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Friday, February 19, 2010

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel, 2009, * * * *

In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq which he called “the surge”. He said: “Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences.” A skeptical nation listened and among those listening were the young, optimistic army infantry soldiers of the 2-16, the battalion nicknamed "The Rangers". About to head to a vicious area of Baghdad, they decided the difference would be them. For the 2-16, waning violence still meant wild firefights, nerve-wracking patrols through hostile neighborhoods, trash piles that could hide an IED, and dozens of comrades killed and maimed. Finkel's firsthand view is limited, however, as the soldiers' perspective is one of constant reaction to attacks and crises with little sense of exactly how and why the new American counterinsurgency methods calmed the Iraqi maelstrom or what constitutes a success. This book combines the action of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down with the literary brio of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried,  and is an unforgettable work of reporting. David Finkel has produced a story not just about the Iraq War, but of all wars.  Finkel's firsthand description presents an honest, painful and beautifully rendered account of the American experience in Iraq.  .

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