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Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond Paperback – September 12, 2006
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It is the dawn of the 21st century, and the United States has appropriated the entire Earth. So journalist Robert Kaplan writes in his paean to the American fighting man and woman, Imperial Grunts. The U.S. has quietly--with little public debate--forged an empire that is "ready to flood the most obscure areas of it with troops at a moment's notice," writes Kaplan, a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly magazine who has written 10 earlier books on foreign affairs and travel, including the acclaimed Balkan Ghosts. Imperial Grunts is Kaplan's account of his travels to the frontiers of the U.S. imperium. From the dustbowl of northern Yemen to the coca fields of Colombia and the insurgent hotbed of Fallujah, Kaplan takes readers to the war-torn edges of the U.S. empire and visits with front-line grunts who guard it and try to expand its reach.
"Welcome to Injun Country," is the catchphrase Kaplan hears from all the U.S. soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors we meet. In the view of American troops, they are taming an "unruly" frontier in the tradition of General George Custer. We all know what happened to Custer and, later, to the Native Americans whom the 7th Cavalry was sent out to pacify. But far from criticizing that mission or finding in the analogy any cautionary lesson, Kaplan is an enthusiastic cheerleader for what he baldly calls "American imperialism." He sees it as "humanitarian" and "righteous" and seems to never meet a Green Beret or marine he does not idolize. To Kaplan, U.S. imperialism is unquestionably selfless and heroic, trying only to bring a little taste of freedom to the huddled masses of the world. Imperial Grunts works well as a travelogue but fails to provide deeper insights--or opposing views--about the complex and fascinating places he explores. --Alex Roslin
From Publishers Weekly
America is no less an imperial power than Britain and Rome in their times, claims veteran journalist Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts, etc.)—one that is backed by the same sort of enforcers. To illustrate, he travels to seven nations and describes how American troops are, if not ruling the world, working to persuade it to follow our lead. The author joins elite units (generally marines or special forces) sent to shore up friendly governments, win people's hearts, train security forces and defeat terrorism—an increasingly vague term that includes narco-guerrillas, local warlords, unruly tribes and criminal gangs. Living among working soldiers, Kaplan makes no secret of his admiration for their camaraderie, practicality and rational if politically incorrect views. All roll their eyes when our leaders proclaim that defeating terrorism requires democratic governments; according to Kaplan, they believe this is nonsense in Colombia, Kenya, Yemen and the Philippines—all democracies. Forbidden to fight in these countries, Americans are building infrastructure and gathering intelligence as they instruct local units, hoping American-trained leaders will eventually rise to positions of authority. Military buffs will prefer the chapters on Iraq and Afghanistan, where the soldiers are slugging it out. Stabilizing all these nations may take decades, these men and women say—except in Iraq, where it may take longer. (On sale Sept. 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Top customer reviews
He also has frank observations and criticisms of US military strategy. I would highly recommend this book. I hope he writes a follow up soon.
I loved the chapters on Colombia and the Philippines. But everything was very vivid and exciting. You get to have a global sightseeing tour of American forces over the planet. You feel the humidity, you see the landscapes they see, taste the same food and live the same experiences, battlefield included.
The last chapter on Irak, Fallujah specifically was the best ending possible for this book. One can't help to identify oneself with the writer when, after the battle was ceasefired by political decision... "in Dubai. In the lobby, on the way to my room, I noticed a newstand. The front pages were all about Fallujah. I felt like a person at the center of a scandal that everybody was reading about, in which even the most accurate, balanced accounts were unconnected to what I had actually experienced and the marines I had experienced it all with. I felt deeply alienated. After I ate and showered and scrubbed my backpack, I didn't want to talk to anyone. All I wanted to do was write."
The author has a clear idea -and so depicts it- of American society:
"The soldiers and marines I encountered during months of travel with the military -whose parents and grandparents had fought in Vietnam- thought of that war as every bit as sanctified as the nation's others. As for those who saw Vietnam differently, they were generally from the more prosperous classes of Amreican society, classes which even back then were in the process of forging a global, cosmopolitan elite."
Want to know what the real world out there is like? Read this.