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The Good Soldiers

by

The Good Soldiers Cover

ISBN13: 9780312430023
ISBN10: 0312430027
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. He called it the surge. “Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences,” he told a skeptical nation. 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.

Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home forever changed. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel was with them in Bagdad, and almost every grueling step of the way.

What was the true story of the surge? And was it really a success? Those are the questions he grapples with in his remarkable report from the front lines. Combining the action of Mark Bowdens Black Hawk Down with the literary brio of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, The Good Soldiers is an unforgettable work of reportage. And in telling the story of these good soldiers, the heroes and the ruined, David Finkel has also produced an eternal tale—not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.

Review:

Starred Review. A success story in the headlines, the surge in Iraq was an ordeal of hard fighting and anguished trauma for the American soldiers on the ground, according to this riveting war report. Washington Post correspondent Finkel chronicles the 15-month deployment of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad during 2007 and 2008, when the chaos in Iraq subsided to a manageable uproar. For the 2-16, waning violence still meant wild firefights, nerve-wracking patrols through hostile neighborhoods where every trash pile could hide an IED, and dozens of comrades killed and maimed. At the fraught center of the story is Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, whose dogged can-do optimism—his motto is “Its all good”—pits itself against declining morale and whispers of mutiny. While vivid and moving, Finkel's grunt's-eye view is limited; the soldiers perspective is one of constant improvisatory reaction to attacks and crises, and we get little sense of exactly how and why the new American counterinsurgency methods calmed the Iraqi maelstrom. Still, Finkel's keen firsthand reportage, its grit and impact only heightened by the literary polish of his prose, gives us one of the best accounts yet of the American experience in Iraq. Photos. Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc)

Review:

"A superb account of the burdens soldiers bear." Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Review:

"Unforgettable — raw, moving, and rendered with literary control... No one who reads this book will soon forget its imagery, words, or characters." Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars

Review:

"Brilliant, heartbreaking, deeply true. The Good Soldiers offers the most intimate view of life and death in a twenty-first-century combat unit I have ever read. Unsparing, unflinching, and, at times, unbearable." Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle

Review:

“Finkel has made art out of a defining moment in history. You will be able to take this book down from the shelf years from now and say: 'This is what happened. This is what it felt like.'” Doug Stanton, New York Times Book Review

Review:

“Let me be direct. The Good Soldiers by David Finkel is the most honest, most painful, and most brilliantly rendered account of modern war I've ever read. I got no exercise at all the day I gulped down its 284 riveting pages.” Daniel Okrent, Fortune

Review:

“Over and over, I cried. I endured nightmares. I have read hundreds of books about war and almost two dozen books about the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them affected me. But none has affected me as deeply as The Good Soldiers.” Steve Weinberg, Kansas City Star

Review:

“Heart-stopping... captures the surreal horror of war.” Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Review:

“A whole generation of these men will (God willing) be coming home, and The Good Soldiers is as good a guide as I can imagine to who they'll be when they get here.” Devin Friedman, GQ

Review:

“[A] new classic... the reader cannot get enough... As a compelling read, The Good Soldiers is all good.” J. Ford Huffman, Military Times

Review:

“David Finkel has written the most unforgettable book of the Iraq War, a masterpiece that will far outlast the fighting.” David Maraniss, author of They Marched into Sunlight

Review:

“From a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at the height of his powers comes an incandescent and profoundly moving book: powerful, intense, enraging. This may be the best book on war since the Iliad.” Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book and March

Review:

“This is the best account I have read of the life of one unit in the Iraq War. It is closely observed, carefully recorded, and beautifully written. David Finkel doesn't just take you into the lives of our soldiers, he takes you deep into their nightmares.” Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble

Synopsis:

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR for:

The New York Times

Chicago Tribune

Slate.com

The Boston Globe

The Kansas City Star

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

The Christian Science Monitor

Winner of the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism

It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. It became known as "the surge." Among those called to carry it out 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.

Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home — forever changed. The chronicle of their tour is gripping, devastating, and deeply illuminating for anyone with an interest in human conflict.  With TheGood Soldiers, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Finkel has produced an eternal story — not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.

Synopsis:

Combining the action of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down with the literary tone of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, The Good Soldiers takes an unforgettable look at those in the surge, the heroes and the ruined, returning from the Iraq War.

Synopsis:

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR:

THE NEW YORK TIMES

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

SLATE.COM

THE BOSTON GLOBE

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

THE PLAIN DEALER (CLEVELAND)

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

WINNER OF THE HELEN BERNSTEIN BOOK AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM

It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. It became known as "the surge." Among those called to carry it out 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.

Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home — forever changed. The chronicle of their tour is gripping, devastating, and deeply illuminating for anyone with an interest in human conflict.  With The Good Soldiers, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Finkel has produced an eternal story — not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.

David Finkel is a staff writer for The Washington Post, and is also the leader of the Posts national reporting team. He won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2006 for a series of stories about U.S.-funded democracy efforts in Yemen. Finkel lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize

Winner of the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award

It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. He called it the surge. “Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences,” he told a skeptical nation. 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.

Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home forever changed. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel was with them in Bagdad, and almost every grueling step of the way.

In his remarkable report from the front lines, David Finkel looks for the true story behind the surge and tries to measure its success against the plan that was proposed in 2007.

Combining the action of Mark Bowdens Black Hawk Down with the literary brio of Tim OBriens The Things They Carried, The Good Soldiers is an unforgettable work of reportage. In telling the story of these good soldiers, the heroes and the ruined, David Finkel has also produced an eternal tale—not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.

"Against the tradition of combat memoirs, [Finkel] chooses to keep himself out of the action, so that The Good Soldiers sometimes reads more like a novel than a reporters journal, with Finkel as the omniscient narrator . . . The Good Soldiers is more than a splendid account of men in combat. It will stand as the classic book about an extremely challenging war."—Daniel Ford, Durham, New Hampshire, Michigan War Studies Review

"David Finkel faced an unenviable task in writing his on-the-ground account of war in Iraq. Not only did he come very close to being killed, he also labored under the weight of our collective exhaustion. Six years of war in Iraq has produced a mountain of news reports, newspaper series, long magazine articles, documentary films, TV shows, Hollywood features, volumes of poetry and literally hundreds of books, mostly memoirs and journalistic accounts of the lives of the U.S. soldiers. Yet into this crowded field Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Finkel plunged. In The Good Soldiers Finkel follows the 15 months' deployment of the Second Battalion, Sixteenth Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army. The narrative follows the battalion—about 700 soldiers—from Fort Riley, Kan., in early 2007 to the violent, sewage-clogged sprawl of East Baghdad, and then back. This last movement, the return home, is the most profound. Finkel's main character is the battalion commander, Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, a man in his early 40s who comes across as affable, committed, religious, hard-working and naive. He wonders why Iraqis hate him. 'It's all good' and 'We're winning' roll off his tongue without irony. The wounding and death of various soldiers punctuate the larger arc of the book. The deaths are tragic, but the injuries are most harrowing."—Christian Parenti, The Washington Post Book World

