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The Good Soldiers Paperback – August 3, 2010
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“Finkel has made art out of a defining moment in history. You will be able to take this book down from the shelf years from now and say: 'This is what happened. This is what it felt like.'” ―Doug Stanton, The New York Times Book Review
“Let me be direct. The Good Soldiers by David Finkel is the most honest, most painful, and most brilliantly rendered account of modern war I've ever read. I got no exercise at all the day I gulped down its 284 riveting pages.” ―Daniel Okrent, Fortune
“Over and over, I cried. I endured nightmares. I have read hundreds of books about war and almost two dozen books about the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them affected me. But none has affected me as deeply as The Good Soldiers.” ―Steve Weinberg, The Kansas City Star
“Heart-stopping . . . captures the surreal horror of war.” ―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A whole generation of these men will (God willing) be coming home, and The Good Soldiers is as good a guide as I can imagine to who they'll be when they get here.” ―Devin Friedman, GQ
“[A] new classic . . . the reader cannot get enough . . . As a compelling read, The Good Soldiers is all good.” ―J. Ford Huffman, Military Times
“David Finkel has written the most unforgettable book of the Iraq War, a masterpiece that will far outlast the fighting.” ―David Maraniss, author of They Marched into Sunlight
“From a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at the height of his powers comes an incandescent and profoundly moving book: powerful, intense, enraging. This may be the best book on war since the Iliad.” ―Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book and March
“This is the best account I have read of the life of one unit in the Iraq War. It is closely observed, carefully recorded, and beautifully written. David Finkel doesn't just take you into the lives of our soldiers, he takes you deep into their nightmares.” ―Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble
“Brilliant, heartbreaking, deeply true. The Good Soldiers offers the most intimate view of life and death in a twenty-first-century combat unit I have ever read. Unsparing, unflinching, and, at times, unbearable.” ―Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle
“This is the finest book yet written on the platoon-level combat of the Iraq war . . . Unforgettable--raw, moving, and rendered with literary control . . . No one who reads this book will soon forget its imagery, words, or characters.” ―Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars
“Vivid and moving . . .Finkel's keen firsthand reportage, its grit and impact only heightened by the literary polish of his prose, gives us one of the best accounts yet of the American experience in Iraq.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A superb account of the burdens soldiers bear.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
About the Author
David Finkel is a senior writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security and the national enterprise editor at The Washington Post. He is the recipient of the MacArther "Genius" Fellowship. Finkel won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2006 for a series of stories about U.S.-funded democracy efforts in Yemen. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters.
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What this book does do is provide an account of the war at the battalion level and a commander's effort to keep his troops engaged so the unit can survive and return home. The book is about the hope that went into the mission that sent 2/16 to Iraq and the efforts and sacrifices made by individual soldiers there and the toils of war on their psyches as they experienced the terror of going out into the city every day and wondering if they would make it back as they saw their friends and platoon members attacked and blown up by IEDs and EFPs, lived under constant mortar and rocket attack for fifteen months. You grieve with these soldiers and what they are going through. In their darkest moments, they curse their commander who maintains the spirit of an eternal optimist for his troops' sake. By the end of their tour, they see a turnaround, but the city seems to fall apart again as they leave. And it is this narrative I got the impression from the author that he judges the effectiveness of the surge.
Still an important book to read. One thing among many I learned is that this is not necessarily a civil war we were helping to resolve between Shi'a and Sunni, but this conflict was Shi'a against Shi'a and there is no clear distinction just who the enemy is beyond the Jaish al Mahdi of Sadr.
But the author makes too much of the success of the Surge by tracking the story of ONE infantry battalion.
Hailed as a success, the casualties are nonetheless present during the Surge, and are described in detail. This is war against an insurgency at the true grit level. I shall never for get this book.
Now step back from the story and one is left with the question of whether we should have gone there at all, and whether the role we adopted under these corollaries to the Truman Doctrine doesn't need some serious rethinking. We have to leave a place eventually, and I am not so sure many of these places can be just ushered into the freedoms Harry Truman sought to protect. It worked in Korea, but not Viet Nam. We just don't have a good record of leaving behind happy little democracies.
The price the men and their families pay for the effort is huge. This is a worthy read, contrasting the realities on the ground with the statements made by the leadership in Washington DC.