposed savior, the U.S. When we do leave Afghanistan, it will be the people that continue to suffer at the hands of the same nefarious band of miscreants that the U.S. supports and deals with every day.
I completely recommend this book to ALL Citizens of the US so that they may open their eyes to the incredible effort to keep them in the dark while powers that have been doled out like candy for good little ball-players are exploited for war, profit and election prowess. More books like this should be made into TV or some other media so that it is more palatable to the public and they are exposed to it in all its honesty and integrity.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
rikki
So here's the thing. The war in Afghanistan is a quagmire, unwinnable, our Afghan allies are drug-financed warlords, it's a civil war we shouldn't be involved in, we should just go.

Ok, agreed. The Alternative, to help the Afghan people develop working institutions, a real economy and a functional democracy in a secure environment could take a generation and trillions of dollars. The international community won't do this, the US wont', so the honest thing to do is just to go. We should just take out terrorists using drones and such.

This I think is Michael Hastings military/political analysis in this book.

However what makes everybody want to read it, is the demolition (or self-destruction) of General Stanley McChrystal. Its all here, the jock-language, the beer, the hyperactivity, the disrespect for politicians, the tight-circle of devoted admirers, the clannishness of special forces guys. To be fair there are also hints of the General's failure to get to grips with the responsibilities of his last command - the failure of the escalation in Helmand, the lack of understanding of his `minimal force' commands to the US combat soldiers.

All in all, though the question I kept asking is `what in the world does a four star general need with a profile in Rolling Stone Magazine?". Hastings himself points out that there were no groundrules for his profile, that he kept quiet about some information which was said, in advance, to be off the record. However the team around the general was sloppy in its media policy, More importantly the General was sloppy in his general conduct with his team. What have the public gained by this, I'm sure many generals - Patton springs to mind - were `larger than life', possibly disrespectful of authority in their private comments. However the public wants the result - military success- rather than an intimate knowledge of their failings. I would be useful if someone a secretary of defence level took a look at the expenditure that their generals have for press relations, and asked everyone to take a breath.

However, in the end, the incident described called out some (previously missing) leadership from Obama in sacking the General - something that Hiliary Clinton, Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates has urged him not to do. The skilful replacement of McCrystal with Petraeus was especially well done.

But was the US policy in Afghanistan or the War on Terror advanced by this? I'm not so sure.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rela14
Mike hastings brings up a most interesting and enlightening fact, which he may not or did know. The fact is that:yes 90%+ Pentagon employees work in public relations/planning depts.And it just so happens that 90%+ of those who work for CIA are outsourcerers who are incl/journalists, book authors, newspaper reporters,magazine story writers - get the gist here? Our public media-- info gathering and disseminating of same.I believe there may be Constitutional Public/Godvt seperation issues that this raises, which foremost safety infringement or protective guarantees;both: religious & freedom, issues that arise and cause just concern which come to one's personal mind.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
buddy
I don't feel like Im getting an objective view here--maybe its all accurate from his perspective but he does not try at all to step back for his own reactions/impressions/preconceptions. Good yarn. Is it nonfiction? I dunno.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ignatius ivan
Journalist Michael Hastings hit it big when his Rolling Stone profile of Stanley McChrystal, the hard-partying, wisecracking, egotistical, and irreverent Special Forces head of the US forces in Afghanistan, triggered the general's removal by President Obama.

The Operators tries to capitalize on that, expanding the profile to book length. Even if you never read the Rolling Stone piece, but read the news reports of the firestorm that it caused, you probably are already familiar with most of what would be of interest in the book. Much of the rest is rehash or filler coupled with a little insight.

If you're surprised by Hastings's revelations that the war in Afghanistan has little or nothing to do with 9/11 or alQueda, that no one seems to know why we are there or what to do there, that politicians and the military lie to the public and each other, that corruption is rife in Afghanistan, and that journalists often exchange ego strokes with politicians and the military, well, where have you been?

