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Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,147 ratings  ·  84 reviews
A fascinating, unprecedented first-hand look at the soldiers on the front lines on the Global War on Terror. Plunging deep into midst of some of the hottest conflicts on the globe, Robert D. Kaplan takes us through mud and jungle, desert and dirt to the men and women on the ground who are leading the charge against threats to American security. These soldiers, fighting in ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,082)
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Steve Sckenda
This is an eye-opening account of how the U.S. protects its interests in remote corners of the globe using small Special Forces teams to train "client armies" of friendly governments to fight proxy battles against local forces of anarchy and terror in places like Yemen, Columbia, the Phillipines, Mongolia, and Ethiopia. This is done without much attention and is more cost-effective and successful than the large-scale mobilization tactics used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
5 Stars! I hated this book…at first. Why? I bought it in 2007. Kaplan’s main thesis is that we are an American Empire, in the vein of Roman, Venetian and British empires. At first I thought, oh shit, Kaplan has gone Code Pink on me. I just retired from the military and he is calling me an imperialist. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. I put the book away until now. But this is a fantastic story that demanded to be read. Kaplan’s main theme:

“Imperialism is but a form of isolationism, in which th
Aug 24, 2009 Andrew rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: foreign policy realists, imperialists, and of course... grunts
I've read some less than favorable reviews of this book, mostly by those types who find the idea of American imperialism an unsavory concept. But the fact of the matter is the American empire is a reality and has been going strong for half a century. Rather than waste time equivocating over what does or does not equate to imperialsim, Kaplan dives right in visiting forward operating bases (FOBs) where Army Special Forces, FAOs, and Marines are projecting American soft power. Instead of occupying ...more
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
Hectic read, absorbing, masterfully told. This is one writer I am going to follow from now on. Whatever you think of his style, you are not going to go bored reading his stories. I was happily surprised to notice his lack of arrogance -as one would expect to find from a reporter among this class of American heroes. The stars are the real soldiers, the military. Kaplan is there alright, but in the background.

I loved the chapters on Colombia and the Philippines. But everything was very vivid and e
David P
Robert Kaplan is a writer in the mold of young Winston Churchill, marching towards the sound of the guns and reporting from where the action is. His "Imperial Grunts" follows the wide-ranging activities of US elite troops--the "special forces," the "green berets" and in the last part, the Marine Corps in Iraq. If the US has taken on the role of a global police force--the way the British Empire once tried to do--here are the cops on the beat.

In addition to Iraq, he visits Yemen, Colombia, the P
Jul 20, 2013 S. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: hookah
I [am] a citizen of the United States and a believer in the essential goodness of American nationalism, a nationalism without which the security armature for any emerging global system simply could not have existed. I did not doubt that at some point, perhaps as soon as a few decades, American patriotism itsel might begin to become obsolete. I also had no doubt that we were not there yet. I had served in the military: in the Israeli rather than the American. In Israel in the 1970s, finding life
Glenn Hyman
There is much to like about this book, and some things that irritate. The chief point that America is an empire is well taken, even though I don’t think there are many serious people that dispute it. My favorite reference in the book is to the notion among the military about how amateurs discuss strategy, while the real professionals discuss logistics. This applies to business, politics and really any leadership endeavor. Developing the strategy is easy compared to the tough work of implementati ...more
Jim Salisbury
A tough read, at least compared to the other Kaplan book I read, To the Ends of the Earth, but a comprehensive look at the American military on the ground. I found myself with very mixed feelings regarding our covert operations throughout the world many of which seem to have backfired. As a fan of openess and honesty the lying and treachery of political intrigue are pretty distasteful stuff. Liberty and Freedom as buzzwords playing second fiddle to political necessity defined by those with money ...more
An amazing read. Kaplan follows the US military around the world in the years immediately after 9/11.

Kaplan spends time in Colombia, the Philippines, Mongolia, Yemen, Djibouti, Afghanistan, and Iraq, in addition to several US military bases. In each country Kaplan embeds with US troops, either Marines or Special Forces as they work to maintain the US's status in the world.

