on June 21, 2010
Junger has done a masterful job of telling the 'boots-on-the-ground' story in Afghanistan. He gives us the true brother-in-arms picture, not easy to relate until you've been a member of the brotherhood. The first three-quarters of the book builds a full and complete vision of the daily encounters with the enemy, the personal deprivations arising in an unforgiving land, the occasional boredom between firefights, and the tactical abilities of the Taliban. It's not until the latter part of the story that we begin to hear some of Junger's mental, emotional and olitical impressions. Those thoughts are both revealing and frank and I found them easy to believe, as well as agree with what were personal opinions.
Since the book included some materials previously published in Vanity Fair, some sections were repeated in more than one place within the book, something I found a bit annoying. other than that, it's going to be an important record of that time.
This is a great read, both intimate and frightening. It serves as an important source of facts about our front- line warriors and the horrors they face for us.
on July 12, 2010
Sebastian Junger has given us a rare look at the realities of combat in the first decade of the 21st century. This picture is not one of full-scale war between major powers but that of the grinding counter-insurgency fighting that marks this era. This form of warfare demands a constant courage from the soldiers involved and Jungers shows us how these young soldiers respond, day by day, week by week. Junger is a rare journalist who volunteered to share the discomfort and danger with these men in a remote Afghan valley, revealing the power of comradeship in sustaining courage and fighting spirit. This book should become a classic in the study of combat psychology and among those books which have attempted to discover the sources of courage while under fire.Courage Rewarded: The Valour of Canadian Soldiers Under Fire 1900 to 2007,Firing Line,The Anatomy of Courage: The Classic WWI Study of the Psychological Effects of War
"And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life." -- 1 Kings 15:6 (NKJV)
Sebastian Junger's War is the most chilling nonfiction book I've read about 21st Century war. Whether you favor or oppose American military involvement in Afghanistan, you need to read this book to understand the nature of what violence is being waged there.
The combat units that Mr. Junger describes are in essence sitting ducks, located deep in "enemy" territory where a single sniper located higher up in the hills can wreak havoc on the military outposts. Once an engagement starts, the Americans can bring in overwhelming fire power, but there's a delay before it arrives. In the meantime, the pinned down troops can blast away . . . probably not doing much damage but at least forcing others to keep their heads down. The effect is similar whether it's a local boy hired to fire a couple of shots for $5 and then take off or whether it's the beginning of a serious assault. Fear goes through the roof. Men die. Deep bonding occurs among the survivors. Combat teamwork improves. Gradually, it becomes a preferred way of life. That's probably the most surprising message of this book. Terrifying combat becomes something to be sought out for its highs.
Mr. Junger balances a riveting tale with many valuable perspectives on how frightening it is, crossing the accustomed barrier into being someone who kills, and the deep love that develops among comrades.
It's a lot to ask of anyone to serve in such perilous conditions. It's more than doing your duty and risking your life. It's taking on a life that you may not be able to put down, even if you survive.
Thank God for the brave warriors who have taken up these seemingly overwhelming duties so we can be safer. The next time you see someone in an armed forces uniform, be sure to thank them for their service and ask about what they have been doing in a caring way.
Sebastian Junger's book "War" is a memoir of his experiences with the Second Platoon of Battle Company during their tour of duty in the very violent Korengal Valley in Afghanistan between June of 2007 and June of 2008. It's an interesting journalistic choice where he makes no attempt at objectivity. Mr. Junger develops a personal relationship with the men of the Second Platoon that he is not adverse to describe his affection. His war is one where young men discover profound meaning in their every action which is a stark contrast to their lives back home. War is filled with boredom and adrenalin rushes that have no comparison in civilian life. When one of the men on leave in Italy is asked if he would return to one of the most dangerous outposts in the war, he reponds, "I'd take a helicopter there tomorrow. Most of us would." The soldiers' commitment in battle is not to their country or a cause. It is to each other for whom they will sacrifice their own life to save. "War's" strengths are also its weaknesses. By speaking in the first person, we feel Mr. Junger's love and affection for these young men through their fears and exploits and most specifically, their comradery. Yet, I would have liked to learn more about the men. What made them tick? Why did they sign up? What's their back-story? Nevertheless, his approach is interesting and definitely worth the relatively short read. His story brings up the larger question of what society is going to do with a growing population of unemployed young men searching for meaning in their lives. Surely, there's a better alternative than war.
on June 17, 2010
Sebastian goes into the heart of"the beast" Lives the life,endures the hardships of the troops,and reports on all phases of brutality of war.There are times when you can almost "taste the dust" and "feel the cold" First time in years that I read a book for the second time within days of reading it for the first. Highly recommended
When I finished reading this book I lingered on the final words the author had to say to one of the soldiers he was embedded with in Aghanistan: "You got me there, O'Byrne; you got me there, brother. Maybe the ultimate wound is the one that makes you miss the war you got it in." That kind of deeper understanding could only have come from someone who spent some time with a group of soldiers experiencing the intensity of combat. To read that also made me sad however. It made me think that some of the war's worst casualties are not necessarily those who were killed but the survivors,who after coming back to the United States, find themselves stuck trying to fit in but feeling they cannot, and are ultimately drawn back to the war, where in the company of their brothers, they find their purpose. Those who do not return to the war oftentimes have their own difficulties i.e. finding a job in a poor economy, adjusting back to family life they left behind, trying to make up for lost time in a world that does not understand them. Sadly too many veterans end up taking their own lives.
