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In his breakout bestseller, The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger created a wild ride that brilliantly captures the awesome power of the raging sea and the often futile attempts of humans to withstand it Los Angeles Times Book Review Now, Junger turns his brilliant and empathetic eye to the reality of combat the fear, the honor, and the trust among men in an extreme situation whose survival depends on their absolute commitment to one another His on the ground account follows a single platoon through amonth tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan s Korengal Valley Through the experiences of these young men at war, he shows what it means to fight, to serve, and to face down mortal danger on a daily basis This book was a gripping and moving read for me Junger renders an account of the experience a platoon stationed at a remote outpost in northern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border He calls it the tip of the spear in the war effort because the units stationed in this mountain valley, the Korengal, sawcontinuous fighting than elsewhere in the war Junger was physically embedded with these men for five one month periods between 2007 and 2008, and he was clearly emotionally embedded too This book was a gripping and moving read for me Junger renders an account of the experience a platoon stationed at a remote outpost in northern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border He calls it the tip of the spear in the war effort because the units stationed in this mountain valley, the Korengal, sawcontinuous fighting than elsewhere in the war Junger was physically embedded with these men for five one month periods between 2007 and 2008, and he was clearly emotionally embedded too This was a dangerous work, as he was exposed to near misses from rifle shots and mortar rounds at camp and on aggressive patrols and was subject to an IED attack of his vehicle on a convoy run The experience allowed him to capture significant insights on the ability of soldiers in combat to harness the band of brothers mentality and surmount fears and work effectively as a team in the face of intense dangers Firebase Restopo Named after a beloved medic who died, the base served to prevent use of the valley for staging attacks on the nearby the Pech River Valley, where a larger effort was devoted to efforts of preventing Taliban insurgents and arms from entering the country This slice of life of one platoon of 20 in the Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team reveals a lot about war in general and the special features on this particular war The difficult terrain and logistical challenges of this area contributed to the inability of Alexander, the British, and Soviets to subdue the region All the advanced technology the Americans could put at play here, Apache helicopter gunships, Stealth bombers, advanced artillery, and unmanned drones, could not dispel the need for soldiers in place to intercede with the passage of Taliban forces from Pakistan and to work to win over the hearts and minds of local Pashtun populations needed to support them As American citizens who put these young men in harm s way, we owe it to them to honor their sacrifice and learnabout their efforts This book, as well as the documentary Restopo and recently released Korengal that Junger produced with Tim Hetherington, are monumental achievements in fulfilling that need Combat was a game that the United States had asked Second Platoon to become very good at, and once they had, the United States had put them on a hilltop without women, hot food, running water, communication with the outside world, or any kind of entertainment for over a year Not that men were complaining, but that sort of thing has consequences In a every crude sense the job of young men is to undertake the work that their fathers are too old for, and the current generation of American fathers has decided that a certain six mile long valley in Kunar Province needs to be brought under military control Nearly fifty American soldiers have died carrying out those orders I m not saying that s a lot or a little, but the cost does need to be acknowledged Soldiers themselves are reluctant to evaluate the costs of war for some reason, the closer you are to combat the less inclined you are to question it , but someone must That evaluation, ongoing and unadulterated by politics, may be the one thing a country absolutely owes the soldiers who defend its borders.Junger strives hard to be objective, but he can t help identifying with the soldiers He earned their respect and was paid with honesty He found they all wanted to be there He was subject to no censorship in any way He makes a point of the difference from the situation with the Vietnam War Vietnam was considered a morally dubious war that was fought by draftees while the rest of the nation was dropping acid and listening to Jimi Hendrix Afghanistan, on the other hand, was being fought by volunteers whoor less respected their commanders and had the gratitude of the vast majority of Americans back home If you imagined that your job, as a reporter, was to buddy up to the troops and tell the real story of how they were dying in a senseless war, you were in for a surprise The commanders would realize would realize you were operating off a particular kind of cultural programming and would try to change your mind, but the men wouldn t bother They d just refuse to talk to you until you left their base.Junger takes pains