397 of 408 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Men Will Die for Their Friends
Sebastian Junger is the well-known author of The Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont. He is also a world-class war correspondent with over a decade of experience. This book is the product of five months spent embedded with a platoon in U.S. 2nd Battalion in the Korengal valley, Afghanistan. For five months, Junger existed like a regular soldier in the U.S. army: He ate...
Published on March 4, 2010 by Howard Goldowsky
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amazing effort by the author
This is a pretty good book - certainly eye-opening - but didn't quite match up to my read of "The Good Soldiers" last year (by David Finkel).
That War's author, Sebastian Junger, chose to spend 5 months in the fiercest combat in Afganistan is very impressive and deserves a lot of credit. He also included exhaustive footnotes supporting research he cites. What...
Published on June 25, 2010 by Chase Powell
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397 of 408 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Men Will Die for Their Friends,
Sebastian Junger is the well-known author of The Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont. He is also a world-class war correspondent with over a decade of experience. This book is the product of five months spent embedded with a platoon in U.S. 2nd Battalion in the Korengal valley, Afghanistan. For five months, Junger existed like a regular soldier in the U.S. army: He ate MREs, went on patrol, took cover when the bullets started to fly. As Junger likes to explain in the book, he was the target of the same bullets as the other men in the platoon, and he had the same responsibility to Army rules. Even one broken minor rule risked lives. Junger remained vigilant, won the companionship of these soldiers, and garnered enough of their trust to record their thoughts and beliefs about what it's like to be in combat. That's what this book is about. The war in Afghanistan happened to be just a convenient location to do field research. At one particular scary moment, Junger was in a Hummer that got hit by a roadside bomb. The bomb exploded under the engine block, ten feet away. The blast shook Junger's emotions for days. Needless to say, this book was almost never written.
Good thing it was. Junger provides excellent war correspondence, describing combat as a first-hand observer. Junger's prose remains apolitical, his goal to show the reader what it's like to be in battle, not make a political statement. The book is broken into three sections: "Fear," "Killing," and "Love." All three sections describe combat, but each section is loosely structured around its theme. In "Fear," Junger loosely analyzes why or why not soldiers might be afraid to fight; in "Killing" we learn why soldiers kill, how they feel about ending the life of an enemy combatant, and how they feel when one of their own receives that fate; in "Love," Junger makes an attempt to learn why soldiers would die in combat for their comrades. In fact, this section talks about bravery probably more than the first section. In one particularly long chapter, through interviews with soldiers and references to Army studies, Junger tries to figure out why one young man barely out of his teens (yes, let's not forget that these men are practically still boys) would jump on a live hand grenade. Junger's prose reads like amazing stuff.
I suspect that this book will receive mostly positive reviews, mainly for its reporting. Certainly it deserves it. But the book is not without its faults, and I'd like to point out a few. The faults are mostly literary and organizational, however, and none hampered my reading pleasure. If you're a normal guy who just wants to read about fighting, or if you loved A Perfect Storm and just want another good read, then you'll probably not notice or care about these little problems. Without reservation, buy this book. If you're more literary minded, then maybe you'll prefer to read more this review.
Embedded with Junger was a photojournalist named Tim Hetherington. Between them they shot over 150 hours of video, which was made into a recently released documentary called "Restrepo." (This name comes from the name of a fallen American soldier and the name of an important military outpost in the Korengal valley where Second Platoon spent a lot of their time.) Some (not all) of the combat scenes in the book read like he was watching video, and describing what he saw. This is not bad, but the strength of prose over video is that a writer can slow down time and stretch emotionally charged moments into pages. The writer can dig deep into the thoughts of his characters or himself, set up suspense, tackle fear, do whatever it takes. The best parts of the book are when Junger writes about his emotions and other fighters' emotions, when he writes philosophical about combat, and how he and the soldiers cope with the combat (conveniently recounted a few pages earlier). Much of the philosophy and memoir-style introspection jumps back and forth with combat scenes. Rarely do I recommend that a book be 50 to 100 pages longer, but I wish this book was. I wish that Junger combined his introspective musings and thought provoking observations, while he was describing the action. This type of writing style would have slowed down some of his action scenes and made his writing perfect. As it is, it's pretty good already.
