Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Review: War, by Sebastian Junger

If you are looking for one of those sober policy analysis books that considers the situation in Afghanistan from 30,000 feet you will be disappointed by Mr. Junger's new book "War." His book is the dirty and dangerous ant's view of Operation Enduring Freedom. He made 5 trips to the Korengal Valley region of Eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border.  He spent many long days and nights living with an Army platoon at their lonely outpost.

The monkeys chatter at them from the wire, the Taliban take pot shots at them from the surrounding mountain tops and everyone counts the days until they can rotate out of the valley. This is the day to day reality of the war on terror: dusty out posts, dangerous patrols and sharp and deadly fire fights. Junger does not intrude on this reality with commentary on grand strategy and the young soldiers he talks to seem united in their indifference to international politics. To paraphrase President Obama - it's above their pay grade.

many will appreciate the details provided about weapons, equipment and living conditions, but this can get a little repetitive and there is little about combat tactics and procedures to help fill out the narrative. Overall, however, Junger tells an effective story most Americans have heard little about and shows that today's soldiers seem like the same soldiers we have read about in accounts from World War Two and Vietnam and there is something reassuring about that.

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