to explain how ideology or motivation for manly glory plays no part in accounting for why the men here achieved what is judged as courage What Junger witnessed, backed up by historical studies, confirms that debilitating fear happens less when the soldier has a sense of active control or choice in his fate, even when objectively the danger is high Conversely, the random risk associated with roadway IEDs defeat these advantages, and all one s skills mean nothing Love for his fellow soldier is the most potent factor in his view to account for why so many are willing to risk their own safety and lives to come to the aid of another in trouble What he saw and what he shares from research reveals how most PTSD outcomes arise from the experience of the injury or death of a platoon mate rather than threats or injury to himself The Army might screw you and your girlfriend might dump you and the enemy might kill you, but the shared commitment to safeguard one another s lives is unnegotiable and only deepens wit time The willingness to die for another person is a form of love that even religions fail to inspire, and the experience of it changes the person profoundly What the Army sociologists, with their clipboards and their questions and their endless meta analyses, slowly came to understand was that courage was love In war, neither could exist without the other, and in a sense they were just different ways of saying the same thing Junger s reporting makes these capabilities to act in ways contrary to drives for individual survival come powerfully alive In interludes, he explains well the history of these ideas He also pauses in the high octane narrative to provide useful summaries on human physiology of soldiers in combat From training and personality, some excel in this business of killing and avoiding being killed Junger identifies the scope of the addictive jolt and secret pleasures many soldiers experience in this work There is some sense of potency in the rush of success at riding the wave on the cusp of death and surviving War is supposed to feel bad because undeniably bad things happen in it, but for a nineteen year old at the working end of a.50 cal during a firefight that everyone comes out of okay, war is life multiplied by some number that no one has ever heard of In some ways twenty minutes of combat islife than you could scrape together in a lifetime of doing something else Combat isn t were you might die though that does happen it s where you find out whether you get to keep on living.These guys are the ones who have trouble accommodating to the mundane concerns civilian life, where success takescumbersome efforts They are the ones who re enlist for a job they know they can do well, achieve a special sense of belonging, and reap the thrills of effective action Junger looks at the details of the brave and resourceful actions of Staff Sergeant Giunta who was awarded a Medal of Honor in 2010 Under a well executed enemy ambush that split his platoon and killed two, Giunta raced into a hail of bullets to retrieve an injured man and coordinated a critical reuniting of their forces As President Obama notes at the award ceremony, Giunta echoes Audie Murphy from World War 2 in stating that he didn t do anything special and that he was just doing his job to assure that fallen comrade was not left behind To probe deeper for the how and why of this capacity, Junger constantly walks the boundaries between seeing the affinity of some men for combat in pathological terms such as addiction and accounting for it as something tied in with core characteristics in human nature Collective defense can be so compelling so addictive, in fact that eventually it becomes the rationale for why the group exists in the first place I think almost every man at Restopo secretly hoped the enemy would make a serious try at overrunning the place before the deployment came to an end It was everyone s worst nightmare but also the thing they hoped for most, some ultimate demonstration of the bond and fighting ability of the men.He would have done better to leave it there It is fair to speculate a bit on linkages to the natural systems of reward in the brain, but his trying to explain the motivations for combat to dopamine systems is a circular explanation that adds nothing to understanding in my view And to point toward a likely evolutionary basis in brain wiring for collective defense to the point of suicidal action went too far in leaving the impression there is consensus on war and humans as killer apes in being biologically determined There is plenty of innovative achievement in this book in its elucidation of men in combat without reaching for dubious ultimate explanations Sebastian Junger Just Say NoYoung men have fantasies about being soldiers But whatever it is they imagine combat to be, it isn t this the unremitting discomfort of heat, fleas, and filth the obvious futility of all their efforts to do a job which is impossible the unrecognized stress of being a continual target of bullets from the enemy, hate and suspicion from the local populace, and disdain by their superiors the inevitable incompetence of those in command of a situation which they never comprehend and Just Say NoYoung men have fantasies about being soldiers But whatever it is they imagine combat to be, it isn t this the unremitting discomfort of heat, fleas, and filth the obvious futility of all their efforts to do a job which is impossible the unrecognized stress of being a continual target of bullets from the enemy, hate and suspicion from the local