"The Iraq war in David Finkels heart-stopping new book is not the Bush administrations misguided exercise in hubris, incompetence and ideological fervor meticulously chronicled by Thomas Ricks in his benchmark 2006 study, Fiasco. It isnt the bungled occupation run out of the Green Zone bubble, depicted with such acuity by Rajiv Chandrasekaran in his 2006 book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City. And it isnt the foreign-policy imbroglio debated year after year by neoconservatives and liberals, by politicians, Pentagon officials and pundits. No, the war described in Mr. Finkels book, The Good Soldiers, is something far more immediate and visceral: the war as experienced on the ground, day by day, moment by moment, by members of an Army battalion sent to Baghdad during the surge in 2007. With a novelistic sense of narrative and character, Mr. Finkel—the national enterprise editor of The Washington Post and a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter—shows the fallout that the decision to invade Iraq and the wars 'ruinous beginnings' would have on a group of individual soldiers, who, by various twists of fate, found themselves stationed in a hot spot on the edge of Baghdad . . . Like Michael Herrs Dispatches and Tim OBriens Things They Carried, this is a book that captures the surreal horror of war: the experience of blood and violence and occasional moments of humanity that soldiers witness firsthand, and the slide shows of terrible pictures that will continue to play through their heads long after they have left the battlefield . . . By using the New Journalism techniques Tom Wolfe made famous several decades ago—describing scenes in novelistic detail and closely interviewing subjects so as to capture their thoughts and memories—Mr. Finkel does a vivid job of conveying what these young men think while out on hazardous patrols, how they feel when they kill a suspected insurgent and how they react when they see one of their own comrades go down or be burned alive. Included in the book are several devastating accounts of soldiers Humvees being blown up by EFPs (a particularly lethal type of IED called an explosively formed penetrator); some moving encounters with Iraqis who want to cooperate with, even befriend, the Americans but who are terrified of reprisals; and a horrifying, almost blow-by-blow account of the 2007 killing of two Reuters journalists, who were mistaken for insurgents by a United States helicopter crew that opened fire. The central focus of Mr. Finkels book is the battalions leader, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, a perennial optimist convinced that his men would 'be the difference' in winning the war. Colonel Kauzlarich was 'a skinny boy with jutting ears who had methodically recreated himself into a man who did the most push-ups, ran the fastest mile and regarded life as a daily act of will.' Mr. Finkels portraits of other members of Battalion 2-16 are equally dynamic and haunting. Theres Jay March, who was out of options after high school, wandered into a recruiting office in Sandusky, Ohio, and joined up because he was impressed by a recruiter named Phillip Cantu, an Iraq war veteran whod witnessed the capture of Saddam Hussein (and who later killed himself when the stresses of the war finally caught up with him) . . . It is Mr. Finkels accomplishment in this harrowing book that he not only depicts what the Iraq war is like for the soldiers of the 2-16—14 of whom die—but also the incalculable ways in which the war bends (or in some cases warps) the remaining arc of their lives. He captures the sense of comradeship the men develop among themselves. And he also captures the difficulty many of the soldiers feel in trying to adapt to ordinary life back home in the States, and the larger disconnect they continue to feel between the war that politicians and generals discussed and the war that they knew firsthand."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich's favorite saying is 'It's all good.' In April 2007, he led a battalion of 800 soldiers into one of the most dangerous areas in Baghdad. The 2-16 Battalion left Fort Riley, Kan., to stay in Iraq for 15 months. The average age of the soldiers was 19. David Finkel, a reporter for the Washington Post, does a stunning job of bringing us inside their lives, hearts and minds. He notices what they hold for good luck, how they stand to keep from getting hit, what parts of their bodies they tend to protect. He takes us into the terribly dangerous Humvees, moving coffins, as they move across the Iraqi landscape; they are hit again and again, dragged in, cleaned up and sent out again. He goes home with the men on leave and shows how several are forever changed. They have seen their fellow soldiers burn to death, explode, return home missing limbs, eyes, feet, hands. By July 2007, he writes, many of the men looked frantic and exhausted, even as they tried to keep their spirits up. 'The thing is,' Kauzlarich says, preparing to call a newly widowed woman, 'they can't kill all of us.' Finkel has given us an indelible insight into this war. Back in Col. Kauzlarich's house in Kansas, a stuffed animal equipped with a motion sensor yells 'I seeeee you' when his children enter the kitchen. It is meant to remind them of their father when he is at war. It is one of many details that give this book its resounding echo."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"'The front-line soldier I knew lived for months like an animal, and was a veteran in the cruel, fierce world of death . . . The front-line soldier has to harden his inside as well as his outside or he would crack under the strain.' That was the war correspondent Ernie Pyle, writing about the soldiers he lived alongside and chronicled in his World War II dispatches. Fast-forward 64 years to 2007, the year the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel brings to astonishing life in his chronicle of modern combat, The Good Soldiers. Like Pyle, Finkel brilliantly captures the terrors of ordinary men enduring extraordinary circumstances . . . The 2-16 was part of the campaign other­wise known as 'the surge,' announced by President George W. Bush on Jan. 10, 2007, which sent an additional 21,000 troops into Iraq to quell sectarian violence, in hopes some reconciliation might take place. We pick up with the action in Iraq after approximately 3,000 soldiers have been killed and some 25,000 wounded. The numbers are a backdrop to Finkels real drama, which by the books end rises to fever pitch. Had they made a difference, the men of the 2-16 begin to wonder. Were they still 'good soldiers'? Answering that question is the fascinating core of this ferociously reported, darkly humorous and spellbinding book. As Finkel describes it, the men of the 2-16 struggled to be decent in a terrifying environment . . . Finkels central organizing idea is this: War is hell, decent men are often called to fight it, and their story is intrinsically worth telling. In this way, he is cousin to writers like John Hersey or Tim OBrien who grapple with the raw subject of violence in war. It is curious that more literary writers havent taken up this challenge; writing about combat is really writing about social change, made either at the end of a gun or of an idea. And often lost in the debate over war is the war within the men themselves who fight it. Finkel has made art out of a defining moment in history. You will be able to take this book down from the shelf years from now and say: This is what happened. This is what it felt like . . . Finkel expertly captures the soldiers fear, giddiness and courage. Their speech is studded with profanity, its staccato rhythms instilling in the inchoate experience of war an almost musical, repetitive beat. They die with alarming regularity, remembered by families back home and seen by a tired nation on TV sets and in newspapers . . . The book rides a line between the reality of the situation in Iraq—putting us thoroughly in the soldiers heads—and that at home, with cutaways to Congressional sessions about the apparent lack of progress on the ground. Finkel seems to suggest that if the politicians knew just how impossible and trying the circumstances were, theyd understand why more hadnt been done. In one moving, surreal passage, Finkel describes the soldiers watching an antiwar protest in Washington on the television. The protest feels as if its taking place in a parallel universe, oddly divorced from a sense of life in Iraq, operating on the assumption that making peace is as simple as leaving the country. The event is capped off with a 'die-in,' meant to memorialize some of the very men in Kauzlarichs battalion who had been killed . . . By immersing himself so thoroughly in the soldiers experience, ensuring that he himself is not a ‘character in their story, Finkel brings the art of storytelling back to the drama of war. He asks not so much why the Iraq war is being fought (although this question is integral, smoked into the very grain of the narrative), but how the soldiers survived. 'The strategy of winning an enduring peace had failed,' he writes. 'The strategy of defeating terrorism had failed. The strategy of spreading democracy throughout the Middle East had failed.' For many writers, this might have seemed a jumping-off point: a geography of apparent utter military failure. But as Finkel also writes, he explained to the soldiers that his intent 'was to document their corner of the war, without agenda.' In doing so, he gives unforgettable voice to the men who fought and lived—and to those who did not—and whose voices we otherwise might not have heard."—Doug Stanton, The New York Times Book Review

