Behind Afghan War Debate, a Battle of Two Books Rages

Peter Spiegel and Jonathan Weisman report in the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON — The struggle to set the future course of the Afghan war is becoming a battle of two books — both suddenly popular among White House and Pentagon brain trusts.

The two draw decidedly different lessons from the Vietnam War. The first book describes a White House in 1965 being marched into an escalating war by a military viewing the conflict too narrowly to see the perils ahead. President Barack Obama recently finished the book, according to administration officials, and Vice President Joe Biden is reading it now.

The second describes a different administration, in 1972, when a U.S. military that has finally figured out how to counter the insurgency is rejected by political leaders who bow to popular opinion and end the fight.

It has been recommended in multiple lists put out by military officers, including a former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who passed it out to his subordinates.

The two books — “Lessons in Disaster” on Mr. Obama’s nightstand, and “A Better War” on the shelves of military gurus — have become a framework for the debate over what will be one of the most important decisions of Mr. Obama’s presidency…

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