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Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground Hardcover – September 4, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400061334
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400061334
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,366,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. After 9/11, Atlantic Monthly correspondent and bestselling author Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts) spent five years living with U.S. troops deployed across the globe. He first reported on his travels in 2005's Imperial Grunts, an incisive and valuable primer on the military's role in maintaining an informal American empire. In this shrewd and often provocative sequel, Kaplan introduces readers to more of the soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who staff the empire's forward outposts. Although the author's travels take him to Iraq, he spends most of his time with imperial maintenance units that are training indigenous troops, protecting sea lanes and providing humanitarian relief from Timbuktu to the Straits of Malacca. Kaplan clearly admires the American troops he meets, though he sometimes questions their civilian masters. He saves his harshest judgment for his fellow journalists, whose relentless criticism of anything less than perfection amounts to media tyranny, in his view. Kaplan sees the war on terror and the re-emergence of China as the U.S.'s two abiding challenges in the 21st century and argues that, after Iraq, the military will seek a smaller, less noticeable footprint overseas. Kaplan combines the travel writer's keen eye for detail and the foreign correspondent's analytical skill to produce an account of America's military worthy of its subject. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Robert D. Kaplan turns away from the more incendiary front line of the war on terror in this follow-up to Imperial Grunts. He spent over two years embedded with a diverse group of soldiers, and his admiration for their work comes through on every page. That same high esteem opens up the major vein of criticism, as some reviewers fault Kaplan for veering "dangerously close to cheerleading" (Washington Post). Well-researched and sympathetically drawn, these portraits of the modern military are essential reading for those interested in the day-to-day lives of our men and women overseas.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

This book is well worth reading for anyone interested in the modern US military.
Gary Messerli
I think I was just a little too close to the story having lived a lot of this life myself that the story didn't hold me through.
Charlotte A. Hu
While it does contain its share of clichés and generalities it is a well written book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Marco Antonio Abarca VINE VOICE on September 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts" is the second book in Robert Kaplan's series on the American military. Kaplan's purpose in writing these books is to inform the general reading public about the current state of the United States military. What distinguishes this book from "Imperial Grunts" is that Kaplan leaves his usual reporting beat with the Marines and Army Special Forces and spends time with Naval and Air Force units.

Robert Kaplan is a magazine writer who has spent many decades living and working in the Third World. Since September 11th, he has spent many months embedded with small, elite military units. His travels have sent him to such off the beaten track places as Colombia, Mali, Niger, Guam and the Phillipines. Kaplan genuinely likes and respects the service people he spends time with. In his affection for the common soldier, he reminds me a lot of the great journalist Ernie Pyle of the Second World War. This book is at its very best in describing training missions that Marines and Special Forces carry out in the far fringes of the devloping world. Kaplan goes places and reports things that ordinary journalists never experience.

As with "Imperial Grunts", Kaplan dances around with this idea that the United States is an Imperial power and that our military is an Imperial force. I am not sure that I agree with his thesis but I wish Kaplan would be more forthright in stating his argument and backing it up with hard evidence. It seems that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the perfect laboratory for analyzing his thesis. Did we invade these countries as acts of self defense as President Bush and most of the United States military would argue? Or are these "Imperial" wars as President Bush's most vocal critics would argue?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael T Kennedy VINE VOICE on September 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As pointed out by several other reviewers, this book is a sequel to the earlier and better Imperial Grunts. Kaplan revisits some of the locales of the earlier book and reports tremendous progress in places like Columbia and the Philippines. He spends time on a nuclear carrier, a destroyer and a nuclear fast attack submarine. Those were the best parts of the book. He spends time with A 10 pilots on deployment to Thailand and provides well-deserved credit to these blue collar fighter pilots who fly the unloved but tremendously valuable attack aircraft. It was so unloved by the fighter mafia that runs the US Air Force that they were going to retire the plane. The Army, which depends on air support, and has no air wing of its own like the Marine Corp, offered to take over the plane and add it to its own air arm. The Air Force quickly restored the A 10 units to full flying status and no more was heard for a while about retiring them.

Kaplan does travel a lot and the depth of his interviews in the earlier book isn't here but it is still a good source of information about the far flung US military as it fights the savage wars of peace.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robert V. Lamb on November 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is not as good as Imperial Grunts; however, few books are. In my opinion, Imperial Grunts was a masterpiece, a perfect book, so expecting Hog Pilots to be just as good, probably is a little unfair to Kaplan. There is a lot of valuable, interesting and fascinating information in this book, but it seems like it was written in a hurry. I've read numerous books by Kaplan and this one by far is the most choppy and disconnected of them all. That said, there is much to learn in this book and it's probably better than 90% of the books out there today that relate to current affairs/US military. Kaplan's books are consitently great, consistently at the top, this one unfortunately falls a little short.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By G. G Storey on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was excited to receive this book and pleasantly surprised to read about his ride aboard my old submarine; the USS Houston. But after the first few chapters, I noticed a nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right. Then it hit me: it is very much written in the vein of "Oh, daddy! Look at the funny man!"

The respect Robert Kaplan has for the military is readily apparent; however, this book is not targeted for those in the service. It is written for those who have not served and don't quite get those who do. That said, it tends to repeat and reinforce the negative stereotypes that those who haven't served may hold towards those who have.

The chapter in which Kaplan recounts his passage aboard the USS Benfold has a disturbing dichotomy: in one paragraph a sailor who attempted suicide is held in contempt by the crew, while in the next sailors are anticipating the low HIV rate rumored to exist in the bars and whorehouses in the ship's next port of call. Unfeeling military automatons who only fight and f***, anyone?

In neither episode does Kaplan truly explore the context of the situation. To actually try suicide, a sailor has to ignore many levels of assistance from the command structure and more personal levels of help from shipmates. An attempt is a betrayal and anger is a normal reaction in any population, not just the military.

And if sailors looking to have sex in port after a period of enforced abstinence are considered outside the norm, than Kaplan has not spent time on a college campus lately. Sailors, in my experience, are more careful in the opportunities which present themselves than those in a typical college weekend hook-up.
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