My Share of the Task

My Share of the Task

by General Stanley McChrystal

Overview: General Stanley McChrystal is widely admired for his hunger to know the truth, his courage to find it, and his humility to listen to those around him. Even as the commanding officer of all U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, he stationed himself forward and frequently went on patrols with his troops to experience their challenges firsthand. In this illuminating New York Times bestseller, McChrystal frankly explores the major episodes and controversies of his career. He describes the many outstanding leaders he served with and the handful of bad leaders he learned not to emulate. And he paints a vivid portrait of how the military establishment turned itself, in one generation, into the adaptive, resilient force that would soon be tested in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the wider War on Terror.

Deanna Boe (02/20/19): I am only guessing that the vast majority of those who receive the “Women’s Book Review” website are mainly women? If this book doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps your husband or son or special male person in your life would like to read it. I am not saying a woman wouldn’t, after all it appealed to me, but I have been around the military most of my adult life. Plus I had a daughter and son-in-law who were the first into Iraq at the start of that war. It is an extremely well written book about this General, how and why he got into the military and the “mission” in Iraq and Afghanistan. He probably glosses over a few points in which he was involved (Pat Tillman) but that is understandable, it doesn’t take away from his being an outstanding man who served our country and deserves our respect.

His words in the first few pages I feel definitely apply to our being in Afghanistan. “War comes with frightening regularity, often fought over the same ground and similar causes as previous conflicts. Wars often begin with enthusiastic vigor but typically settle into costly, dirty business characterized for soldiers by fear, frustration, and loneliness.”

McChrystal talks how the army was broken after the Vietnam War. It had wounds that would take a long time to heal, he was aware of this when he entered West Point and was able to be part of this renewal in the years to come. He points out how “the cost of failure was higher than just the immediate cost of life…..the prestige of the nation rested on the shoulders of a small group of committed professionals.” He tells how “the failure in the Iranian desert cast a long shadow over U.S. special operations.” That mission was probably doomed from the start. It involved getting the hostages out of the Embassy in Tehran and to accomplish this they needed 44 aircraft, “thousands of gallons of fuel, fleet of ground vehicles…hybrid force of Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force and intelligence agencies.” They needed to land in the dark, secure another airfield, take two urban targets, and get into and out of Tehran. The best result from all of this was the resurgence for special interest operations and how to accomplish them.

The next major point of interest happened with Kuwait when Iraq invaded. Saudi Arabia was now in danger. Their king received two offers of support and accepted the proposal from the “West.” I had never heard how Osama bin Laden (a citizen of Sandi Arabia, and related to the king) was angered that western heathens (Christians and Jews) would be housed on their “sacred land.” Osama bin Laden told the king he could have had an army of 100,000 Muslims “ready to defend the Land of the Two Holy Places.” It is from this point 9/11 and other problems arise, including our being in Afghanistan for all these years.

The last half of the book gets quite technical about the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I must admit I skimmed most of it. Again, anyone who has been in the military would find it of great interest. I am sending a copy to my son-in-law who received the bronze star for his actions at the start of the Iraq War.
Rating: *****

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