Told in a conversational style that sometimes borders on the comically egotistical (Was I really dealing with a spy or was she a high-end prostitute?), the book is a very easy read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dido overgard
This book (I bought the audio version) is not for the weak at heart! It’s an eye-opener in to the world of DC and our military. I’m sorry Michael won’t be around to hold their feet to the fire with another “tell it like it really is” book!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
dustin wright
I picked up The Operators because I was curious about what caused the fall of General Stanley McCrystal, as it seemed rather amazing that an article in a second rate magazine could destroy such a promising military career. While Hastings writes with a clear prose that describes the events as he sees them, he pretty much acknowledges he is little more than a whore chasing a story. The narrative is one of the military choosing to escalate a conflict which is basically a civil war, forcing the civilian leaderships' hand by going to the press. General McCrystal is the first Special Forces officer to hold such a command and his contempt for the rules is captured in the piece which lead to his dismissal. Thought the book, there is a very real sense that the people running the war have no idea what is going on.
While the book stands as a solid piece of journalism (and at the same time is entertaining), I cannot help but feel there is something slimy about the author. There is something that rings false about his motives and his concern for Corporal Ingram. I recommend this book to serous students of public relations and military history, but aside from that, no one else.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
mort
I was kind of riveted by this book, not only because it pulled back the curtain to reveal some of the machinations behind this seemingly never-ending conflict that has become almost an abstraction to me and the rest of the American public, but because I was fascinated by the fact that generals have PR guys and entertain offers for magazine covers. It was refreshing to read candid reportage that laid bare the waste, misunderstanding, and mismanagement behind this war.

The fact that McChrystal was fired due to offhand statements that hinted at political insubordination, which Hastings wrote about in the Rolling Stone article, may become a footnote in the scope of this war's history -- but it is what thrust Michael Hastings into the spotlight and is likely why this book was written.

Much of the end of the book details the fallout of the Rolling Stone article, and, while I'm sure it wasn't included in the book because of copyright permissions, it was frustrating to read an entire book about the research for the article and then the fallout from the article and not be served up the article itself (it is available in full text online on the Rolling Stone website).

All in all, a good story, a window into the life of a war reporter, and a frank description of a failing and messy war.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessica kwasniak
In one of his books on the Korean War, "This Kind of War," T. R. Fehrenbach observed: "Military men, who are willing to risk their lives have small sympathy with anyone unwilling to risk his office." Michael Hastings's "The Operators," explores this concept on two levels.

First, the main story is, of course, about General Stanley McChrystal and his coterie, who were tasked with trying to salvage this country's horrific immersion in Afghanistan's Vietnam-like deadly quicksand. The book relates their disdain for politicos--from the president on down--who do not seem to grasp the things that the military needs to accomplish the goals it's been given. Second, Hastings willingly (or even eagerly) burned his bridges as a reporter in order to use the resulting fire to shed needed light on workings of government that are all too often shielded from view and needed oversight and control. It is rare for journalists to risk a get-along persona in order to get it right.

McChrystal and his group gave Hastings unvarnished access in return for a hoped favorable feature in "Rolling Stone." They got the story, warts and all. "The Operators" relates all of this in a breezy somewhat self-deprecating style. It reminded me of Julie Salamon's superb behind-the-scenes making of the film from Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities," "The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco." Here, however, the stakes are much, much more serious than the making of a film. The Afghan fiasco has wasted, and continues to squander American lives--killed and maimed by a nation-building war that cannot be won--as well as the billions of dollars we have poured and continue to pour into that venally corrupt state.

