War, Sebastian Junger

WARWAR by Sebastian Junger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Junger’s ‘war’ is more ‘battle’ than war since he only talks about the situation of a platoon of soldiers stuck in a remote valley in Afghanistan who are apparently unaware of the sweeping developments in the bigger picture of war.

His soldiers are fighting machines, equipped with the brawn and the intelligence necessary to cope with an environment of severe and unpredictable gunfights interspersed with long periods of boredom. The ones with the bloodlust survive.

His soldier is not a person ideologically aware of the reasons for the conflict, and fights the war for a reason completely different to what its government fights it for.

The soldier is a being who has ended up at the army for one of various reasons, and only few of them are born from a deep sense of patriotism. the word patriot, in fact, is barely mentioned in the whole book. They fight for their ‘bothers’ or platoonmates and sacrifice their lives not for the American cause but for the cause of saving the lives of their fellow soldiers.

War gives them the exhilaration and high they know they will never get from anywhere else whilst also slowly tearing them apart psychologically. I think the lack of a non superficial overriding cause to fight slowly tears them up on the inside. They question God, and everything else and ask why? but can’t answer the question when one of their ‘brothers’ die. It’s kill or be killed in the Korengal valley, nothing else matters. or barely even figures.

This is a bloody disturbing state for a soldier. Junger spent 15 months among them and his love for them is apparent, this love also tears away the veneer of ‘objectivism’ that you may think such a ‘journalistic’ attempt should maintain. But objective and journalistic is what this book is mostly not, but that doesn’t mean to say it completely isn’t these things either.

It is just objective enough to present everything in a way that you can draw your own conclusions, and just about journalistic enough to be a calm narrative with a sufficiently high intellectual hand to give you enough material for analysis. Overall well written (i especially like how Junger has adopted the jargon ridden military panache to his language). It may not be a book you will like for the reasons you think you are supposed to like it for. But its surely something you can walk away with understanding from.

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