The Good Soldiers is a moving account of the experiences of an infantry battalion deployed to Baghdad as part of the surge. The story provides a useful snapshot of what the battalion, 2/15, experienced without much editorial commentary from the author. The author, a journalist embedded with the unit for much of its deployment, does not cheapen the narrative with self-aggrandizement; in fact, he remains practically invisible. He does an excellent job of balancing the bravery of the soldiers with the brutality of combat. The story does not overly glorify war, but is also does not come across as preachy pacifism. The patriotism, camaraderie, and dedication of the 2/15 Rangers is inspirational, while the accounts of wounded unit members recovering at home or of a soldier's wife in the hospital awaiting a call from her husband after giving birth to their first child...only to get instead a call notifying her of his death earlier that day, drive home the tragedy of war.
My one complaint with the book is that it is just a snapshot. While it claims to present the facts without agenda, the frequent juxtaposition of President Bush's or Gen. Petraeus' statements about the success of the surge with the less than successful experiences of the 2/15th give the impression that the surge was not successful and that statements to the contrary were politically motivated. In fact, the disconnect lies in the fact that the surge provided the troops needed to take advantage of the Sunni Awakening, in which Sunni nationalist insurgents turned against al Qaeda in Iraq and began cooperating with US and coalition forces. Obviously, the effects of this switch--and thus the surge--were most felt in Sunni areas. The 2/15th was deployed to Shia areas of Baghdad, and thus didn't enjoy the full benefit of the surge.
Married (1975), Vietnam-era (not in-country) vet (USN Retired), 4 sons, 11 grandkids, love riding my Harley.
Nothing spectacular about the book but does give a good account of the advance on Baghdad and some of the feelings of the young men that were sent over there to do the dirty work.
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I cant say that I enjoyed this book, because it isnt that type of book. It is a plain telling of some of the events and people thrust into war situations. I did find myself drawn into the stories of what happened over there. Nothing glossy or overdone, just a basically descriptive series of events that happened to a group of our soldiers and some of the things they encountered. I really found the stories of the casualties tugging at my heart.
This is one of those books that has far too many 5 and 1 star reviews when the correct number is 3.
I feel like too many people, including the author of the book, but also all these professional reviewers (slate non-fiction book of the year...), are viewing the decision of whether or not to read this book, and then whether or not to praise it, as somehow taking a great moral stand in support of the troops. Reality check: it's not. I /support/ the troops, in the sense that I don't really do anything for them, except vote for people who vote to fully fund the veterans administration, etc. Spending your time listening to a discussion of how they clean their uniforms after they get body parts blown into them doesn't really make you any better of a person than not doing so. The writer keeps trying to impart weight to his prose, and frankly it gets really tedious and irritating.
The question should be is this book interesting to listen to. And there I have to say the answer is somewhat. If for some reason you're really interested in the experience of US troops during the counterinsurgency years of the Iraq war, perhaps because you know someone who was there, I don't know of a book that tells this story better. But if you're just looking for something interesting, perhaps something about war, I don't really recommend this. Maybe Imperial Life in the Emerald City or Generation Kill, both of which are about Iraq, but neither about this particular topic.
The accounts told in the midst of the soldiers made their story very real to me.
This book really helped me to understand just how dangerous their job was. And it was also frustrating to see that the high command put them into such danger to accomplish so little.
I believe I first heard about this book on a podcast, and was very interested. It is definitely a great listen. The narrater is very good, as is everything else about this.
The story will focus around an infantry unit commanded by Ralph Kauzlarich during the “surge” (2007-2008)…who by the way, was the Ranger Regimental XO for Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. Kauzlarich conducted the second investigation into Tillman’s death. I have no respect for our government using Tillman’s death as advertising…but I couldn’t help but feel poetic justice as Kauzlarich faced the real impact of command…the wounded, the dead, the stress. The book is a “not so pretty look” at the war in Iraq…I commend Finkel on his work, and the time he spent…slow at times, I still must put into the MUST read category!
This should be required high school reading. A great first hand account of the war experiences in Iraq just a few short years ago. Highly recommmend.
I listen while doing those tasks when I don't need to be mentally engaged all the time. If I miss something I listen all over again.
Thought their story was interesting, but seemed overly focussed on the futility of one small segment of the war, and the self-centered commander of that one spot. Seemed like the author tried to stear the readers opinion on what to think about the war..