"The Operators" turns over the rock of pretense and reveals the mulch below. It is an important and fascinatingly revealing book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
agung dwi cahyadi
Riveting look at another war in another part of the world by reporter Hastings who was just killed in LA when his car blew up. Do we seriously wonder whodunit after reading his awesome tale? I don't think so. Hastings is now a martyr.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
king rat
If you have seen the recent History channel 'Generals' special, this book is a priceless counterpoint to that stroke job rendition of the Iraq/Afganistan wars that History special presented. This book got general McChrystal fired, and possibly set in motion the Petraeus sex thing that got him canned from the CIA. Ultimately, it got the author blown up in his car on a LA street at 3am. So read it. Hastings is an absolute bad.a.s.s. He exposed these politician, "rockstar" generals for being power hungry punks building careers on the backs of Iraqi and Afgan civilians and US troops. They killed Hastings over his work, don't ignore it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
manoshi
This book is excellent. I highly recommend it. One thing that stands out for me is that he stated what we all know but that corporate-government media has refused to report--the "surge," in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, failed, and failed miserably. More needless dead, with nothing accomplished. This book quotes our "commanders on the ground" clearly acknowledging this fact.

How many more will die just because President Obama won't bring our troops home now? What will he tell the families of the dead, both Afghan and American, killed since he took office? What can he point to as being accomplished during this time period?

My only question now is, will there be video of our troops pushing people off helicopters as we pull out?

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

A great book!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lewis
I love/hated this book because of the revelations Mr. Hastings exposed about our top military command. It is clear that the top brass knew Afghanistan was a lost cause, but continued to feed young men into the meat grinder. Mr. Hastings should have been interviewed by every network and praised for exposing such a con. The reality is that only shills such as Laura Logan, who appears on the mouthpiece for the Israeli lobby...60 Minutes, have no problem with praising McCrystal and Petraeus as gods.

A must read.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kyle
An interesting story written as though it contains more fiction and fluff than fact.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ammie
Quick easy compelling read
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
klove
Great insight for junior mil wishing to understand the culture before we started drawing down
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
narottama
This book is a bitter pill for all Americans. Hastings has done some serious reporting here and it's pretty shocking stuff. He pulls no punches on either the army or the Obama white house. On one hand the army is clearly working to ensure it gets to stay doing what it is supposed to do: fight war. On the other hand the Obama white house was clearly intimidated by the army and took too long to refocus on the original intent in Afghanistan: get bin laden. The side story on McCrystal and his staffs stupidity of talking openly when a reporter was around is interesting but a footnote in the overall story about the mission creep in Afghanistan. Read this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
della
In his salon.com column, Glenn Greenwald said the following about this book:

"Hastings' exposé on the war is what has received the bulk of the attention in book reviews -- both positive and negative (The Wall Street Journal amusingly compared him -- as though it were a grave insult -- to Vietnam War reporters David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan for the crime of reporting the negative aspects of a war and the government deceit behind it). But his discussions of national security journalists and how the Pentagon uses them are at least equally valuable. [...] Ordinarily, I would urge as many people as possible to buy the book of someone like Michael Hastings solely in order to support the kind of journalism he does: the more successful his book is, the more it bolsters this journalistic approach and the more of a repudiation it is to the power-serving reporters who attacked him. But this book is very worthwhile in its own right. The Afghanistan War is now more than ten years old with no end in sight, and this is one of the most eye-opening accounts provided yet about why it has dragged on, from one of the bravest and most intrepid journalists who has covered it."

And Greenwald is right.

This is a devastating, eye-opening work of intrepid investigative journalism.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
miriam hathaway
I'm sure there will be many critics of this book, just like there were many critics of Hastings' article on Stanley McChrystal that wound up getting McChrystal canned by Obama. If you believe the role of the journalist is to whitewash the things said and done by the most powerful people in the world, then Hastings is not for you. If however, you believe journalism is the last best hope of democracy and the role of the journalist is to expose how the powerful operate -- what they say, who they talk to, how they behave and what motivates them, then what you will find here is a masterwork of principled journalism. If only more of our supposed political journalists did their job as well as Hastings we could've avoided the Iraq debacle and the 2008 financial crash.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kyle buckley
Just read today 6/19/13 that Michael was killed in a car accident. I wonder if it was a contract hit ?
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
wendi
Hastings devotes an entire chapter, for instance, to going out to dinner with the group and listening to them telling stories about nights of drinking and "waking up smelling like strippers." That is the whole chapter. He goes into detail about what color dresses the wives were wearing, and how they reacted to the men getting drunk and telling off-color stories.

