Ryan's Reviews > Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden
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's review
Nov 06, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: favorites, nonfic-war, nonfic-history
Read in January, 2000

A riveting hour-by-hour account of the United States' disastrous military intervention in Somalia in 1993. Over a hundred well-armed, well-trained US soldiers set out on what was to be a cut-and-dry mission, only to find themselves pinned down on the streets of Mogadishu, facing the unexpected wrath of thousands of Somali fighters. Though the mission was a disaster, leading to the much publicized videos of American dead being dragged through the streets, the army rangers skillfully and bravely fought their way out. Bowden picks several individual stories and follows them closely, revealing in heart-pounding detail the chaos and desperation of modern urban warfare.

Bowden also visits the chain of events leading up to the battle, although he doesn't devote a lot of attention to the politics of how and why the US ended up in Mogadishu. I got the impression that neither the military nor the politicians expected things to turn badly so quickly, and that no one had a good read on the Somalis themselves.

Of the battle itself, Bowden writes knowledgeably and concisely, with clear admiration for the soldiers, but also paints the Somali participants (whose stories are featured to a lesser extent) with sympathy and humanity. Sadly, many innocent people were killed in the crossfire, and Somalia suffered far more than our country from the fallout of that day.

I read this book a year or two before the Iraq invasion, and have often thought that the architects of the war might have learned a little more from the lessons here. Surely, Iraq will generate many comparable books in a few years.

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