Wednesday 21 February 2018

Watergate sleuth casts a cold eye on Obama's war

Barack Obama was only 10 when Bob Woodward, Washington's most famous reporter, helped to bring down a president. What does he make of the current White House, asks Alex Spillius

If any writer is entitled to an opinion on the war in Afghanistan, it is Bob Woodward. The author and Watergate reporting legend has just resurfaced from two years' immersion in the subject, having interviewed 100 officials past and present, major White House players -- many several times over -- as well as the president himself.

The resulting book, 'Obama's Wars', has become an instant bestseller, as well as an instant headline-grabber, chiefly because of the verbal fireworks and fractious policy debate among the protagonists in the administration. And in trademark Woodward fashion -- this is his 16th book -- it is impeccably unbiased and utterly non-judgmental. "I believe in neutral inquiry," he says. "That is the core job of the journalist."

But what does the great Washington chronicler actually think of a president who was only 10 years old when Woodward and Carl Bernstein were bringing down Richard Nixon? What is his opinion of a war strategy, as his book makes clear, that many in the White House -- perhaps even the commander-in-chief himself -- don't believe in?

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