The most interesting chapters were the ones following Special Forces troops in Colombia, the Philippines, and Mongolia, pla
Easily one of the best books of it's type that I've read in years. If you're a senior NCO or an officer who is planning NCOPD or OPD and want to include a book in there I think you'll find the one you're looking for right here. Kaplan traveled with Army Special Forces in the Philippines, Yemen, and South America, with an Army Foreign Area Officer in Mongolia, and with the US Marines in Iraq during OIF I/II during the Battle of Fallujah.

His incites are keen and the depth and breadth of this work
Here's a book that both de-mystifies and confirms the nagging suspicion (and often denial) some of us have about our country's imperialistic tendencies. The book is fascinating on many levels. It is a confirmation of those imperialistic leanings, suggested by Kaplan's constant comparisons to British Imperialism and to various foreign policy objectives put forth by suits in DC. But Kaplan's expose of the real-world mechanics of our foreign policy is where the book gets really interesting. Kaplan ...more
Steve Grant
The vast net of US military commitments around the globe is largely invisible to the american taxpaying public - and Imperial Grunts does a good job of taking the reader on a tour of this world

I found myself reassured by what I read here - the military on display here is smart, quiet, adaptable, and effective. This is the way a global war against non-state actors needs to be fought.

But I found my enjoyment of this new world, and all its very important foreign policy implications, clouded by Kapl
This book was alright, but I felt a bit like reading about a tour guide. I enjoyed the authors thoughts, about America as an empire, but I would have enjoyed more focus on that subject. I found the authors digging into the personal history of mentioned individuals interesting, but again distracting from the original theme. Very interesting about the varied areas we have engaged terrorism/insurgencies. I felt the author spent far too much time focused on his experiences and therefore rank this on ...more
Kelly Crigger
Imperial Grunts is fantastic. It's quite simply an accurate and articulate account of the warrior breed still roaming the earth told by one with a flair for the interesting and head for the captivating. Kaplan takes the time to get to know his audience, explaining in great detail the unfamiliar surroundings of the US military in austere environments while not patronizing the reader. He also delves into the personal lives of the men he drank and fought with over the course of many months and brin ...more
Feb 19, 2008 James rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in geopolitics and/or the U.S. military
A great survey of a lot of what our armed forces are like and what they're doing around the world today. The American system is an empire in all but name, and this book recognizes that reality and shows how that empire is being maintained and extended by many means.

A fascinating look into what's going on in many regions where our government has decided it has a stake in events and into the personalities and lives of some of our people in uniform. This is the first book of an intended series repo
Feb 26, 2007 Shaun rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who embrace the "suck" and those who want to know what it is...
Now, the book isnt about how much things may suck in the military, it's more about how things really go down on FOBs in the deployed SF community.

If you dont know anything about the military, READ IT. If you think you know everything about the military, READ IT.

Having been part of it for only 4 months, I find Kagan's descriptions of SF soldiers extremely accurate, and their missions as well.

He tells it how it is. I find myself saying,"Mmmmhmm, praise it sister."

For real though, this is the first
This is the kind of book I usually read in a sitting. And, I have been following Kaplan's pieces in the Atlantic (some of which make up this book) with great enthusiasm for several years. But, golly, I'm on page 72 and I just can't be fucked. It's boring, and I hate to say it, sloppy. Gonna give it a go just to learn about what the A teams did on Sept 12, but my initial impression is that this is jingoistic second-rate John McPhee.

I made it through the Colombia section then left this book behind
Mark Peterson
4 stars for a fascinating look at the Current American solider, especially the Special Operations Forces (SOF). Shows that the SOF community is much more than the "kick the door down, kill-em" stereotype. The author builds a compelling case that America is the last great "Imperial" force, much like the ancient forces (i.e., Rome, Great Britain).

I did not like his political lean at the end of the book or his cheap shot/blame at Evangelical Christians. It wasn't necessary and I don't agree that a
Imperial Grunts is a sympathetic look at the modern American military with a particular focus on special forces and marine troops and NCOs. Kaplan contrasts the modern, global, imperial American forces with earlier stages in American military history along with other military traditions and experiences through history. His focus is global and indigenous. He focuses both on the culture of the American military and the regions (usually unstable) where American military activity is most pronounced ...more
Jim Welsh
I hope this book is available in a thousand years when someone wonders what it was like to soldier in the American military.
Really enjoyable read that focuses on the experiences of non commissioned officers that are stationed in countries that, while not on the radar screen of most Americans, are crucial to the security and interests of the country (think Indonesia).

