This is my fifth* "boots on the ground" perspective of soldiering in a post-9/11 world. It also the best of all those books at capturing the overall perspective of the solider in the fray and the personal sacrifice they make. However Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander's Account of the Hunt for the World's Most Wanted Man still resonates more than even this book given it reports on America's most critical singular and pivotal event post-9/11 with one exception.**
The Good Soldiers covers the Army's 2-16th which enters a subdivision of Baghdad as part of General Petraeus' "surge" strategy. It provides the perspective of the 16th's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, on down rather than their superior officer's perspective, or our politicians, or the Iraqis.
Mr. Finkel is such a good writer you can practically smell the place. He does an excellent job of describing the relentless pressure these soldiers face in a framework still relatively novel to war. A war with no real lines but instead one where your enemy is immersed within the general population where we pay the price for the loss of innocents, a reversal of past wars. The psychological toll of never knowing when your enemy will strike while being immersed in his territory is vividly described and is key to understanding the sacrifice our soldiers make. Its also critical context to help us better adapt our military to handle this sort of environment so future sacrifices are not so pervasively and voluminously paid.
Mr. Finkel also spends time on one of the costs of war that often go under-reported, that of the living casualties and the suffering they endure. Treatment of war-related wounds have immensely progressed to the point that wounds we could never imagine being survivable now routinely are. However the cost these surviving soldiers pay is often one of intense and constant agony with far longer more painful rehabilitations for some. This subject alone is worth the cost of admission where Mr. Finkel dedicates an entire chapter.
While my appreciation for the service our military provides has always been sky-high, The Good Soldiers provides me with a more informed appreciation of the sacrifice made by counter-insurgency troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially since I now have a far better perspective of the mental toll these wars have taken on the soldiers who deal with the enemy in a war fought house-to-house where one is surrounded with innocents.