October 10, 2010

On the Shelf - WAR

As we enter the first week of the tenth year of the war in Afghanistan, one could be forgiven for experiencing a bit of fatigue when it comes to the reporting on the subject.  Indeed, that we’ve been fighting a dual-pronged war in the far reaches of the earth for nearly a decade and it’s not above the fold each morning is a testament to just how widely the fatigue has spread. But I read a book a few months ago that served as an poignant reminder about who exactly is over there, and what exactly it is that they’re up to: WAR, by Sebastian Junger.

If you opened a paper or turned on a television at all this summer it’s impossible that you didn’t read or hear about this book. Junger, alongside photojournalist Tim Hetherington, embedded himself amongst a single platoon in Afghanistan for a year, even-handedly documenting the effects of the war on people… and in this case the people in question are the Americans soldiers. He eloquently sidesteps the politics-of-the-moment and manages to paint a rather vivid portrait of life for these young men stationed in the Korengal Valley, “sort of the Afghanistan of Afghanistan,” as he describes it. “Too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, too autonomous to buy off.” 

It’s a hell of a read, and honestly I debated whether or not to even write about it. I’ve got my opinions, certainly, but having never served in uniform and at times shamed by the guilt of that – my reaction to a veteran is typically 99 parts appreciation, one part cowardice – I just felt woefully unqualified to convey my thoughts on the topic. But after reading this article in the Wall Street Journal, which reminded me of this post from The Trad, well, my irritation ranneth over.

Menace in the Med - USS Forrestal, 1964-65
the Old Man at war... 18 y.o.
And for those of you who want more (or who may just be literarily disinclined) check out the accompanying documentary, Restrepo.

Photo Credits: The Daily Beast

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