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Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret…

Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of…

by David E. Sanger

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This book is an in-depth description and analysis of the Obama administration's efforts in the world's hot spots.

The scope of the book seems impressive; I will give here the list of topics and then discuss what I thought of the writing of the book.

Afghanistan and Pakistan -- the inherited situation, the mistakes before finally forging their own approach, the acceptance of a "good enough" solution.

Iran -- the stuxnet virus, the difficult collaboration with Israel.

Drones -- the drawbacks of an otherwise-successful approach.

The Arab spring -- how the administration tried to improve its predictions of uprisings, but before they were ready to analyze these things better the revolutions started. How they walked the fine line of support versus standing back; comparison of Libya and Syria.

China and North Korea -- how to return the US to having a role in Asia, how to understand the interface we have to China through their leader, how to deal with North Korea.

Here are the reasons I thought the book was excellent:

* sources: the author is a veteran New York Times journalist who has many sources and a lot of experience in finding foreign policy and war information. This is coupled with access to the wikileaks revelations. The result give an impressive feeling for what must have been happening in the administration's deliberations.

* writing style: journalists often write very good and readable books, and this is no exception. It is long but quite gripping, and I read it with great pleasure. He also does a great job of taking complex sequences of events and collecting them into a clear picture. Instead of sacrificing the complexity of the story, he works hard to explain it well.

* analysis and insight: I am not an expert, so the 10% rule might apply here, but I found the analyses and the resulting insights to be quite convincing. ( )
  markgalassi | Jun 16, 2013 |
Wonderfully informative re the wars in Afghanistan And Iran. A good expose on the use of predator drones and their effectiveness on the war on terror. They seem to be a reasonably precise weapon, if not perfect. There are collateral kills. Author is sycophantic and hagiographic re Obama which stretches his credibility. ( )
  SigmundFraud | Sep 10, 2012 |
While this is a topical, important, and useful overview of Obama’s foreign policy posture thus far, it is not likely to be either politically or historically relevant after the upcoming election (i.e., Tuesday, November 6, 2012). In other words, this is a true “current events” title.

Some critics have rightfully pointed to the chapter on U.S. cyber-warfare efforts against Iran (aka “Olympic Games”) as revelatory. It certainly is a fascinating exposé, one that may very well justify the price of the book, but I found that the overall purpose of the book – to explore a wide-ranging survey of reportage dealing with the emerging “Obama Doctrine” – served a much more serviceable purpose. Sanger covers U.S. policy with respect to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, drone warfare, China, North Korea, and the “Arab Spring” (i.e., Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria). That’s a lot of territory for one politically oriented trade book.

Sanger is clearly sympathetic to the Obama administration’s plight, and generally paints a favorable portrait of their tenure (“Confront and Conceal” is a follow-up to its favorably-reviewed predecessor, “The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power”). Still, it’s hardly a fawning encomium. I recommend it for anyone who is interested in current foreign policy challenges; however, it may be rather dull for policy wonks who are, perhaps, more well-informed than an average low-information voter. ( )
  Narboink | Aug 6, 2012 |
If you like this kind of stuff it is a great read, current as of three months ago. Fascinating insight into Obama and his administration and fills in all the blanks of the last year and a half with respect to American foreign policy. Highly recommend it, Sanger writes well and has a good sense of narrative. ( )
  JackSussek | Jul 18, 2012 |
Showing 4 of 4
Is the United States at war with Iran? If David Sanger’s account in his new book, “Confront and Conceal,” on President Obama’s foreign policy, is to be believed — and I find it very believable — we certainly are.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307718026, Hardcover)

“Stunning revelations…This is an account that long will be consulted by anyone trying to understand not just Iran but warfare in the 21st century…an important book.” –Tom Ricks, New York Times

Inside the White House Situation Room, the newly elected Barack Obama immerses himself in the details of a remark­able new American capability to launch cyberwar against Iran—and escalates covert operations to delay the day when the mullahs could obtain a nuclear weapon. Over the next three years Obama accelerates drone attacks as an alter­native to putting troops on the ground in Pakistan, and becomes increasingly reliant on the Special Forces, whose hunting of al-Qaeda illuminates the path out of an unwin­nable war in Afghanistan.
Confront and Conceal provides readers with a picture of an administration that came to office with the world on fire. It takes them into the Situation Room debate over how to undermine Iran’s program while simultaneously trying to prevent Israel from taking military action that could plunge the region into another war. It dissects how the bin Laden raid worsened the dysfunctional relationship with Pakistan. And it traces how Obama’s early idealism about fighting “a war of necessity” in Afghanistan quickly turned to fatigue and frustration.
One of the most trusted and acclaimed national security correspondents in the country, David Sanger of the New York Times takes readers deep inside the Obama adminis­tration’s most perilous decisions: The president dispatch­es an emergency search team to the Gulf when the White House briefly fears the Taliban may have obtained the Bomb, but he rejects a plan in late 2011 to send in Special Forces to recover a stealth drone that went down in Iran. Obama overrules his advisers and takes the riskiest path in killing Osama bin Laden, and ignores their advice when he helps oust Hosni Mubarak from the presidency of Egypt.
“The surprise is his aggressiveness,” a key ambassador who works closely with Obama reports.
Yet the president has also pivoted American foreign policy away from the attritional wars of the past decade, attempting to preserve America’s influence with a lighter, defter touch—all while focusing on a new era of diplomacy in Asia and reconfiguring America’s role during a time of economic turmoil and austerity.
As the world seeks to understand whether there is an Obama Doctrine, Confront and Conceal is a fascinating, unflinching account of these complex years, in which the president and his administration have found themselves struggling to stay ahead in a world where power is diffuse and America’s ability to exert control grows ever more elusive.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:36 -0400)

Examines Obama's aggressive use of innovative weapons and new tools of American power to manage a rapidly shifting world of global threats and challenges.

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