The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan
By Michael Hastings
(Blue Rider Press, Hardcover, 9780399159886, 432pp.)
Publication Date: January 5, 2012
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General Stanley McChrystal, the innovative, forward-thinking commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was living large. He was better known to some as Big Stan, M4, Stan, and his loyal staff liked to call him a "rock star." During a spring 2010 trip across Europe to garner additional allied help for the war effort, McChrystal was accompanied by journalist Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone. For days, Hastings looked on as McChrystal and his staff let off steam, partying and openly bashing the Obama administration for what they saw as a lack of leadership. When Hastings's piece appeared a few months later, it set off a political firestorm: McChrystal was ordered to Washington, where he was fired unceremoniously.
In The Operators, Hastings picks up where his Rolling Stone coup ended. He gives us a shocking behind-the-scenes portrait of our military commanders, their high-stakes maneuvers and often bitter bureaucratic infighting. Hastings takes us on patrol missions in the Afghan hinterlands, to late-night bull sessions of senior military advisors, to hotel bars where spies and expensive hookers participate in nation-building gone awry. And as he weighs the merits and failings of old-school generals and the so-called COINdinistas-the counterintelligence experts-Hastings draws back the curtain on a hellish complexity and, he fears, an unwinnable war.
Michael Hastings is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. He regularly covers politics and international affairs for the magazine, including the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. In 2011, he received the George Polk Award in journalism for his Rolling Stone story "The Runaway General." His work has appeared in Newsweek, GQ, Men's Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Salon, Foreign Policy, The Daily Beast, and The Huffington Post. In 2010, Hastings was named one of The Huffington Post's Game Changers of the year. His GQ story "Obama's War" was selected for Best American Political Writing 2009. The author also of I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story, Hastings lives in Vermont.
Praise for THE OPERATORS by Michael Hastings: "The life of a general is something to see, especially when it's Stanley McChrystal, America's four-star, rock star commander, at the height of his power and panache in Afghanistan. It's a hard story to get, and hard to tell it well, but in the hands of Michael Hastings, it's a world-class job of reporting and a joy to read."
—Richard Ben Cramer, author of What it Takes and DiMaggio "The most impact-laden story of the year...written by a perfect specimen of the new breed of journalist-commentator."
—Barrett Brown, Vanity Fair "An impressive feat of journalism by a Washington outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than most insiders did."
—Frank Rich, New York Times "The Operators is a troubling first-person narrative about a bizarre episode in U.S. military history, as well as a trenchant analysis of the disaster in Afghanistan. Hastings … brings a fresh eye and a brutally authentic voice to America's decade-old misadventure in Afghanistan.”
—Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times “The Operators seems destined to join the pantheon of the best of GWOT literature, not just for its rock-and-roll details, but for its piercing chronicles of a world gone mad.”
—Matt Gallagher, Newsweek/Daily Beast “As the situation in Afghanistan grows increasingly muddy, [Hasting’s] disciplined adherence to solid journalistic practices and his acute eye for sharp scene setting makes much of the chaos comprehensible. Hastings has definitely taken up the traditional banner of the intrepid war correspondent, but he’s simultaneously shot it through with iconoclastic holes; the effect is illuminating on many levels.”
—Kirkus Reviews “Hastings brilliantly intertwines narratives…. Hasting's first-class, engrossing reportage reveals unsettling yet human flaws behind one of recent history's most lionized military figures, and a war which purportedly began as a response to terrorism, but whose aims--in the author's estimation--remain ambiguous.”—Publishers Weekly "Superb... the book provides vital insights about the war not available anywhere else... One of the most eye-opening accounts provided yet...from one of the bravest and most intrepid journalists who has covered it.”—Glenn Greenwald, Daily Beast