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Imperial Grunts - two thumbs up!

chocol8fiend was absolutely right about Robert Kaplan's Imperial Grunts - where most books are tolerable brain candy, this is fine cheesecake.

Kaplan's book examines the culture and society of what are arguably the best of America's troops on the front lines in the war on terror: the Army's Special Forces teams and the rifle companies of the Marine Corps. This is not a sociology text, though; Kaplan tells his tale by recounting his experience with spec ops troops and Marines from Colombia to the Philippines, in the embassy at Ulaan Baatar, and in the dust of the Horn of Africa, finishing in the streets of Fallujah during the abortive first battle there. He spares no detail when describing the dead hand of the Cold War's bureaucracy and doctrines, the muddled politics of joint service operations, and the shortcomings of the American media when it comes to its effects on the fighting in such places as Colombia and Iraq. Frankly, I was surprised to learn that Kaplan writes for The Atlantic, which is not known for its sympathy for the red states or the military, and where P.J. O'Rourke sticks out like a sore conservative thumb. There's a lot to be learned from Imperial Grunts, and it says much for Mr. Kaplan's humility that he avoided prefacing his book with the classic salutation from Kipling - because it surely would have fit, and fit well.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
Imperial Grunts
Glad you enjoyed it. Hog Pilots and Blue Water Grunts was also good but sort of continuation of imperial grunts.

The military fell in love with kaplan with Balkan Ghosts, which was basically all they had to go on when clinton go us involved over there in the mid ninties.

What made imperial grunts so interesting to me was that it was written pre - surge.
Kaplans 2 main points about the war in Iraq where
1) we need more troops
2) need to move out of the big secure fortress like areas run by generals into small outposts that were better connected to the local surroundings with lower ranking officers and senior nco's relied upon to make decisions in the field.

In essence he spelled out what the solution was pre surge. I believe the number of journalist that came to similar conclusions wouldnt have filled a phone booth, even if Kaplan was all ready in the phone booth.

This is why I like Kaplan so much.
Oct. 6th, 2008 02:27 am (UTC)
Re: Imperial Grunts
Oh, some of the sequels are out already? EXCELLENT.

AYC regarding the surge. What surprises me, especially in view of the Army & Marines' obsession with studying history, is that this didn't occur to anyone before Petraeus forced the issue. This is the strategy (as Kaplan observed) that won the Philippine Insurrection, Vietnam, and a bunch of other dirty little wars in between, after all.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )