Find me online!

twittergoogle plusemail

December 12, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

Having just finished Suicide Kings, the latest "Wild Cards" novel (another excellent book), I picked up Robert Kaplan's Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground.  Haven't gotten into it much yet (page 5, I think), but I'm really looking forward to it.

Robert Kaplan writes for The Atlantic magazine, and he's an avid fan of the US military, which makes him a-ok in my book (seriously, when was the last time you heard that expression?).  He was for the Iraq invasion, though he has since decided (or at least as of the writing of this book, as I don't know how he feels now) that it was the wrong thing to do.  But he's always pulling for the troops, the men and women on the ground who are doing the fighting for our country.

Back in 2005, I read his first book along the same lines, Imperial Grunts, and reviewed it for Curled Up With a Good Book.  The premise behind these books is that Kaplan goes and visits the troops on the ground, and most of these troops are in far-away places that we don't even realize that US troops are there.  In Imperial Grunts, for example, he visits the lone Special Forces soldier in Mongolia, Lt. Colonel Tom Wilhelm, who is almost single-handedly responsible for the US relationship with Mongolia.  (Obviously, since this book was written in 2004, that may very well have changed by now).  He visits the troops who are helping the Colombian army in the Drug Wars, or manning station houses in the Horn of Africa.  He gets their insights into what they're doing, but also into how they're feeling.  These are the men and women who implement the policy of civilians in Washington.  What do they really think about it all?  What are their frustrations?  What are their successes?

I opened my review with a quote from pg 258:
"I was not concerned about crossing a professional boundary.  My goal as a writer was simple and clear.  I wanted to take a snapshot for posterity of what it was like for middle-level commissioned and non-commissioned American officers stationed at remote locations overseas at the beginning of the twenty-first century: a snapshot in words that those sergeants and warrant officers and captains and majors would judge as sufficiently accurate, so they might recognize themselves in it.  It should be something, I hoped, that they could give to their grandchildren, saying, 'That's sort of like it was, and like those countries were.'  It did not mean that I ignored tough issues and problems.  It did mean that I wrote about their problems and frustrations, informed by their perspective."
Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts is much along the same lines, though he visits Air Force and Navy people as well as the Army, Marines, and Special Forces.  I'm confident it will be just as fascinating as Imperial Grunts was.

I'm heading home for Christmas next Friday, and I've found the day of travel is the perfect day to read a non-fiction book, because there's nothing else much that will distract you from it.  Kaplan's book will be marvelous in that role, assuming that I don't plow through it before Friday.  However I read it, I'm sure it will be great.


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.