This book is more than a narrative, more than a significant addition to the body of lore documenting the war in Afghanistan and the American military...moreThis book is more than a narrative, more than a significant addition to the body of lore documenting the war in Afghanistan and the American military experience in the wars of the early 21st Century. Tapper has created an experience – a compelling and spellbinding immersion into the small, intimate and endlessly dangerous little world that was Combat Outpost Keating in a remote, isolated and virtually unreachable mountainous area of Afghanistan. He starts with creation of what became COP Keating – and its neighboring Outposts and Observation Posts – the intended gains to be obtained by establishing the outpost in 2006, and the ensuing mission degradation and creep that inescapably followed as the indefensible post was manned (under-manned, as was the entire effort in Afghanistan) and defended over the following years. In Tapper’s words, “It was madness.”… to establish that outpost in that location. But it was done and the madness kept it open for the next four years, but only by the great sacrifice and loss of the troops deployed there.
Tapper details the experiences of the sequence of Army nits that subsequently manned and defended COP Keating and its environs. More importantly, he personalizes the individual solders of those units – the men and women who lived and fought and strove to make the effort that was COP Keating mean something. Tapper personalizes these soldiers in an honest and nonjudgmental manner that allows the reader to know them – to see them struggle, aspire, interact, live and fight and, some of them, die. It is a moving and often emotionally affecting experience. These soldiers deserve notice – they deserve respect, honor and admiration for what they did in the circumstances and under the conditions in which they had to do it all. Tapper’s narrative is one of respect, and honor. The narrative is one of courage, skill at arms, indomitable bravery under fire, and heartbreaking injury and loss along the way. It is also a remarkable exposition of combat and combat operations at the level of the foot soldier – what it is like, what it requires, how it happens. You can see it, and feel it – and hear it – through Tapper’s superb battle histories as they constantly bubble up and enmesh the troops of COP Keating – and their superb skill and courage in the face of unrelenting hostility and Afghani betrayal.
Tapper singularly recognizes and thus honors these incredible Americans throughout his historical narrative by naming them. At every point in the story that somebody outside the narrative is killed or dies, Tapper tells us who it was. Casualties that are tangentially mentioned in passing as Tapper correlates COP Keating history to events elsewhere in Afghanistan are identified, in footnotes if not in the main text. It is a refutation of the anonymity that these troops live, fight and die in – an anonymity imposed on them by the disgraceful lack of attention and deplorable ignorance rampant in our press and politicians and among our populace as a whole.
The costs of the American military efforts in Afghanistan are disturbingly clear, and frankly more troubling as a result. There is no way to read this book and not come away with an overwhelming admiration and affection for the men and women fighting it, an equally overwhelming sense of loss and waste for the casualties, and a hugely troubling sense that we have overstayed our time in Afghanistan and whatever we think we can gain there is simply not worth the price we are paying. If it were, we would be doing it differently – and better – than we are…
Just a great book! Start to finish – as much an emotional experience as a thought-provoking intellectual one - an education in the reality of war and the people who fight it.(less)
This is a first-person account, as related by a young Marine using the language of young Marines from the perspective of young Marines… it is not grea...moreThis is a first-person account, as related by a young Marine using the language of young Marines from the perspective of young Marines… it is not great literature or great writing. It is a compelling and engrossing story of a young man’s development into a combat Marine, and its culmination in the day-long battle in Afghanistan resulting in his award of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Meyer’s heroism, courage and determination under fire (he returned into the battle five times, fighting his way in and out to rescue wounded and retrieve dead) are simply astounding. The failures of command and the abysmal rules of engagement that prevented available support from being provided to Meyer and his comrades in the battle are inexplicable, inexcusable and ultimately responsible for the high casualty rate among US and Afghan troops, and the deaths of Meyer’s four fellow Marines. War cannot be fought from desks and with application of politically correct sympathies that simply ignore very real concerns of life and death among ones own troops and allies. It is beyond comprehension - beyond forgiveness. That said, this is Dakota Meyer’s story - and one can only reflect upon and repeat the sentiments embodied in the great Korean War movie “The Bridges at Toko-Ri”: “Where do we find such men?”
