Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

War by Sebastian Junger

At its most elemental, war is not about two nations trying to defeat each other. It's about one group of (mostly) men trying to kill another. In this account of his year with a U.S. platoon in the Korengal Valley, a particularly bloody piece of eastern Afghanistan, longtime war correspondent Sebastian Junger eschews politics and grand military strategies for a soldier's-eye view of combat. Survival is tantamount; screw everything else. We get the droning boredom felt by soldiers stuck in the middle of a craggy valley, interspersed with the sudden terror of a Taliban attack. (Much of this material also appears in Junger's documentary Restrepo, shot with photographer Tim Hetherington.) Junger divides his book into three sections whose names (Fear, Killing, Love) sum up the experiences of a soldier since time immemorial. It's that last one — the love and devotion between comrades — that provides the book's most moving moments. Junger also plays witness to history: War tells part of the tale of Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta, whose actions in the Korengal Valley made him the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.