Besides being a book about egos who undercut each other or overplay themselves on the national stage, Woodward's book is about national advisers who have far too little respect for the man elected to the highest office in the land. You'd think that with his bona fides tested in the campaign, Obama, who graduated best in his class from Harvard Law School and was a former Constitutional Law professor, wouldn't be considered an easy target for a game of Hide the Numbers. But it's amazing that the Pentagon tried, along with ambassadors and national security advisors. Even after long, serious study of the Afghan situation, attended by all important parties, Obama's advisors went home, then returned and acted as if they had never heard the presentation.
They wanted 40,000 troops in Afghanistan. David Petraeus wanted a counterinsurgency program. Mullen stood with Petraeus. Jones was dead set against Petraeus. Meanwhile, vide-president Biden, who is described as so long-winded that people wince when he starts talking, had a completely different plan, for a counterinsurgency effort based near the edges of Pakistan.
Near the end of the book (which is so wearying, you wonder how Obama himself must have felt), the reader realizes that for all the advice, the president was on his own. Except for some apt advice from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, he had hardly anyone to trust and an entire country to please. Some wanted a bigger war. Some wanted none at all. He had Karzai who would love the Americans to stay and take care of all his problems. And if he listened to the military, he'd be adding even more billions to his already huge budget.
Obama didn't want a war, but he had to show that we weren't going to cave in to the Taliban or al Queda (who are in Pakistan, anyway). He set the troops number at 30,000, refused to back down when the military carped. Obama precisely dictated terms of his order down to how many cases of tissue paper were allowed to be shipped. I exaggerate, but it's almost that humiliating. When he finally ground the Pentagon back to the wall, they knew they met their match.