The one other minor complaint I had about the book was organizational. Chapter One describes a very specific start date for Junger's embedment (Spring 2007), but then in subsequent chapters I got a little confused about the chronology. Besides a few references to the heat or snow, it was difficult to get a feel for the exact chronology. Not that it matters too much -- this book is about fighting, and to the men stuck at outpost Restrepo, in the mountains of Afghanistan, far away from home, both physically and emotionally, it doesn't really matter what part of the year it is. Maybe Junger was trying to convey this.
The book has an extensive bibliography that includes up-to-date literature on killing and combat. Junger spends some time philosophizing about fighting, killing, and cognitive processes during battle, and he backs up his writing with multiple studies. PTSD and other "mental casualties" are acknowledged, as well.
Not only does WAR try to describe what it's like to be in combat, but it makes a serious attempt to try and figure out why men actually enjoy it. (Yes, believe it or not, my feeling by the end of the book was that these men do.) Towards the end of the book, Junger provides a neurological explanation: "The dopamine reward system exists in both sexes but is stronger in men, and as a result, men are far more likely to become obsessively involved in such things as hunting, gambling, computer games, and war. When the men of Second Platoon were moping around the outpost hoping for a firefight it was because, among other things, they weren't getting their accustomed dose of endorphins and dopamine." Then there is the sociological perspective. The men profiled in this book did not necessariily join the Army to die for thie country (although some do). Above all, it's the strong personal bonds, almost love, between young men who have been through challenging training and hardship, drive much of what takes place in war -- courage, bravery, willingness to die -- it all comes down to personal bonds. Men will die for their friends.
97 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever written on what it means to be in battle,
There aren't many books that really tell the reader what it means to be in battle. Those that have been there don't feel comfortable trying to explain it to those that haven't. As more than one combat veteran has told me, "you just wouldn't understand." Most reporters, even those embedded in a war, haven't really experienced what it means to bean active participant in battle- trying to kill someone before he kills you. There are some very good books about what it's like to be in the middle of a war, like Bernard Fall's Hell in a Very Small Place; Fall was a French reporter who was there at the siege of Dien Bien Phu. But even though Fall could describe what it felt like to survive the incessant shelling and attack on the base, he wasn't a combatant. He was still a reporter, an observer.
Sebastian Junger is a writer of rare skill who can paint a frighteningly real picture of places few of us would ever think of going. His first book, The Perfect Storm, gave readers a taste of what it would be like to be on a doomed fishing boat in the North Atlantic, at from home, at the mercy of the sea. In War, he takes the reader to an Army outpost in Afghanistan, where Junger and filmmaker Tim Hetherington spent five months over the course of a year and a half with a platoon of young soldiers, fighting a war that we've all read about, but that few of us can imagine.
This isn't the tourist war reporting we're used to, where the embedded reporter rides along at the rear of an armored column; Junger puts himself in a situation where he runs all the risks of the soldiers he's reporting on, including getting blown up by an IED that is detonated under the Humvee he's riding in. He manages to survive only because the Taliban soldier triggering the bomb pushed the button a fraction of a second too soon, and the blast is absorbed by the engine rather than the men riding in the Humvee. We're with Junger- and the soldiers of the platoon- as they go on a night time patrol, walk into an ambush, and fight off an assault that nearly overruns their little camp.
Junger does not moralize on the war itself; as he explains, to do so would distance him from the men he's writing about, who aren't terribly concerned with politics or the geopolitics of the war. They're concerned with only one thing- survival- which means killing the man out there before he kills you. Isolated in mountainous terrain, with air support a good hour away, the men of Second Platoon, Battle Company, have to rely entirely on one another. Each man knows that every other man in his platoon will (and often do) die for him- otherwise there's no way they could survive where they are. War is full of stories of what seem like astounding heroism in the face of deadly fire- but what are to then men of the platoon, simply what they do. As one solider puts it, going out there to this lonely outpost is what takes bravery; everything after that is just doing your job.