populace, and disdain by their superiors the inevitable incompetence of those in command of a situation which they never comprehend and the knowledge that the experience of numbness one is undergoing is fundamentally incommunicable to anyone who isn t sharing it.But young men seem never to get the eternally recurring message This experience is likely to damage you beyond repair it will haunt you and be the source of life long regret If you survive it with your body intact, your mind will have absorbed not just your own pain and degradation, but that of your friends and perhaps even your enemies This pain and degradation will not make you a better man it will make you an invalid As Junger reportsBy the time the tour was over, half of Battle Company was supposedly on psychiatric meds The further one is from those who are shot at and shoot back to kill, thefantasy takes hold Of course, the majority of a military force never actually know what s going onNearly a fifth of the combat experienced by the 70,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan is being fought by the 150 men of Battle CompanyOne need not go far up the chain of command to get the pointIt s only on rear bases that you hear any belligerent talk about patriotism or religion Senior officers, faced with the unfamiliar, are at best incompetent and at worst seriously deludedthe war also diverged from the textbooks because it was fought in such axle breaking, helicopter crashing, spirit killing, mind bending terrain that few military plans survive intact for even an hour The laws of unintended consequences constitute the unchanging physics of war War is the only demonstrable perpetual motion machine as it creates the conditions necessary for its continuance war came to the Korengal when timber traders from a northern faction of the Safi tribe allied themselves with the first U.S Special Forces that came through the area in early 2002 When the Americans tried to enter the Korengal they met resistance from local timber cutters who realized that the northern Safis were poised to take over their operation For both sides, the battle for the Korengal developed a logic of its own that sucked inandresources and lives until neither side could afford to walk away Frankly I am exhausted hearing the old shibboleths about war evoking the best human traits of compassion, self sacrifice, courage, and solidarity Junger has a familiar anecdote Moreno put his hands on him and started to pull him out of the gunfire A Third Squad team leader named Hijar ran forward to help, and he and Moreno managed to drag Guttie behind cover before anyone got hit By that time the medic, Doc Old, had gotten to them and was kneeling in the dirt trying to figure out how badly Guttie was hurt Later I asked Hijar whether he had felt any hesitation before running out there No, Hijar said, he d do that for me Knowing that is the only thing that makes any of this possible Exactly It is the intense caring for each other by soldiers in combat that makes the whole enterprise of war possible The entire complex machine of the military has been geared to generate and to exploit this fundamental force of fellow feeling among men who come largely from the margins of society and who have no clue about the process to which they re being subjected Indoctrination is the official term brainwashing is theaccurate To me this is at least as obscene as the violence that it permits This is the open secret of all armies everywhere It is also a source of immense guilt, regret, and psychosis among those who are its product By distorting and intensifying the natural sympathy among men, the military creates zombies who are emotionally neither dead nor alive.Is it too much to hope that, despite their hormonal disturbances, someday young men who are encouraged to wage war will tell the old men who insist on war to fuck off One word WAR and that doleful eye glaring out at you Powerful cover, so s the book Picked it because it promised to get me inside the head of a soldier An honest, no holds barred account of the day to day lives of soldiers serving in the intensely hot military zone of Afghanistan s Korengal Valley Riveted from page one my mouth was actually hanging open reading this seriously It s gritty and raw it s also pretty funny at times these guys have a truly twisted appreciation of the abs One word WAR and that doleful eye glaring out at you Powerful cover, so s the book Picked it because it promised to get me inside the head of a soldier An honest, no holds barred account of the day to day lives of soldiers serving in the intensely hot military zone of Afghanistan s Korengal Valley Riveted from page one my mouth was actually hanging open reading this seriously It s gritty and raw it s also pretty funny at times these guys have a truly twisted appreciation of the absurd Expected and it delivered stories of brutality, praise for the toughness bravery of soldiers didn t expectWar is a lot of things and it s useless to pretend that exciting isn t one of them It s insanely excitingThis book is SOAKED in testosterone, a bunch of cowboys on some kind of crazed adrenaline rush half the time in abject misery, the other having literally a blast with guns He covers it all, the atrocious living conditionsSummer grinds on a hundred degrees every day and tarantulas invading the living quarters to get out of the heatthe terraintoo remote to conquer, too poor to intimidatethe mechanics of warfare,the choreography of combatbut it shone talking about the men JonesHe roamed Restrepo like some kind