War by Sebastian Junger

April 12th, 2011 at 9:58 am

I too was disappointed and, quite frankly, utterly shocked upon realizing that this was not a book about the perennial funk rockers infamous for such groovy hits as “Low Rider.”

War by Sebastian Junger

“Society can give its young men almost any job and they’ll figure how to do it. They’ll suffer for it and die for it and watch their friends die for it, but in the end, it will get done. That only means that society should be careful about what it asks for.”

This book, from the author of The Perfect Storm, is about combat. Not war.

Sebastian Junger puts himself on the tip of the fucking that is the American military machine currently thrusting into the deep oily swaths of Arabian pussy. And god bless him. He embeds with the very best jism of our society’s ejaculate.

“Wars are fought with very heavy machinery that works best on top of the biggest hill in the area and used against men who are lower down. That, in a nutshell, is military tactics, and it means that an enormous amount of war-fighting simply consists of carrying heavy loads uphill.”

“War” is pure and true, touching on both the logistical realities of modern warfare, as well as its philosophical underpinnings. It is a griping, fierce read. But it sometimes misses the point with too much journalistic focus:

Junger relates that, “The market town of Nagalar was a mile to the east and boasted a “men’s club,” whatever that meant; at night something akin to Christmas lights flashed weirdly over the rooftops.”

What??? That’s it? Let’s go! To the titty bar in Nagalar!!!! You shitty, shitty journalist.

There is bonding and camaraderie and love and devotion. Friendship and family. Triumph and terror. Despair and delight.

Junger gets to know the men and describes their plight with stunning simplicity and passion. Hemingway, your seed has sprung. But it is Junger’s analysis and observation that comes with cool cutting, slicing through the heat, blood, and death.

“The idea that there are rules in warfare and that combatants kill each other according to basic concepts of fairness probably ended for good with the machine gun.”

And I know what you’re thinking: “WHAT ABOUT THE 2ND AMENDMENT!!!”

And I agree, this book is a stirring rebuke of the second amendment’s validity.

But let’s let him continue, as he does, later:

“As a result, much of modern military tactics is geared toward maneuvering the enemy into a position where they can essentially be massacred from safety. It sounds dishonorable only if you imagine that modern war is about honor; it’s not. It’s about winning, which means killing the enemy on the most unequal terms possible.”

Damn fine writer.

Ah, poetry. Blunt brutal reality, stirringly told:

“War is a lot of things and it’s useless to pretend that exciting isn’t one of them. It’s insanely exciting.”

So let the drumbeat roll, the machine gun rattle.

“The machinery of war and the sound it makes and the urgency of its use and the consequences of almost everything about it are the most exciting things anyone engaged in war will ever know. Soldiers discuss that fact with each other and eventually with their chaplains and their shrinks and maybe even their spouses, but the public will never hear about it. It’s just not something that many people want acknowledged. 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 a life multiplied by some number that no one has ever heard of.”

And then somber inevitability:

“Suddenly it seems weak and sad, a collective moral failure that has tricked me – tricked us all – into falling for the sheer drama of it. Young men in their terrible new roles with their terrible new machinery arrayed against equally strong young men on the other side of the valley, all dedicated to a kind of canceling out of each other until replacements arrive. Then it starts all over again. There’s so much human energy involved – so much courage, so much honor, so much blood – you could easily go a year here without questioning whether any of this needs to be happening in the first place.”