Junger goes into some detail asking the question of why men willingly go into battle and sacrifice their lives for each other, quoting studies from WWII through the Gulf War. There's a good deal of interesting data and hypothesis, such as the curious fact that the largest sustainable hunter-gatherer community is about the size of a platoon- anything larger, and things like self-sacrifice and acting for the good of the community appear to break down. Or that chimpanzees, with whom we share 99% of our DNA, don't exhibit the same kind of self-sacrifice we see in humans. When neighboring groups attack a smaller, weaker group, they don't band together for aid- instead, those who can run away, leaving the slower and weaker chimps at the mercy of the invaders. Self-sacrifice in battle is a uniquely human behavior.
What it comes down to in the end is that soldiers do it out of love for their fellow soldier. As one remarks to Junger, who asked why he says he'd throw himself on a grenade to protect his squad, "Because I actually love my brothers... Being able to save their lives so that they can live is rewarding. Any of them would do it for me."
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amazing effort by the author,
This is a pretty good book - certainly eye-opening - but didn't quite match up to my read of "The Good Soldiers" last year (by David Finkel).
That War's author, Sebastian Junger, chose to spend 5 months in the fiercest combat in Afganistan is very impressive and deserves a lot of credit. He also included exhaustive footnotes supporting research he cites. What comes through well is the violence the men faced every day, the extreme living conditions, the losses taken and imposed on the enemy, the brotherhood formed within the platoon. He is admirably apolitical (as are his subjects) even as he honors the soldiers he lived with.
What didn't come through to me was a personal connection to any of the soldiers. The book felt disorganized, like a lot of unrelated scenes strung together, making it tough to follow the action or see how soldiers changed or grew over time.
Also, a photographer was embedded with Junger almost the whole time, but there are only three photos in the book (all on the jacket). A few more images and a map or two of the area would have been a huge help to the reader in visualizing the soldiers, the geography, and the firefights. (The documentary film of the book just came out, called "Restrepo." I'm eager to see it, but would have been nice to have a few pics in the book to whet the appetite.)
In all, War is good, but if you're going to read just one of these two books about modern-day US soldiers' experience in combat, I'd recommend The Good Soldiers. It is set in Iraq instead of Afganistan, but the timing and issues are similar. And you get to know the soldiers personally - including the gut-wrenching feeling when one of them is killed or injured.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a 173rd Wife,
Sebastian Junger has been able to bridge the gap between what we know, and what our husbands don't want to tell us to either spare us the worry or to keep that part of their world separate from the home life. 'War' answers questions that I was afraid to ask, and not only goes in depth to describe what the day to day was like for our boys, but Sebastian seems to understand and explains (very well, in my opinion) the psychological toll of what the men see and do while deployed, as well as the aftermath when they return to Italy.
'War' is an emotional journey for this wife, finding it hard to continue at some points, having to return later after that familiar feeling of dread fades, even though I already know what's going to happen during that particular firefight.
The gut-wrentching realism is what it is supposed to be: truth.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He gets it right,
I will preface this review by stating that I have experienced combat in Iraq and been in multiple engagements with enemy fighters. War is simply well written and gets right to the heart of the matter regarding combat. If you have no combat experience, you will understand it some after you read this book. Junger manages to capture in words what Soldiers feel and live. I have been back from Iraq for just over a year now and this book took me back and the memories were not bad. He was right and it is difficult to say that you miss depending on the man next to you for survival and having that man depend on you. A lot of books pick up major themes and ideas well but War also captures the minute details that give the reader the most accurate picture on warfighting that I have seen to date. I highly recommend this book and can say with confidence that you will not want to put it down until the last word is gone. Thank you Junger for honoring the Soldiers who represent the best of America.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Study of Brotherhood More Than War,
With "The Perfect Storm," Sebastain Junger crafted a harrowing and heartbreaking story of men in danger--cut off and reliant on one another for survival. It is the ultimate non-fiction story of man versus nature, and as we know, that's not always a fair fight. It is, quite literally, one of my favorite books. So it is with much excitement that I picked up Junger's "War," a document relating his personal experiences as a reporter while being embedded with American soldiers in Afghanistan. Junger has already enjoyed success on this topic in a series of articles as well as a documentary film "Restrepo" (an award winner at this year's Sundance). I thought if anyone could understand the hearts of men in conflict it would be Junger. And "War" does prove to be a fascinating and intimate look at how individuals come together to form a collective unit.
One of the pleasures of "War" is its surprisingly apolitical agenda. Anyone hoping that this book is a comprehensive examination of the American presence in Afghanistan will need to look elsewhere. Junger wants to keep things at a more personal level and "War" is really his homage to those on the front lines. Much like "The Perfect Storm," it is a study of camaraderie and brotherhood under extreme circumstances. Junger does an amazing job capturing the specifics of what it was like to be stationed in the Afghani conflict. From the battles to the boredom, this is an unflinching look at the realities of modern warfare. Along the way, Junger also studies the sociological and psychological influences present. It is the unusual and extraordinary bonding within the group that leads to altruism and, ultimately, heroism (although the men themselves never consider their acts heroic).
As much as I admired "War," however, there was an element that kept me distanced as well. Junger's intent to honor the soldiers he knew and lived with is evident--but, unfortunately, the men aren't really distinguished as individuals. In "The Perfect Storm," the power and majesty of the action is enhanced by the full-bodied and thoroughly three dimensional portraits of the men involved. That's how I wanted to get to know these soldiers as well. But aside from one or two instances, we might admire or be intrigued by what someone has said or done--but we never fully get to know them. It's what keeps "War" from being a truly great book, in my opinion. Still, Junger's "War" is a compelling look at male bonding. Told from an unusual and refreshing angle, "War" is a noteworthy look into a situation that many of us have only seen from afar.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Review from a Pacifist War Resister,
Ok, I'll start out from the outset that I am a pacifist Christian, and a war resister. I've opposed the war in Afghanistan from its inception. And I only occasionally read books from a soldier's perspective ("Jarhead" by Anthony Swofford and "On Killing" by Lt. Col. David Grossman come to mind, both excellent in their own way).
So I am not giving five stars because I approve of the military mission of the soldiers portrayed by Sebastian Junger. I emphatically do not! Junger's book deserves five stars because of his outstanding writing skills coupled with his exceptional ability to portray the soldiers in their individual and corporate humanness. This book serves as a classic model of how people under extremely dangerous and violence-fraught conditions build interpersonal bonds that are stronger than fear or killing (hence, love for one another as the third section brings out).
Fear of death is of course a very strong motivator. But as Junger's book brilliantly illustrates, fear of contributing to a buddy's death, or fear of letting down the unit, or fear of not coming to the assistance of a wounded buddy, are even more powerful fears than that of death. For thousands of years men (gender specific here), have plunged into the face of certain death during heightened moments of warfare. But rather better to die than to embarrass oneself as a coward before one's peers. Therefore, developing group solidarity is of utmost importance in the development of the inner resolve to die for one's fellow "brothers in arms."
Junger rarely ventures into the "why" of the war. For one thing, the soldiers are rather oblivious to the politics of the war. They will of course intone the expected mantra. "Proctor, why did you join the Army?..." And Proctor responds, "To fight for my country, sir." (p. 259). Yet by this stage in the book Junger has already written that the soldiers in this fighting unit joined the army for vague reasons. Several of the men were just drifting along in life. The army offered a purpose, discipline, a cause greater than themselves, and ultimately, as Junger so brilliantly brings forth, the fulfillment of deep, binding, heartfelt community. As some cultural anthropologists have pointed out (ie. Rene Girard), tight, binding community develops in the face of a common enemy. Especially an enemy that might start shooting at you at any given time.
Junger mostly writes about the men, the units, the action, and army life in the combat-intensive Korengal near the border of Pakistan. He only occasionally reflects upon the deeper meaning of it all until near the end of the book in the section titled, "Love" chapter 4, pages 232-246. For example, page 233, "Civilians balk at recognizing that one of the most traumatic things about combat is having to give it up. War is so obviously evil and wrong that the idea there could be anything good to it almost feels like a profanity. And yet throughout history, men like Mac and Rice and O'Byrne have come home to find themselves desperately missing what should have been the worst experience of their lives. To a combat vet, the civilian world can seem frivolous and dull, with very little at stake and all the wrong people in power....when men say they miss combat, it's not that they actually miss getting shot at--you'd have to be deranged--it's that they miss being in a world where everything is important and nothing is taken for granted. They miss being in a world where human relations are entirely governed by whether you can trust the other person with your life."
Junger is an embedded journalist. So I cannot say to what level he holds back. For example, he makes vague references to Afghanistan soldiers fighting alongside U.S. soldiers in the Korengal. Yet nothing is written about what the U.S. soldiers think about the Afghan soldiers. I'm sure Junger heard their thoughts. And while Junger follows up on some of the soldiers upon their discharge, he tends to infer Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome issues as readjustment difficulties to civilian life rather than deep psychological wounds. Junger clearly develops a deep loyalty to his assigned unit, and inasmuch as he himself has faced the hyper-charged danger and violence of combat, he is likely wrestling his own soul as he writes.
The men in the combat units have some scorn for those with higher military ranks back in safe, low-key environs. Perhaps they should also consider scorn for the Washington politicians, defense industry profiteers, and apathetic public who so cavalierly send forth young men to far-off lands to fight a people they do not know and who by and large prefer they not be there. As I wrote earlier in this review, Proctor says that he joined the army "to fight for my country." Perhaps his enemies are also fighting for their country from what they perceive as an occupying enemy force.
Perhaps a wiser generation will arise that understands that peace might be fought for by using instruments of peace, justice, and generosity of spirit, and that these methods will also take courage in the face of real danger, will demand discipline and patience and training, and will require forging of deep bonding and unity. Within this hope, and within this framework, I recommend this book.
105 of 134 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fighting in the graveyard of empires...,
...with no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
America is entering its 10th year of war in Afghanistan, and Sebastian Junger has written the most essential book on the actual fighting in this forever war. He is the author of The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea an expression that has now entered the American language; I've read it, and think it is truly excellent. Thus, when I saw this offering via the Vine Newsletter I had no hesitation in hitting the "send me a copy" button. And I was not disappointed, since Junger, "walked the walk," a rarity for journalists who prefer to "talk the talk." Junger, at the age of 45, though not required to carry the same loads, kept pace with the soldiers half his age in the rugged terrain of the Korengal valley; on a global scale, a postage stamp size place 10 km by 10 km, east of Kabul, near the border with Pakistan. As he said about one of the bases he was on: "The base is a dusty scrap of steep ground surrounded by timber walls and sandbags, one of the smallest, most fragile capillaries in a vascular system that pumps American influence around the world. Two Americans have already lost their lives defending it." The author ate the same food, slept in the same vermin-infested bunkers, and walked the patrols with the "grunts," and definitely took the "in-coming" with them. He did this over a 4-5 month period, between June, 2007 and June, 2008. It was the ultimate determinate--dump blind luck--and in his case, of the 10 foot variety, that permitted him to live long enough to write this book.
Junger's book is NOT a description of the typical experience for troops in Afghanistan (or Iraq, now, for that matter.) He placed himself literally and metaphorically "on the cutting edge" of the combat experience. "Nearly a fifth of the combat experienced by the 70,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan is being fought by the 150 men of Battle Company. Seventy percent of the bombs dropped in Afghanistan are dropped in and around the Korengal Valley" (p 55). (Battle Company is part of a 600-man battalion called "The Rock," in the 173rd Airborne Brigade.) Junger forms friendships with the men who routinely protect his life, and as he says: "Pure objectivity--difficult enough while covering a city council meeting--isn't remotely possible in a war; bonding with the men around you is the least of your problems." He has also done a fair degree of academic research, which is referenced, as to why soldiers fight - no surprises here; they fight for their "buddies." The author has some excellent descriptive passages on the clinical aspects of that tremendous "rush" that one can receive while in combat, and why it can literally be addictive.
