• Goran Tomasevic/Reuters Photo

    Afghanistan

    How I’ll End the War

    An officer in Afghanistan volunteers to help teach English to Afghan students and ends up making art with them.

    In a clean, well-lit classroom within a modern building on NATO’s largest base in Afghanistan, young Afghans learn trades and hone their English skills.

    “For next time, bring pictures you can put together to say something about your hopes for the future,” said an American English teacher to 20 Afghan students. “We’re making collages.”

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  • US Marine Corps

    Head Games

    The Obama Marine Hat Nonsense

    Accusations that the president pressured the Marine Corps to adopt a new “feminine” hat are unfounded. Jacob Siegel spoke with Marines to set the record straight.

    As if waging war while dealing with massive cuts from sequestration is not enough, the Marine Corps now has to defend itself from allegations that it bowed to pressure from President Obama to adopt an expensive unisex hat as part of its uniform.

    The Marine Corps’ official inquiry to determine if a single unisex hat makes more sense than separate head coverings for male and female Marines was somehow blamed on President Obama in a story that circulated widely yesterday.  

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  • Brad and Rachelle Palmer's home where they hung a gold star for their enlisted son. (John Kael Weston)

    War Is the New Peace

    As Obama pushes for the U.S. to attack Syria, vets gather to talk about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. John Kael Weston, who spent years in both, reflects on what another war would mean after the folly of the last two.

    War is like poker.

    Once statesmen, such as the irreverent and irreplaceable Richard C. Holbrooke, R.I.P., and generals array themselves around its cursed table, all become trapped. Good or bad luck—not smarts or skill—determines outcomes. As Napoleon remarked, “I would rather have a general who was lucky than one who was good.” Even a bluffing superpower can be forced to ante up ... or perhaps fold as casualties mount and treasury accounts go bust. Old men talking. Young men dying. Anyone who has seen war up close knows as much. It is deadly, costly, and to be avoided whenever possible. Just ask U.S. troops, who survived Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States’ two longest-ever wars.

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  • People stand in line to speak with representatives from the US Department of Veterans Affairs about US military veterans benefits during a Veteran Career Fair and Expo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, on January 18, 2012. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

    VA in Crisis

    Veteran Advocates Turning On Obama

    As the benefits system for veterans has bogged down on Obama’s watch, in spite of his promises to fix it, advocates who had been allies are running out of patience with the president, reports Jamie Reno.

    America’s 23 million veterans are facing an unprecedented crisis as the backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has grown to nearly 1 million—more than double what it was when President Obama took office.

    The situation has reached a tipping point. Newspaper editorial boards and magazines call it a “national disgrace” and insist VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is calling for the resignation of Allison Hickey, the VA’s head of benefits.

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  • Michele Flournoy in 2009. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

    Perfect Fit

    Smashing the Pentagon’s Glass Ceiling

    As speculation swirls about Defense Secretary Panetta’s likely exit, Michele Flournoy ranks high on the short list. Eleanor Clift on the woman who could be just right for the job.

    It was just a year ago that Michele Flournoy stepped down as under secretary of Defense for policy, the third-highest civilian job at the Pentagon. As the first woman to hold such a senior position in the testosterone-laden military community, Flournoy’s decision to leave for family reasons raised some eyebrows. But she spent the time well, reclaiming her home life after three demanding years in the administration, and serving as a surrogate on foreign policy and national security issues for the Obama campaign. Now, as the president contemplates his second-term team, Flournoy is on the short list to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of Defense.

    Her qualifications are impeccable. There are the requisite degrees from Harvard and Oxford, a stint at the Kennedy School and the Army War College. During the Clinton administration she worked at the Pentagon, tasked with developing and overseeing strategy and threat reduction. In 2007, she cofounded the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a think tank whose stated mission is to “develop strong, pragmatic, and principled national security and defense policies that promote and protect American interests and values.”

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  • President Barack Obama salutes cadets as he arrives in Falcon Stadium for graduation ceremonies for the Air Force Academy Class of 2012 graduation ceremonies on Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Mark Ries / Getty Images)

    What War?

    Troops MIA at Presidential Debate

    The troops didn’t rate a mention at Tuesday’s debate. Marjorie Morrison on the opportunity we’re missing.

    Two presidential debates and no real mention of our troops, despite the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

    Here’s why: 68 percent of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is going somewhat or very badly, and the same percentage thinks we should withdraw entirely or start drawing down troops now. Compound that with less than 1 percent of Americans serving in the active-duty military, so much of the nation feels no real stake in or connection to the war effort. That disconnect and distance helps explain how, at this time of collapsing support for the government, the press, and other institutions, three of four Americans say they’ve maintained their confidence in the military.

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  • Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division watch a Blackhawk helicopter raise a sand cloud during landing as they wait at a staging area in Camp Adder to be part of the last U.S. military convoy to leave the country near Nasiriyah, Iraq on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011. (Lucas Jackson / AP Photo)

    Who Lost Iraq?

    Did Obama Pick the Wrong War?

    Authors Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor unsparingly dissect both Bush and Obama policies, writes John Barry.