of alpha predator, exuded a strange, sullen anger that never quite came to the surface He was fond of giving someone a dismissive look and saying, Just a mess A soup sandwich Patterson Just 30, the men call him PopsI never saw him look even nervous during a fight, much less scared He commanded his men like he was directing traffic O Bryne What a screw up, I liked him immenselyHe wasn t big but it was like he was made out of scrap metal Maybe take it with a grain of salt I ve been pondering this book for a couple of weeks, still am There s an awful lot of chest thumping going on that I m good bit men put out even when they re ripping apart inside Maybe Junger just bought into there whole macho act hook, line sinker Can t blame him, they ve honed it to perfection Still, convinced it s gotta be deeper than this Junger s a civilian and a journalist to boot Wouldn t he be the last guy they d pick to spew there guts to Meanderings I m clueless about war so pay no attention, the only soldier I ve ever known was my dad, a WW2 Vet Proud of having served he returned a bitter, changed man Refused to talk about the war to anyone, period not even Mom Interesting that he welcomed Vietnam draft dodgers into our home, I d love to know what, if anything, he had to say to them So I m taking this at face value Junger s fabulous spin on what makes a soldier tick 4 stars War is my second book by Junger, and I found it to be even better than Tribe He has a thoughtful, though also analytical approach to this subject and his style of writing is engaging, reading almost like fiction If only it were fiction War is an unflinching portrait of a reality human s have contended with and participated in almost since the dawn of civilization He details his own experiences as a reporter, his relationship with the soldiers, their attitudes, fears, the trust and brotherhoo War is my second book by Junger, and I found it to be even better than Tribe He has a thoughtful, though also analytical approach to this subject and his style of writing is engaging, reading almost like fiction If only it were fiction War is an unflinching portrait of a reality human s have contended with and participated in almost since the dawn of civilization He details his own experiences as a reporter, his relationship with the soldiers, their attitudes, fears, the trust and brotherhood between them and even small pleasures that make the precarious situations in which they find themselves bearable Junger honors those who fight, as he follows them over the course of 15 months in Afghanistan I found this to be a truly fascinating, moving read and not one I will be quick to forget This is an author I will return to, I am sure of that.Findreviews and bookish fun at Another reviewer on here said wryly that this book taught her a lot about men A valid reaction, but it still made me wince It s as if I were to say I d learned a lot about women from, like, The Devil Wears Prada or something You want to jump up and shout, But we re not all like that Or if we are, we re not like that all the time In a way, though, War isn t a bad advertisement for what used to be called the masculine virtues The men profiled here are incredibly brave, thrillingly competent Another reviewer on here said wryly that this book taught her a lot about men A valid reaction, but it still made me wince It s as if I were to say I d learned a lot about women from, like, The Devil Wears Prada or something You want to jump up and shout, But we re not all like that Or if we are, we re not like that all the time In a way, though, War isn t a bad advertisement for what used to be called the masculine virtues The men profiled here are incredibly brave, thrillingly competent and, within the confines of their unit, totally accountable In other words, they re sort of what your dad was like before you got to know him better Except that these guys are twenty year old kids, for the most part In that respect, the book is also a pretty good advertisement for the US army, which, say what you will, still knows how to turn borderline delinquents into very fine soldiers Of course, there s a big OTOH looming here If the army straightened these young men out to some extent many were just a drinking binge away from prison when they signed up 15 months in a combat zone, amid a tiny, inward looking fraternity, has pretty much ruined them for anything else Most of them are smart and self aware enough to realize this, but helpless to do anything about it.Maybe the scariest insight provided by War isn t that combat is horrific we already knew that but that it s dangerously seductive Deep down, many soldiers simply love to fight Well, simply is the wrong word there s a ton of fear and guilt mixed in, but like any twisted relationship, this one s based on a perverse attraction As Junger puts it War is a big and sprawling word that brings a lot of human suffering into the conversation, but combat is different Combat is the smaller game that young men fall in love with, and any solution to the human problem of war will have to take into account the psyches of these young men These hillsides of loose shale and holly trees are where the men feel not most alive that you can get skydiving but the most utilized The most necessary The most clear and certain and purposeful If young men could get that feeling at home, no one would ever want to go to war again, but they can t.Speaking as a formerly young man, I think that s a pretty astute observation Then again, I ve never fired a shot in anger with anythingpowerful than a squirt