For the last four months of 1968 my unit was "op conned" (military lingo for "under the operational control of") the 173rd Airborne, when it was based out of LZ English, in northern Binh Dinh province. Thus, I experienced some affinity in the read. Is Afghanistan Vietnam redux, as so many right-wing think tanks proclaimed when it was the Russians who were fighting the Afghans? Junger does not mention Vietnam much, and I would have appreciated a "differential diagnosis." Clearly airborne troops who have volunteered for military service are more `gung-ho' than reluctant conscripts, and perhaps less interested in the "bigger issues" of the war; which suits the "brass" just fine. When the men in a unit all train together, and deploy together, there is a far higher degree of cohesion; of being willing to die for your buddy; but the downside, which Junger briefly describes, is when a year's worth of combat experience transfers out at the same time, to be replaced entirely by a unit of "cherries."
One of the central issues in all wars is censorship, truth famously being the first casualty. Junger perhaps describes his own book inadvertently, when he says: "The public affairs guys on those bases offered the press a certain vision of the war, and that vision wasn't "wrong," it just seemed amazingly incomplete... I thought of those as `Vietnam moments.' A Vietnam moment was one in which you weren't so much getting lied to as getting asked to participate in a kind of collective wishful thinking (p 132). On the next page he says: "Once at a dinner party back home I was asked, with a kind of knowing wink, how much the military had `censored' my reporting. I answered that I'd never been censored at all..."
I wasn't at a dinner party, and I didn't wink, but I was in a van rolling down Highway 1, on my first return to Vietnam, in 1994, when I had the opportunity to ask one of the "big name" journalists of that war the same question. He huffily replied that he had never been censored. I gently probed, OK, maybe not "censored," but how about not reporting a story that "was too hot to handle." Again I received a `negative', and so, perhaps uncharitably, since his wife and daughter were also in the van, I reminded him of some of things we didn't talk about. He grudgingly "surrendered."
After "The Perfect Storm" there were a couple of people who would not speak to Junger, because of his portrayal of some individuals, none of whom he had known prior to the event. You don't have the sense the same will be true of this book; as he states in the introduction, he did share sections with the men involved to "make sure they are comfortable with what I wrote." Much of the book is the combat, the "exciting" part of war; but what of the non-combat; the boredom of not being attacked for weeks? It is discussed somewhat, but the solace of alcohol is only briefly mentioned, and of hash, never. Can this be true? Also missing were some of the other "universal themes" of war, at least for front line troops, which were depicted in classic accounts of combat, such as Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations) Specifically, the dangerous, mind-numbing incompetence of some of the officers, and the enormous disconnect with the civilians on the home front who are "criminally" indifferent to the experience and fate of the grunts. Also, Junger says there were no "comfort women" (to use that term we seem to reserve for Japanese WW II use of Korean women) in the Korengal, and that may actually be true, though Bernard Fall reports of them at Dien Bien Phu, and they were generally at even remote fire bases in Vietnam during the American deployment. Are they anywhere in Afghanistan? Like the "secret" bombing of Cambodia, THEY know, it is only the home town folks who are kept in the dark. But the ultimate in "you don't want to go there" was covered by one sentence: "The men know Pakistan is the root of the entire war, and that is just about the only topic they get political about." In Vietnam we knew the origins the weapons that the NVA and the VC were using: Red China and the Soviet Union. But where is all the weaponry and ammunition coming from for the "Anti-Coalition forces"? Who makes it, and how does it get there? After all, Pakistan is an ally of the United States, and a beneficiary of billions in financial aid.
e.e. cummings visited this issue, concerning the "Good War," WW II, with his poem about American soldiers being killed by pieces of the 6th Street El, a reference to the scrape iron the US sold the Japanese just before the commencement of the war. Time for a re-visit?
My nephew is in the Marines; and departs for deployment in Afghanistan's Helmund Province today. He will be in a vastly different area that the one depicted in the book, though the foe will be similarly ill-defined. He is under no illusions about the war, and hopes to make it the 8 months to the end of his enlistment. But will his children, and my grandchildren be given the opportunity to fight in this graveyard of empires? Will we be able to afford this opportunity? I disagree with Colonel Ostlund's assessment (p 171): on economic arguments, we lose - we simply cannot afford endless war.
