Underneath all the Beltway intrigue in Bob Woodward’s new book “lurks a saga of tragedy,” writes Fred Kaplan of Slate. The tragic hero: Barack Obama, who, after painstaking analysis, escalated a potentially unwinnable war. Fed up with a Pentagon that refused to offer him any options other than the full-scale escalation it favored, Obama devised his own strategy. It was, Woodward writes, “one of the rare examples in recent American history where a president had fully understood the contours of a national-security decision.”
Which means “this really is ‘Obama’s war,’” writes Kaplan. “The tragedy is that, for all the intelligent thinking and meticulous strategizing, the war may well be unwinnable.” The Taliban’s safe haven in Pakistan, and the corrupt Karzai government seem to preclude any meaningful victory. But Woodward does hint at a possible escape, suggesting an “end run” in which some Taliban, wary of exile in Pakistan, break with al-Qaeda and reconcile with the government. But first we’ll have to rack up some tactical and political victories—and only Obama’s own plan can do that.