gun, so what do I know I hate to get all effete and artsy fartsy about such a manly book, but War does have one or two aesthetic shortcomings I came to it fresh from Rebecca West s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which is basically the K2 of literary non fiction, so I was sometimes frustrated by Junger s pedestrian prose, which goes hand with his journalistic matter of factness There s nothing wrong with journalism and only a truly hardcore journalist would even consider spending a year in the shittiest shithole in all of Afghanistan but I can t help wondering what a Rebecca West or, better yet, a DFW would ve done with this material Granted, the result would ve been a 1000 page behemoth replete with footnotes and obsessive ruminations on PCV tubing or whatever, but it just might have represented some kind of definitive summa of our times Onething It may or may not be relevant, but my mom just borrowed War from me This is alarming for a number of reasons, none of which I ll go into now She thinks it s pretty cool, in case you re wondering I kinda doubt she s looking for a definitive summa of our times , though, so take that into account I tend to avoid non fiction books about war but I m so glad I read this one Junger s account of a platoon in Afghanistan is educational and scary The question that resonated the most with me is what place do these soldiers have in our society when coming home The strengths they exhibit in combat mostly translate to weaknesses in everyday life There is no happy ending in War. This incredible piece of journalism, written by Sebastian Junger, should be read by each and every citizen Mr Junger spent 15 months with a platoon whose base was in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan, known as the Korengal Valley The base was known as the Korengal Outpost KOP Mr Junger s investigative piece was written for Vanity Fair magazine I did not want to inject my personal or political opinions into this review however, I ve come to the conclusion that my personal and politica This incredible piece of journalism, written by Sebastian Junger, should be read by each and every citizen Mr Junger spent 15 months with a platoon whose base was in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan, known as the Korengal Valley The base was known as the Korengal Outpost KOP Mr Junger s investigative piece was written for Vanity Fair magazine I did not want to inject my personal or political opinions into this review however, I ve come to the conclusion that my personal and political opinions and feelings are inseparable from who I am, and how I ultimately felt about this book stemmed directly from those feelings and opinions Mr Junger, however was not so biased he reported exactly what he saw, experienced and what this group of soldiers related to him in the period of time in which he was embedded with them There were several parts to this book One part dealt with the mechanics of war all of the military terminology, weaponry,ammunition and all the logistics associated with warfare Mr Junger was very thorough he described everything from hand grenades to M4 assault rifles that fired 203s bullets that explode on impact and travel at the rate of 2,000 mph Mr Junger also provided many physics lessons throughout this book explaining that these particular bullets travel faster than the speed of sound so the gunshot actually arrives a full second before it can be heard by the human ear He provided geography lessons about the terrain of Afghanistan The topography is brutal and rugged and reading about it explained why no military power dating back to Alexander the Great has ever been able to get a foothold in this country.The parts of this book that were most interesting to me though are the sociological and psychological aspects of war the psychology of a soldier Mr Junger talked about and followed closely this particular small group of soldiers and what struck me is that the personal and character qualities that make a good soldier do not necessarily make a good law abiding citizen These men spend months and sometimes years living with adrenaline rushes, fear and even complete boredom It seemed to me , through the interviews Mr.Junger did with these particular soldiers, that a person cannot, over a long period of time, continue on this continuum of extreme emotions without lasting psychological effects The most startling aspect of Mr Junger s book was to read his conclusion which he arrived at through his interviews of the soldiers themselves after they had returned home He writes Civilians balk at recognizing that one of the most traumatic things about combat is having to give it up Throughout history, men have come home to find themselves desperately missing what should have been the worst experience of their lives To a combat vet, the civilian world can seem frivolous and dull, with very little at stake I really thought about this statement and although at first, it seemed strange, it began to actually make some sense Through Mr Junger s writing, it became clear to me that what happens between these people is the development of a brotherhood an intimacy that cannot possibly be replicated in civilian life These soldiers rely on each other to simply stay alive which is probably one of the most profound things human beings can experience.I found this book to be very illuminating and it provided a lot of insight I was looking for into the social dynamics that occur among soldiers in combat What Mr Junger s book also provided was, I believe, a wake up call