He devotes another entire chapter to being in Berlin and himself and two guys on McChrystal's staff having drinks with a woman who is almost certainly a hooker, but they convince themselves she is a spy trying to entrap them into giving them secrets. No, he isn't joking, they really think she is a "honey trap" spy, and he devotes an entire chapter to sophomoric discussion about her.

There are a few chapters where he provides some insight into the conduct of the war, and McChrystal's role in it, but there is nothing really new even in that, and I considered the level of writing poor and the subject matter largely trivial.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
roger
I would not have bought this book, if I knew the author was the slimeball that cost McCrystal his job. This book was falsely presented to me. I want a full refund.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
gerald fitzpatrick
There is no doubt that McChrystal's staff bears some responsibility for letting this little twit anywhere near them under any circumstance. That said, this tense-challenged, anti-military, self aggrandizing, writer has received far too much publicity. He epitomizes the problem of letting snits without experience report on complex problems they obviously don't comprehend. The "Wild and Terrifying" subtitle is simply to draw in readers inexperienced in combat as there is nothing terrifying to any of us who have fought these wars - just the way things are - not clean and pretty.

Possibly worse are the accolades supporting this non-expose by neophytes, pseudo-intellectuals and dilettantes, who never do anything, but are sure they know how others should execute them. The difference between the writer and those he writes about, is that they had responsibilities and tried to make a difference.

If you must read the book, get it from the library; don't support him financially. BTW, if you read the Rolling Stone article, or even stories about it, you already know the whole story.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jonathan creekmore
Dissapointedly defensive
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
katy wimer
What some have the nerve to call "yellow journalism" is what journalism is supposed to do: expose the powerful and well-connected failures, mistakes and corruption. Those who want to live in a fish bowl, be fed solely by the benevolence of their betters and avoid any critical thinking can bash Michael Hastings.

OTOH, those who want to know the truth want more real journalists like Hastings. That is why his book deserves 5 stars. There are way too few of his kind remaining in the US, which explains why our country is going down the drain. Without sunlight shed on the powerful, this Republic will collapse.

Guys like Hastings are the true patriots.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amanda biami
FYI: the kindle edition link is not showing up on the hardcover product page (for whatever reason), but you'll find a kindle edition of THE OPERATORS in the kindle store.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
maxwell
Saw the book at Barnes & Noble, and took a good look. What I found was gossip - the kind of kinder garden tattletale material that passes for journalism in certain circles. Later learned the author was able to deprive the Afgans of someone who was clearly leading innovation applied to a long history of internecine struggles in the one-time sanctuary for Al Qaeda. I did not buy the book but do suggest McCrystal's book, "My Share of the Task." Here is a four star general who put in a five star effort and shares his insights without rancor for those who lack his character.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
jason otis
This is not journalism. This is no more than a out and out agenda driven attack on General Stanley McChrystal. This author, who has since died in a one car auto accident (and was found to be under the influence of a number of illicit substances), showed his desire to make this an out and out smear job when early on in the book, he casually describes McChrystal as a known torturer of prisoners in Iraq, and proud of it. This book is a shameful waste of paper stock, and was dropped by one publisher when questions arose as to its veracity. Not unlike James Frey, it should be sent to the dustbin of works of fiction, but since it feeds that 'all that is military is foul' group-think of the left, it has been paraded around like a great expose'. Not even close!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
paula michelson
This author has a genuine bias and anti american outlook. The story is interesting but he will make you sick. Don't bother!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
brandon noffsinger
Possibly one of the worst researched and poorly written books on American military in recent memory. This young "author" describes campaign ribbons as "middle-aged merit badges". The best thing you can say about this book is it's a great argument on why we should reinstate the draft!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
keitha
A continuation of the yellow journalism he rode to fame in 2010. The the store feature, "What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item" is very instructive... it is a collection of we hate the military or we hate America books. If that is your cup of tea, but on your jaundiced glasses and drink it up!
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