So long as we continue to find them among us, the Republic is and will be safe.(less)
This is an excellent and enjoyably readable account of the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina in 1982. It is predominantly a British perspect...moreThis is an excellent and enjoyably readable account of the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina in 1982. It is predominantly a British perspective, but the authors provide an admirable - albeit relatively limited - account of events from the Argentine perspective along the way. Although sympathetic to the British side of the conflict, they do not shirk from criticizing British mistakes and errors of decision making any more than they do regarding Argentine errors and misjudgments. This was a thoroughly unnecessary and avoidable conflict that was made necessary and unavoidable by the series of political, diplomatic and strategic actions and blunders over the 17-plus years preceding actual conflict. To cite but one example on each side, the British assumed that Argentina would move through three identifiable stages of increasing confrontation as a precursor to any actual invasion - then believed that assumption was real when it was not. When the Argentines actually invaded without having engaged in ANY of the assumed prerequisite stages, the British were unprepared - militarily, diplomatically and politically. On the other hand, the Argentines convinced themselves that Britain would not react with force at all, and Britain supported that misapprehension with its own political and diplomatic missteps. There were
The authors lay it out bluntly even as they narrate with admiration the daunting military challenges that the British faced and overcame - more or less successfully. And those challenges were severe - so severe that with more reflection Britain might not have even tried to retake the Falklands. She had no aircraft carriers - no air search radar - ineffective and unreliable communications - ineffective fleet air defense - insufficient air lift. It is a remarkable story of overcoming adversity and prevailing over materiel and capability limitations, horrendous weather conditions, and unforeseen weapon system deficiencies - although the inexplicable Argentine reluctance to take advantage of its own strengths and resources contributed mightily. It could have been a far more 'iffy' proposition for the British than it was had the Argentine Army and Navy shown half as much courage, determination and fighting spirit as did the Argentine air force.
This is yet another lesson in the inefficiencies, ignorance and incompetence of political and diplomatic functions that over time accumulate effects that ultimately ordain violent events that need not have happened. That is a lesson that never seems to take permanent hold. In an event, this is a superb starting point for anybody interested in the Falklands War and how it precipitated.(less)
This is a comprehensive, and comprehensively detailed, chronicle of events in Iraq from the latter years of the Bush administration into the Obama adm...moreThis is a comprehensive, and comprehensively detailed, chronicle of events in Iraq from the latter years of the Bush administration into the Obama administration. It is comprehensive and detailed to the point of tedium. My interest tended to wander. I think this is an important collection of data, but you have got to really be invested in that period to absorb and follow it all. I am not - my interest fluctuates with time and events. That makes this a long and occasionally arduous reading experience. There is less evaluation, analysis and correlation of events, decisions, cultures, revelations, etc. It is less a history in the sense I look for and more a detailed (am I repeating myself) chronology of memos, orders, personnel moves, meetings, interspersed with events and related developments. The authors had access to a vast amount of material - classified and much of it otherwise unreleased. But it is an overwhelming, and tedious (repeating myself yet again) reading experience.
Insider baseball, I suppose -- not for everybody. (less)
This reads more like a stream of consciousness journal of experiences, interactions, observations during the author's several years in Iraq and, to a...moreThis reads more like a stream of consciousness journal of experiences, interactions, observations during the author's several years in Iraq and, to a lesser degree, Aghanistan. He lives among the inhabitants and writes nicely of them and their lives. His account moves, chapter by chapter, from disturbing images and acts of depraved brutality to moments of routine humanity colored by the culture and ethos of Iraq to acts of heroism and sacrifice to mundane moments of unremarkable routine. Not much connects them except the ever present war, the inescapable propensity for violence due to the omnipresent fundamentalist Islamists and the author's presence. His courage is remarkable. His determination to see and hear and write what he sees and hears is seemingly inexhaustible. His account of his life and times in Iraq is more of a journalistic diary. There is little continuity - little perspective beyond his own perceptions and experiences - yet much to be learned about the Iraqi culture and the ruthless, merciless and rampant violence of the jihadis and the Iraqi insurgents, and the inescapable clash of cultures, if not civilizations - American presence versus Iraqi nationalism. He clearly looks upon the Iraqis in general with fondness - understandably so from his experiences. Yet when writing of the Americans and their actions/interactions in Iraq, he often evidences an air of disapproval that diminishes the otherwise objective narrative he provides. Given his apparent sympathies (and that is not a criticism) it is perhaps unavoidable in his writing.(less)