    Who lost Iraq? A premature question, perhaps, but it becomes more salient with each passing month. Violence is rising again in that blood-soaked country.  By U.N. count, 2,010 civilians died violently in the first half of this year, against 1,832 in the same period of 2011. Since midsummer the civilian death toll has likely been running somewhere between 300 and 500 a month, with more than twice as many injured.

    Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate, a group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq, was near disintegration in 2010. Now it is back in force: in one day in late July, the terrorist group launched 35 coordinated attacks across seven provinces, killing 123 people. For the first time in years, the terrorists held ground and did battle with Iraqi security forces—a classic and ominous metric of growing insurgent strength and confidence.

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  • US Marines from the 2nd Battalion wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009 (Manpreet Romana, AFP / Getty Images)

    Squandered Opportunities

    6 Failures in the Afghan War

    Why did the 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan fail? A nightmarish new book has devastating revelations.

    When Washington Post senior correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran went to Afghanistan to report on the troop surge ordered by President Obama in 2009, he found vicious bickering in the leadership that sabotaged a peace deal, generals who dispatched troops to the wrong places, and rogue commanders who killed civilians and cost soldiers their lives. The result is Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan. The author of the National Book Award finalist Imperial Life in the Emerald City gives another nightmarish account of a failed war and squandered opportunities. Here are the most devastating revelations.

    Helmand, The War’s Biggest Waste of Time

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  • A monitor shows the view from a drone's camera during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

    Modern Warfare

    The Mind of a Drone Pilot

    As the U.S. takes out another high-value al Qaeda target, the debate over Obama’s 'kill lists' continues. Daniel Klaidman offers a rare glimpse into what it feels like to pull the trigger.

    On Wednesday, wire services reported that 18 civilians were killed in a pre-dawn airstrike in eastern Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai blasted the NATO strike, pointing out that the U.S. government would have a hard time explaining the vans filled with the dead bodies of women and children that local villagers displayed for reporters. This latest example of civilians caught in the crossfire of America's Long War got a few mentions in the papers and on TV, but it didn't inspire much outrage.

    And yet it occurred in the middle of a heated debate in Washington and around the country about drone strikes and President Obama's personal involvement in the military's so-called “kill lists.”  

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  • Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images for Meet the Press

    Art of War

    5 Revelations in Obama’s Wars

    From Stuxnet to trying to sell cameras to bin Laden, Matthew DeLuca picks the most revealing moments in David Sanger’s new book.

    There was a time when critics of Barack Obama feared that he would be unwilling to use violent force against terrorists. In Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, chief New York Times Washington correspondent David E. Sanger writes that they need not have worried. The Harvard-educated constitutional lawyer and community organizer expanded the war against America’s enemies in ways unforeseen, taking executive powers further than his predecessors could ever imagine. Sanger’s meticulously reported book details the backroom meetings, whispered deals, and secret actions that have shaped American policy in the Middle East. From Stuxnet to the Arab Spring, here are the five most revealing moments from Obama’s wars.

    1. Leading the Hackers

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  • US President Barack Obama speaks to employees and guests at the Honeywell Golden Valley facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 1, 2012. (Yuri Gripas / AFP / Getty Images)

    Speed Read

    7 Secrets of Obama’s Drone War

    Speed Read Newsweek and The Daily Beast reporter Daniel Klaidman’s dissection of Obama’s war on terror: seven key passages.

    President Barack Obama may have inherited the war on terrorism from his predecessor, but in some ways the stakes have only grown since he took the decision maker’s seat in the Oval Office. In his new book, Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, Newsweek and Daily Beast reporter Daniel Klaidman draws on extensive research, including interviews with more than 200 sources, including current and former officials in the Obama administration, to work his way into the president’s mind as Obama learned what it meant to fight a shadowy enemy in the 21st century.

    In the aftermath of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s enemies seemed both everywhere and nowhere. Some of the tactics that would prove most effective over the following years, such as drone strikes and cross-border raids, drew criticism at home and abroad. Obama the former constitutional law scholar has demonstrated a willingness to continually rethink the way America is dealing with the threat posed by religious extremists.

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  • President Barack Obama leads guests to a toast as he hosts a dinner for members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb., 29, 2012. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo)

    Battle-Scarred

    Wars Never End for Veterans

    The government and the people have an obligation to support military veterans even when wars are past.

    The Iraq war may be over, but the battles themselves have left an imprint on those who fought them for the rest of their lives. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama honored a handful of veterans from that conflict with a dinner at the White House, stating, “You succeeded in your mission.” As an Iraq War veteran, I feel very strongly that this is true, but there remains a mission for both the U.S. government and the American people as a whole: take care of those who served.

    The rallying cries to support the troops are always loudest during a time of war. But now that the Iraq War has come to a close and fighting in Afghanistan to soon follow suit, it is more important than ever to support the troops. Many of the battle scars of the Iraq war have become buzz words, like PTSD and MTBI, but behind each of them there are veterans suffering. It is the duty of the president and the government to ensure that as the fervor to support the troops in a traditional sense dies down, that the veterans are cared for.

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