One of the best books on war written by a journalist; a solid 5-stars for what is included, all of which was meticulously fact-checked. It is the "blue pencil" omissions, the topics "too hot to handle" that cost it a star.
Update: On April 14, the New York Times (as well as others) ran an article stating that all US Forces would be abandoning the Korengal valley. Another impossibly remote outpost, like LZ English, in northern Binh Dinh province, that was not really necessary for the security of the United States, and whose ownership was returned to the people who lived there.
Plus ca change... plus la meme chose.
A Thanksgiving update... truly in more ways than one, and an assessment from another person who "has paid his dues." My nephew survived his tour of Helmund province, and is whole of body, but carries concerns for what he has witnessed. He will be receiving his honorable discharge from the Marines on Dec. 13. In regards to his concerns, he said the following: "But I really do need to find myself again. I no longer support any type of war, and only support the people in the military, not the suits that send the young men and women over there. Too many young lives have been lost for a meaningless cause, and some of the people that do make it are changed forever. So, I have got some soul searching to do."
Plus ca change, redux.
Junger covered the case of the soldier who felt compelled to go back... but what of all the others?
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dancing with the Devil...,
I enjoyed "The Perfect Storm" by Sebastian Junger, so when I saw that he wrote a book about his experiences as an embedded journalist with an Army unit in the most dangerous part of Afghanistan, I had to check it out. I was not disappointed, as his insights into how war affects those who fight in it were quite fascinating.
In the interests of full disclosure I must admit that I never saw combat. Sure, I served for six years in the Marines and am a Gulf War One-era veteran. But I had to settle for watching its festivities on CNN. With that in mind, when I review books like this I feel like a virgin writing about the Kama Sutra. So I can't say for sure that Mr. Junger isn't full of crap when he discusses his experiences as a journalist in modern warfare.
However, the book rings true as far as my pogish military experience can validate, and also jels with other memoirs of actual combat veterans both of this war and previous conflicts. As a virgin may read the Kama Sutra to gain second-hand insight, a non-combatant can read books like "War" for the same reason. And as one who has read many books on warfare, this one stands in the company of those dealing with the subtle and internal facets of the warrior experience.
Although the setting is within the Afghan conflict, "War" is not a detailed historical regurgitation. Instead, Mr. Junger focuses on how the experience of war affects those who engage in it. The book's three parts each deal with an elemental aspect of warfare: Fear, Killing, and Love. We see how the boredom and terror of combat welds men together, brings out their best and worst qualities, and alters them forever after.
"War" reminded me of the movie "The Hurt Locker [Blu-ray]," with its demonstration of the old saying, "When you dance with the Devil, you don't change him - he changes you." Of course, Mr. Junger didn't actually fight, so the book isn't quite a first-hand memoir of combat like "Helmet for My Pillow." But his journalistic (and risk-taker's) perspective provides compelling insights into how America's young men are faring in our latest and longest-running war. Recommended.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Embedded Pulse Pounder With Sympathetic Eye,
Sebastian Junger is one of those writers it seems everyone talks about these days. And with good reason. His nonfiction books are written with an engaging narrative that is reader friendly and causes pages to turn in rapid succession. Moreover, Junger takes his readers into the unlikeliest of places, fishing in freezing waters, to the top of the world's most dangerous mountains, and now to Afghanistan with a group of soldiers that know each day might be their last.
Junger's strength in this story comes from the men he met. They're all people most of his readers already know: brothers, fathers, and sons who have been pulled into combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The stories comes from front page news and television stories, only Junger weds them all to the heart of the men in ways neither of those other media can.
I expected some of the emotional drain that I got from the book, but Junger simply shines in this story. He brings his readers close to the men, puts them firmly in their world, and makes us mourn the loss of those that fall in battle -- and afterward. If you want to know what it's like to be in one of these Army fire teams, Junger will take you there. But the book isn't for the faint of heart or those afraid of the dark side of humanity.
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WAR by Sebastian Junger (Hardcover - May 11, 2010)