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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book Review: WAR by Sebastian Junger

WarWar by Sebastian Junger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Junger, more famous for his book The Perfect Storm, was an embedded reporter for several long stays over the course of fifteen months with a platoon at a remote outpost in Afghanistan. His close-up look at the boys/men of the platoon and the gritty reality of their war makes this one of the best books on modern armed conflict I've read.

His view of the soldiers is sympathetic but not blind to individual flaws. His main focus is on how these soldiers hold up under stress, and how a bond is forged whereby they will risk their own lives for others without thinking.

Individual soldiers are painted in broad brush strokes and we don't get to know much about their lives before the war. As we find out, that is mostly irrelevant, it's their life in this one valley getting shot at all the time that's the only one that matters to them. The ending is the toughest part, where we see how these young guys have to adjust to normal life again. Most fail, and end up reenlisting in the army they hate.

I could have used a bit more detail about some of the men, as well as definitions of some of the countless acronyms the armed forces seem to like so much. Also, the operations map in my mass market paperback edition is so small as to be all but unreadable. These are minor points, however. If you want to understand the psychology of war, this is a great place to start.

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