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Publisher's Summary

A high-ranking general's gripping insider account of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how it all went wrong.

Over a 35-year career, Daniel Bolger rose through the army infantry to become a three-star general, commanding in both theaters of the U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. He participated in meetings with top-level military and civilian players, where strategy was made and managed. At the same time, he regularly carried a rifle alongside rank-and-file soldiers in combat actions - unusual for a general. Now, as a witness to all levels of military command, Bolger offers a unique assessment of these wars, from 9/11 to the final withdrawal from the region.

Writing with hard-won experience and unflinching honesty, Bolger makes the firm case that in Iraq and in Afghanistan, we lost - but we didn't have to. Intelligence was garbled. Key decision makers were blinded by spreadsheets or theories. And at the root of our failure, we never really understood our enemy. Why We Lost is a timely, forceful, and compulsively listenable account of these wars from a fresh and authoritative perspective.

©2014 Daniel Bolger (P)2015 Audible Inc.

What listeners say about Why We Lost

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  • DMgraphicGlass
  • 2015-04-07

An apolitical account of our recent wars.

Any additional comments?

I had resisted purchasing this book for quite a while. I had seen the author in many media appearances as he promoted it. When I saw an extensive interview with Brian Lamb of CSPAN on the hour-long Q & A program, I realized that I had made wrong assumptions about the work. By way of explanation, before retiring, I worked for the Army in a civilian position in which I recorded and observed many of the Distinguished Visitors (DVs) which came through our post during our nation's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. This included a majority of the full Generals and Admirals (four stars) in all of the services (about 24) and most of the Lieutenant Generals (3-star) in the Army (43, according to LTG Bolger). I do not remember encountering the author during his time on active service so I assumed, wrongly, that he might have been a National Guard or Army Reserve general with limited time in either theater. No, quite the opposite, he was deployed extensively. From the title, one would expect this to be a kind of anti-war screed. It is anything but that. Bolger obviously has great admiration for his fellow soldiers and general officers. A very famous general once told me why a retired general (which I had asked about) wouldn't write a memoir. "Because if you do, you must either settle old scores, or gloss-over the inevitable differences." Bolger avoids this trap by writing as a trained historian (which he very much is - PhD in Military History from the University of Chicago). He gives extensive credit to senior officers and their civilian overlords where credit is due, but doesn't hesitate to criticize short-comings, either in policy, strategy, operations or tactics. He includes himself, if not in the praise, in the criticism. His extensive accounts of Operation Anaconda, Roberts Ridge, and other battles in Afghanistan and most of the major battles in Iraq are wonderful -- full of the inherent heroism which occurs, along with realistic depictions of the tedium, dirt, sweat and mundane tasks of war. Having read or listened entire books on many of these engagements, I found them well researched and thoroughly engrossing -- usually better than the accounts written by veteran war-correspondents and journalists.If you care about the military or want a accurate accounting of our two latest wars and the lessons that should be learned from them, you listen to or read this one. It is really good.--Don M. od Queen Creek, AZ

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  • Chris Carl
  • 2018-11-04

Wow, from a vets view !

First off , I was in Iraq during the initial invasion and I’m a practicing Muslim. I just finished both the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Vietnam a history. The Iraq war, I was always conflicted with but this Generals inside view in the context of military history has given me more pride in serving during the war. He is right about we made costly missteps during our long campaign against the terrorists and at one point we could of won in Iraq but our right to fight and preserver is proper. As a military historian Daniel Bolger has given a proper understanding why we fought and many ideas on how we should win a long term military planning to combat the terrorist threat. His insight on military strategy gives the book lot of depth. My only compliant I wish it was more layered with many different perspectives of all sides of the issues like the other history books I finished. But more likely too early in history to make such a layered history book.

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  • Christopher Pilch
  • 2018-06-03

A bunch of short stories with an overarching point

The author makes his point with a bunch of well-written short stories that put you in the shoes of generals in HQ and sergeants on the battlefield

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  • Mike Smith
  • 2018-02-04

Detail and Unexpected Frankness

The book recounts a story very close to all of us yet virtually unknown to most. America’s great struggle to find and defeat her enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book is intricately detailed yet at times intimately human. One flaw may be the seeming repetitiveness of the narrative.. but this is a flaw of reality’s not of the author’s. The author transcends the partisan narratives of the war with which we are bombarded and have become so familiar. These are human being trying to do a job, from the two presidents to the tens of thousands of men and women who serve. Their ultimate problem alas lay not in their ability to defeat the enemy but in their ability to answer the question that the author so often emphatically asks: who is the enemy?

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  • MK0102
  • 2016-01-01

Good book on Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

What did you like best about Why We Lost? What did you like least?

This book drew a good broad picture on the wars and why they failed. You can see from a managerial perspective of the wars the many shortcomings that came from lack of planning and execution on the coalition's part in the matter of sustainment operations for the war country. It was a long listen and had a big focus on the Iraq war and not nearly as much on the war in Afghanistan. The author described many small stories in the wars that really didn't tie into the bigger picture of the story. Kind of seemed like filler.

Do you think Why We Lost needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No

Any additional comments?

No

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  • Will
  • 2015-07-12

Highly recommend this title!

This book is less "why we lost" and more "here's what happened". It was a great book, I just felt that it's title want justified until the epilogue though.

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  • Lawrence Williamson
  • 2022-06-16

Good but incomplete narrative of The GWOT

Bolger makes a compelling argument of how the US lost the GWOT terror and why. The US military prior to 9/11 was modelled to win lightning wars like Desert Storm, but became an occupying force caught in protracted open-ended counter insurgency operations.

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  • Ian
  • 2022-01-21

Overall good but as much opinion as fact

Afghan and Iraq vet here, I appreciate the history of the wars, which was for the most part incisive and accurate. Leans a little far into editorial in some parts, in my opinion, but taken with a grain of salt good analysis.

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  • Andrew Roselius
  • 2021-10-23

Great Non-political History of the War on Terror

Packed with information but sprinkled with enough details and just a touch of humor to keep it interesting. This is such an important book if you want to understand America's relationship with the Muslim world.

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  • Jeremy Allen
  • 2016-09-10

History more than analysis

Long on history and very short on analysis. I enjoyed the history and had to settle for only a hint of what the title promises.