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WAR Paperback – May 17, 2011
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"With his narrative gifts and vivid prose -- as free, thank God, of literary posturing as it is of war-correspondent chest-thumping -- Junger masterfully chronicles the platoon's 15-month tour of duty...Junger makes us see the terror, monotony, misery, comradeship and lunatic excitement that have been elements of all wars since, say, the siege of Troy. He thus becomes a kind of 21st-century battle singer, narrating the deeds and misdeeds of his heroes while explaining what makes them do what they do...It's the best writing I've seen on the subject since J. Glenn Gray's 1959 classic, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle. . . . Junger's sketches of the men are deft, his ear for their quirky speech (aided by video recordings) spot on . . . This splendid book should help the rest of us understand them -- and war itself -- a little better."―Philip Caputo, Washington Post
"Absorbing and original . . . Junger is aiming for more than just a boots-on-the-ground narrative of the travails of fighting men . . . . WAR strives to offer not just a picture of American fighting men but a discourse on the nature of war itself. This is no small ambition . . . He writes some beautiful sentences about this ugly world."―Dexter Filkins, New York Times Book Review
"With his blue-eyed, chiseled and starting-to-grizzle looks, Junger is just the specimen Hollywood would cast as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan to ensure a box office hit...But to assume that Junger had easy access diminishes his reporting skills and his commitment to the story. At age 48, he's a generation older than most of the soldiers he accompanied into combat over the course of their 15-month deployment and who instinctively put up their guard against an outsider...The resulting book is written in the first person, but it is observational, offering no critique of the combat he witnessed, taking no position on the efficiency, logic or value of the war. He offers a close-up view of men and the raw elements of war: fear and courage, killing and death, love and brotherhood."―Marjorie Miller, Los Angeles Times
"It is a gripping account of how modern warfare is experienced by those who do the fighting, and its focus is that of a laser, not a floodlight . . . WAR is full of stories that prove the adage about all politics being local."―Eugene Robinson, Washington Post
About the Author
Sebastian Junger is the New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont. He is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and has been awarded a National Magazine Award and an SAIS Novartis Prize for journalism. He lives in New York City.
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"Perfectly sane, good men have been drawn back to combat over and over again, and anyone interested in the idea of world peace would do well to know what they're looking for. Not killing, necessarily - that couldn't have been clearer in my mind - but the other side of the equation: protecting. The defense of the tribe is an insanely compelling idea, and once you've been exposed to it, there's almost nothing else you'd rather do. The only reason anyone was alive at Restrepo - or at Aranas or at Ranch House or, later, at Wanat - was because every man up there was willing to die defending it."
I can say from personal experience that coming back from my Iraq deployment, I was completely unprepared for how incredibly difficult it was to transition from that reality to working in an office and being productive and having a sense of purpose that didn't involve life and death. I was so utterly bad at doing a normal job that I tried to quit twice and was talked out of it both times by people that were better friends than I deserved. I'm still to this day trying to figure out how I come back and live in a 9-to-5 daily commute weekends off mow the grass nobody's shooting at me world.
"War" is an intimate look at a small group of men at the virtual tip of the spear in the most violet, troubled part of Afghanistan. It is a clear-eyed look at the men, their peace-time behavior, their behavior under extreme circumstances, and ultimately their behavior when they return to society. It offers an inside view of modern warfare fought in the most inhospitable climate imaginable. It is a much more "journalistic" effort than some other relatively recent war tomes, including the novelistic "Generation Kill" by Evan Wright. Junger is up front about his own objectivity -- or lack of it -- but his level of awareness of his involvement in events seems to mitigate the risk.
It's hard to say that you "enjoyed" a book with such a grave subject -- but I have re-read "War" several times, fascinated by the nuances and the lessons it offers. Junger is one of my favorite writers, and this ranks with "The Perfect Storm" on my list of great reads.