Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I get 1 out of 7

They NYT has an interesting bit the other day titled, "A Well-Written War - Told in the First Person."

The author ties it together with this premise.
As part of a modern all-volunteer force, they explore the timeless theme of the futility of war — but wars that they for the most part support. The books, many written as rites of passage by members of a highly educated young officer corps, are filled with gore, inept commanders and anguish over men lost in combat, but not questions about the conflicts themselves. “They look at war as an aspect of glory, of finding honor,” said Mr. O’Brien, who was drafted for Vietnam in 1968 out of Macalester College in St. Paul. “It’s almost an old-fashioned, Victorian way of looking at war.”

The writers say one goal is to explain the complexities of the wars — Afghan and Iraqi politics, technology, the counterinsurgency doctrine of protecting local populations rather than just killing bad guys — to a wider audience. Their efforts, embraced by top commanders, have even bled into military reports that stand out for their accessible prose.

“The importance of good official writing is so critical in reaching a broader audience to get people to understand what we’re trying to do,” said Capt. Matt Pottinger, a Marine and former reporter for The Wall Street Journal who is a co-author of the report “Fixing Intel,” an indictment of American intelligence-gathering efforts in Afghanistan released last month. “Even formal military doctrine is well served by a colloquial style of writing.”
Of the seven they recommend (in the carousel below) - Nathaniel Fick's is the only one I have read, and I highly recommend it.

Have any of you read the others?

Not on Amazon but listed are the reports,
- FIXING INTEL: A BLUEPRINT FOR MAKING INTELLIGENCE RELEVANT IN AFGHANISTAN By Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Capt. Matt Pottinger, and Paul D. Batchelor. Read report.

- AN UNRELEASED ARMY HISTORY ABOUT THE JULY 2008 BATTLE OF WANAT By Douglas R. Cubbison. Read the draft report (pdf).


Ben Ulfers said...

I have read both Joker One and The Unforgiving Minute. Both were very good books and The Unforgiving Minute was easily in the top 5 of the books I read in 2009 and is the better writen of the two. However Joker One is more focused on the Iraq War, where The Unforgiving Minute is a story about the author's entire life, starting right before he goes to Westpoint and continuing up until the point where he left the military.

On the Whole The Unforgiving Minute is the better of the two but both are more than worth the time.

As an aside have you ever thought about starting a Goodreads.com account or making an Amazon.com list for all the books that show up on the blog? I think it would be nice to have an easily accessible list of all the books that have been mentioned or recomended on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I am reading The Unforgiving Minute.  While an excellent read, it is more a look at Mr. Mullaney's search for himself and attempt to cast himself as an outsider (which I don't think he was, being #2 in his class at West Point and a Rhodes Scholar).  I will let you know what I think in whole once I complete it.  I am always wary when reading memoirs because while they can be great source data, they may miss some of the historical context.

bullnav said...

That last one was mine...

Anonymous said...

I've read One Bullet Away, The Unforgiving Minute, and Joker One.  I thought all were great, the last two I devoured in a single sitting each, but my favorite of the three, by far, was The Unforgiving Minute.  I'd say it was the best book I read last year, but admittedly only about a third of the book was about the author's time in Afghanistan.  About a third was about West Point, and a third about his Rhodes Scholar experience, with the final third about his time in Afghanistan.  Most of the books that have come out so far have been from folks who have done one tour, or wrote following their first tour in Iraq or Afghanistan.  As the wars continue to drag out and more folks have multiple tours, it will be interesting to see how the ideas of war as an opportunity to challenge oneself, turns into something else as folks see more and more costs of wars that some may begin to view as lacking an honorable cause.  I think that as we shift from deploying with the goal of "winning the war" to a more realistic appreciation of the situation that were looking to leave something good enough behind to sustain itself as we withdraw, is going to make it harder for folks to cope with losses as something that was worth it.  I think about the books Jonathan Shay wrote about Vietnam Vets dealing with what we now call PTSD, and wonder how long before we start to see memoirs talking more about reintegrating after the war, than their experiences with the war itself.  With our nation having so little focus on what our military is doing overseas right now, this might be just as jarring for folks as their war experience.  By the way, there is also a fantastic book called, In a Time of War, about members of the West Point class of 2002, that is just heart wrenching.  The writing is so well done, that the author really lets you get to know some of these guys and girls, and even though in the back of your head you know that some of them are likely to die, so you sort of ready yourself for what's to come, when it happens, it's actually very difficult to read about.  And to read about the families left behind by these young officers, it's tough.  The last thing I'll recommend is a movie, and of all the Iraq/Afghanistan movies that have come out, it is head and shoulders above the rest--Taking Chance.  If you haven't seen it, you must.  An HBO movie, available on DVD and iTunes.  Kevin Bacon won a Golden Globe for his role in it.  Hard to watch yet impossible to look away, all at the same time, Taking Chance is about a Marine Officer, played by Bacon, who volunteers to escort the body of a fallen Marine home for burial.  Can't recommend it strongly enough.

Mike said...

Unforgiving Minute is GREAT.  As an Lt (albeit one in the AF...but who currently leads 100+ people and takes his job seriously) it was a great read of the lower level end of things.  Starting as a cadet, moving on to a scholar, and ending as a platoon commander is a lower ranking story arc than you commonly see in officer memoirs, at least up until the past couple years (Fick, Exum, etc.)  Doesn't hurt that Mullaney can write quite effectively (he was a Rhodes Scholar, after all).

Here, Bullet is a little different, since it's poetry.  If you don't like poetry, I wouldn't recommend it.  However, if you do, it is quite good.  Not necessarily enjoyable, because the subject matter is war and he does not pull any punches (nor should he) but it is a good read.  I actually inadvertently got two copies when I bought mine off Amazon; gave the second one to a Marine OIF vet friend of mine who I thought would appreciate it...good reviews from him as well.

Chap said...

I find it interesting that the guys who wrote stuff like "Just Another Soldier" never got much press.

Note the leaning of most of these.  The guy who wrote "Unforgiving Minute" was on the Obama campaign.  "Here, Bullet", Love My Rifle" and "My War" were darlings of NPR when they came out and I don't think their Iraq War stances hurt (by the way, Turner's got a gig at the New York Times' Opinionator blog).  Fick is CEO of CNAS.  I find that an unusual data point.

"Unforgiving Minute" is okay and an enjoyable read for what it is, but "Starship Troopers" did it better and shorter.

NineLives said...

Unforgiving Minute is sitting on my shelf, I'll get to it as soon as I'm done with the book I am currently reading, "Counterinsurgency In Modern Warfare".  I am not advising against nor recommending "Here Bullet", it is one of those books that if you are at a Barnes & Noble at 5:51p.m. (1751 for you military types) with nothing better to do, grab a venti (or whatever a "large" is) coffee and finish the book before you finish the cup.