Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
A thorough and linear look at the strangeness in the US military
on June 26, 2007
I'm not sure why the previous reviewer found the book so disjointed, as it was written in a very consistent manner. The book starts off looking at the First Earth Battalion, a New Age-esque movement within the US Army designed to create a class of non-lethal "Warrior Monks." The ideas that Jim Chiannon created for the FEB are instrumental for the programs described throughout the rest of the book. For instance, one of the "weapons" attributed to the FEB is music, designed to calm your opponent down and... surrender, I suppose. The FEB itself is a bit iffy when it comes to actual combat, as far as I know. Music was to be used as a method to heal rifts between combatants, according to Chainnon. Fast forward to the War on Terror, where music was/is being used as a method of torture in Abu Gharab and Gitmo.
The point of the book, as far as I was concerned, was to show how the US Army leadership in the post-Vietnam era was traumatised by war. The FEB is just one reaction to Vietnam. However, as time went on and more recruits joined the Army without knowledge of Vietnam, the more peaceful tactics and ideas were turned into weapons. What makes the book interesting is that the ideas are written in the form of a discovery narrative, whereby we learn the horrifying facts behind these military programs as the author discovered them.
The Men Who Stare At Goats is an excellent book for anybody interested in the strange ideas that the US military has investigated in the past fifty years in order to gain a leg up on competition. Two quick recommendations: Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond (Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain) is a very similar book that focuses on the CIA rather than US Military, and The Postman (David Brin) is a novel that incorporates some of the ideas from the First Earth Battalion - the film is mediocre, but the novel is excellent.