DECEMBER 9, 2022
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Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars


By Daniel Bolger, Steve Coulter , Amazon Link

Daniel P. Bolger, living in Aurora, Illinois is an author, historian, and retired Lieutenant General of the United States Army. He currently holds a special faculty appointment in the Department of History at North Carolina State University, where he teaches military history. Lt. Gen. Bolger retired in 2013 from the Army. During his 35 years of service, he earned five Bronze Star Medals. His notable military commands included serving as Commanding General of the Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan and Commander of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (2011–2013); Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas (deployed to Baghdad, 2009–2010); the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team in Iraq (2005–06); and U.S. Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations.
No U.S. general has criticized the Iraq and Afghanistan wars more sharply than retired Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger. “Why We Lost” is neither a memoir nor a window into private meetings and secret discussions. It is a 500-page history (including prologue and endnotes) filled with heartfelt stories of soldiers and Marines in firefights and close combat. It weighs in mightily to the ongoing debate over how the United States should wage war. “Why We Lost” is timely, coming out as the U.S. military reconfigures itself to fight future wars and faces the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The latter conflict has forced the United States to reconsider military intervention, though there is debate over how best to do so. Opinions on the merits of airstrikes vs. Special Operations forces vs. tanks and infantry appear daily in the media. In the background stand the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the bitter experience of tens of thousands of boots on the ground.
Bolger’s case is that the United States should have gotten out of Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible, and never started down the road of nation-building and counterinsurgency. We lost because our generals never argued vigorously for this course of action: “Over time, piece by piece, the generals recommended slogging onward, taking on two unlimited irregular conflicts.” He contends that the U.S. military is suited for rapid and conventional wars of the Desert Storm variety, not for long wars of insurgency. The best strategy is to attack with our technology and firepower, smash the enemy, then get out. “American airpower and SOF [Special Operations Forces] in Afghanistan in 2001, and airpower and armor in Iraq in 2003,” Bolger writes, “worked as advertised. Had that ended our efforts, we would have been fighting well within our means. Admiring war colleges would have studied the brilliant opening rounds as models of lightning war.”

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