The key takeaway from this book for me was that the strength of the American Army is not in the generals or the foot soldiers, but instead in the well trained, high performing NCOs who are given the flexibility to make independent decisions based on the
-Aprendiendo, tendiendo puentes y proyectando.-

Género. Ensayo.

Lo que nos cuenta. En palabras del propio autor, “…del mantenimiento imperial sobre el terreno y la búsqueda de un manual para su aplicación”, aunque creo que de los varios volúmenes que ha escrito Kaplan al respecto es el menos centrado en el imperialismo directamente (aunque algo hay) y más en ciertos tipos de profilaxis, simbiosis y tesis geopolíticas norteamericanas.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

-Aprendiendo, tendiendo puentes y proyectando.-

Género. Ensayo.

Lo que nos cuenta. En palabras del propio autor, “…del mantenimiento imperial sobre el terreno y la búsqueda de un manual para su aplicación”, aunque creo que de los varios volúmenes que ha escrito Kaplan al respecto es el menos centrado en el imperialismo directamente (aunque algo hay) y más en ciertos tipos de profilaxis, simbiosis y tesis geopolíticas norteamericanas.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

The American Conservative
'Kaplan, who once served in the Israeli military, celebrates the heroism, selflessness, and ingenuity of America’s armed forces. What’s more, Kaplan’s adoration of these men is infectious: you come to like nearly every person profiled in this book. But while his writing is evocative and fresh, and while his respect and admiration for America’s fighting men is genuine, Kaplan’s approach to U.S. foreign policy is dangerously flawed.'

Read the full review, "Like Tourists With Guns," on our website:
Pretty good. Interesting review of Special Forces deployments in Yemen, Mongolia, Philipines, Colombia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kaplan makes interesting points about the increasing regional and class differences in the military. Also his discussion of the nature of empire is interesting, not saying I agree, but he makes some interesting poins.

Kaplan's biggest problem is himself. He often lets his own political bias show and makes broad generalizations, he has a few interactions with decent contra
Neat look into the American Empire. Interesting for me to learn about the various places we have 'Boots on the Ground' that Id never knew about, Mongolia, Africa, etc. The author makes a fairly convincing argument for that fact that we are a global empire by simply visiting these various countries and embedding with the troops we have there making sure Washington's will and policies are spread and adhered to. We definitely have our fingers in many pies around the world. Overall a good travelogue ...more
One of my favorite books on my shelf, it spends much of its time brooding about American Imperialism and casting an optimistic view on the realities of the dominance of a single hegemony.
A great in depth look at the vastness and extent of the American military and the world it has to manage, told from the perspective of those troops on the ground, whether in Columbia, Mongolia, Africa, The Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This book will fundamentally impact the perspective of anyone who wants to better understand the quiet work our military professionals do day in and day out all over the world, and it will clearly illustrate for readers the necessity for American ...more
a solid book that has Kaplan a little too embedded and a little too jingoistic. However he has some strong ideas for what is right and what is wrong with the US military. In general its important to remember that Kaplan is pro soft empire (and possibly someone who sees the Indian wars in s very pro USA light)

While there was a lot of good in this book - it was far empire for me to really get into. Additionally it was very military term heavy - in a boring way. Still for a peek into the
An outstanding book! Very easy read with some real life, down to earth characters.

VERY interesting insight into some forgotten (by me) areas of the world (Yemen, Columbia, Mongolia...), what has happened there in the past, and what's going on around the world today.

Changed my mind about the U.S. as an imperialist nation and what that means.

Surprisingly the author keeps making some major grammatical errors (he's not trying to be Elmore Leonard) and for a geography geek has made one glaring error
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Robert David Kaplan is an American journalist, currently a National Correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly. His writings have also been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs and The Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers and publications, and his more controversial essays about the nature of U.S. power have spurred debate ...more
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