I think that their are vast differences between the opinions of rank-and-file civilians who never spent a day of military service in their life, those who served in the military and went to combat and those from "Coward's Land" (as O'Byrne called it) "a place where guys who have never done anything but fill out paperwork can boss around guys who have fought for their country." Some who read the book have criticized it for being "disjointed", "tossed together", not flowing the way it should. To those individuals I would say that war itself is not some neatly organized sequence of events but chaotic, oftentimes ugly and unfair set of events to which applying everyday reason is simply not possible. I grew up the daughter of Lithuanian refugees who saw their share of what war could do to a country. I served in the United States Navy during peacetime but later, as a Department of Army social worker, have been in a position to try to assist returning veterans of the wars in both Iraq and Aghanistan. I honor and respect their special brotherhood and sisterhood and although sympathetic can never truly know what it would have felt to actually be there. I DO know however of what Sebastian Junger speaks when he describes that "Self sacrifice in defense of one's commmunity is virtually universal among humans, extolled in myths and legends all over the world, and undoubtedly ancient. No community can protect itself unless a certain portion of its youth decide they are willing to risk their lives in its defense". Junger adds: "Considering the extreme nationalism of the Nazi era, one might expect that territorial ambition and a sense of racial superiority motivated most of the men on the German line. In fact, those concepts only helped men who were already part of a cohesive unit; for everyone else, such grand principles provided no motivation at all. A soldier needs to have his basic physical needs met and needs to feel valued and loved by others. If those things are provided by the group, a soldier requires virtually no rationale other than the defense of the group to continue fighting." So we see repeated through history.
This is a great book. It brings the insanity of experiencing a war and the strength it takes to survive it (both physically and psychologically) to light in a way that few books have been able to in the past. (other than perhaps the classic volume THE AMERICAN SOLDIER:COMBAT AND ITS AFTERMATH edited by sociologist Samuel Stouffer and referred to by Junger in this book). You do need to be prepared to think however. It leaves a lasting impression.
It has been incredibly difficult to find meaning in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan at the political, strategic, and tactical levels. That is why Junger's gritty proximity to some of the worst fighting in the latter country has resonated both with this book and the documentary, Restrepo. As he found, "The moral basis of the war doesn't seem to interest soldiers much, and its long-term success or failure has a relevance of almost zero." That is because they are living in the moment at an incredibly heightened state of awareness of their own mortality and the pressure of not letting their buddies down.
This book is quite simply about what drives men to wage war on the front lines or "Stripped to its essence, combat is a series of quick decisions and rather precise actions carried out in concert with ten or twelve other men." I was amazed to find that the soldiers Junger became so close to "never talked about the wider war - or cared." What drives them is the loyalty between that small band - the desire for all to support each other and to survive.
The environment is claustrophobic even though the fighting took place in the sizable Korengal Valley. That is because the U.S. troops were confined to small camps that were constantly surrounded and harassed by the enemy. Conditions are extremely difficult, the tension palatable, and the futility ever-present. Their lives are boring but unexpectedly punctuated by action of great terror, confusion, and loss. This difference between garrison duty and real combat have been a solider's lot for centuries and Junger depicts it well.
The ultimate cost of these conflicts will not be known for years, however, Junger ends the book with a concern carried by many who have fought that "The ultimate wound is the one that makes you miss the war you got it in."
on October 26, 2010
War is without reservation the best book on the genre. Broken down into three parts: Fear, Killing & Love, it details the physical events and mental hurdles men facing combat have to prepare for and endure.
Mere words would not do this work enough credit. It should be mandatory reading for every person who has not served. I could never answer the question "that job (soldiering) sucks - tired, dirty, facing death, why would anyone do it?". The answer was too engrossing, too dynamic to respond with a couple of sentences beyond "well people like you won't, so people like me will do it for you 'cause we can hack it."
The answer is in War.
When Restrepo (the documentary film which won best documentary at Sundance) is released by National Geographic my copy will have been pre-ordered for two months.
on November 27, 2013
The author manages to convey something of what it was like to fight in Afghanistan and gives an excellent analysis of why young men perform so well in an increasingly unpopular war.
on May 4, 2013
The 13th Valley set in Afghanistan. Recommend to all comfortable Americans. Junger does it again. The politicians that send them should definitely read this.