to all citizens and the politicians who seem to so casually send these awe inspiring human beings to war We all need to really be aware of and try to understand the effects that war has on these soldiers It is obvious to me, that these men and women need support for their very special needs when they return home And it is our duty and responsibility to no longer turn a blind eye to these needs Thank you for your service is a nice sentiment but is not nearly enough 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 In that sense it s muchlike football than, say, like a gang fight The unit that choreographs their actions best usually wins They might take casualties, but they win The choreography you lay down fire while I run forward, then I cover you while you move your team up is so powerful that it can overcome enormous tactical deficits There is a ch 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 In that sense it s muchlike football than, say, like a gang fight The unit that choreographs their actions best usually wins They might take casualties, but they win The choreography you lay down fire while I run forward, then I cover you while you move your team up is so powerful that it can overcome enormous tactical deficits There is a choreography for storming Omaha Beach, for taking out a pillbox bunker, and for surviving an L shaped ambush at night on the Gatigal The choreography always requires that each man make decisions based not on what s best for him, but on what s best for the group If everyone does that, most of the group survives If no one does, most of the group dies That, in essence, is combat The story here has nothing to do with politics, macro foreign policy, or terrorism, per se Junger looks at the experience of a small band of soldiers at the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, in the eastern reaches, in a valley notorious for its peril to combatants What matters here are the mechanisms, physical and emotional, that bind the soldiers to one another What they consider funny, what topics are off limits, how they rely on each other, criticize each other, support each other, how they cope with or thrive on the reality of war Sebastian Junger image from Popmatters.comThis book is as much a look at war through the lenses of psychology and anthropology as it is a portrait of front line combat A quick look at the Sources and References, rich with articles from publications like Neurocardiology Letters, American Psychological Association Monitor, Gerontologist, Proceedings of this and that, shows that there is fargoing in War than adrenaline, blood, and bullets Not only does Junger examine the significance of group interactions among company members, but looks to what the roots of this construction might be in the development of homo sapiens as a species He looks at how group cohesion and situational preparation affect fear, and how, for some, war is less a horror to be avoided and forgotten than the pinnacle of one s existence A scene from the film RestrepoThe book is divided into three sections, Fear, Killing, and Love The first is predominantly a familiar sort of war reportage, well done, but nothing new The latter sections look beyond the obvious and get into some very interesting material War is a very smart book that will take you places you might not expect to go It is well worth the journey.In 2010, the book was made into an outstanding documentary film, Restrepo EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s personal, Twitter and FB pages This is a phenomenal book and should be required reading for all the knee jerk liberals like me who have had nothing but disdain for the military What impressed Junger the most during his several months series of embedments with the US army in Afghanistan was the closeness of the men in his units These soldiers didn t talk about bringing democracy to Afghanistan or any other political or social raison d etre for their being in what could be described as a Hell on earth Their only goal was to This is a phenomenal book and should be required reading for all the knee jerk liberals like me who have had nothing but disdain for the military What impressed Junger the most during his several months series of embedments with the US army in Afghanistan was the closeness of the men in his units These soldiers didn t talk about bringing democracy to Afghanistan or any other political or social raison d etre for their being in what could be described as a Hell on earth Their only goal was to protect each other from dying even at the risk of dying themselves This was the theme throughout the book and fortunately, Junger is better at describing what he lived through than I am at summarizing what he wrote He recounts being with a sixteen man unit in the Taliban infested mountains of Afghanistan under unbelievable conditions Most of the time, there was one hundred degree plus heat, travel for miles on foot with 75 100 pounds on your back, very few showers, no hot meals and little sleep This was all in addition to Taliban fighters trying to kill you at any opportunity There was an adrenaline high for the soldiers involved in combat and always the fear that you might let down one of your comrades and be responsible for his death There was a great deal of war in War, but Junger doesthan bloody battles and provides an enlightening account of backgrounds and psychological make up of the men he served with as well as history, geography, tactics, weapons resulting in a spellbinding book which, ironically, I finished on Memorial Day