"The conduct of war has changed utterly in the twenty years since the Berlin Wall came down, and much the same is true of war reporting. Forget the Internet, satellite uplinks, digital photography, and lightweight video cameras—the real revolution was the decision by the U.S. military to embed reporters in its combat units. First the Marines, then the Air Force, and finally the Army opened up to journalists, who had been kept out of the loop since the Vietnam War, which many in the military thought was lost because of reportorial bias. The new policy burst upon us during the run-and-gun to Baghdad in the spring of 2003, and it has produced some of the best war prose and video in journalistic history. Now one of those 'embeds' has given us a magnificent look at the 2007 troop surge and the strategic changes that transformed the Iraq War from a long-running calamity into something beginning to look like success . . . The story begins in February 2007 at Fort Riley, Kansas, as Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich forms up his battalion to deploy to Iraq . . . The New Army has pumped up the size and menace of smaller units . . . The 2/16—Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment—comprised 802 men when it made the jump from snowy Kansas to hot, stinking Sadr City, a suburb in eastern Baghdad. Finkel describes their hegira thus, in his loose, almost hip-hop prose: 'A bus to a plane. A plane to another plane. Another plane after that to some helicopters, and at last they arrived at the place where they were to spend the next year, which wasnt the Green Zone, with its paved roads and diplomats and palaces' . . . Against the tradition of combat memoirs, [Finkel] chooses to keep himself out of the action, so that The Good Soldiers sometimes reads more like a novel than a reporters journal, with Finkel as the omniscient narrator. Of the battalions fifteen months in Iraq, he is with it for a bit more than half the time . . . Some chapters are expanded versions of dispatches sent to the Washington Post from Baghdad, and these we can reasonably conclude describe events Finkel witnessed firsthand. Among the most affecting is the story of Izzy the interpreter (an assumed name, for fear of the death sentence imposed on Iraqis who worked with the Americans) and his daughter. The family was at home when a 'monstrous explosion' destroyed their apartment house, killed twenty-five, wounded hundreds, and drove a shard of glass into the little girls skull. As an Iraqi, she had no right to treatment by U.S. Army doctors, but an older sister had been born in New York City, and [Major Brent Cummings] used this lucky circumstance to lever the injured girl into the [Forward Operating Base]s hospital, never saying outright which of the children was the American citizen. 'Man,' says the major when the glass is safely extracted and the little girl can smile at her family, 'I havent felt this good since I got to this hellhole' . . . The Good Soldiers is more than a splendid account of men in combat. It will stand as the classic book about an extremely challenging war."—Daniel Ford, Durham, New Hampshire, Michigan War Studies Review

“[Finkel] set out to answer two questions: what was the true story of the surge, and was it a success? Other questions arose form his reporting. How, for example, does a lieutenant colonel in charge motivate soldiers when they begin to doubt the cause for which they are risking their lives? Did they make a positive difference? In short, were they still good soldiers? Finkel ultimately leaves the answers to the readers, but not before he paints an unforgettable picture of combat and its effect on frontline soldiers. His depiction of warfares terror and his vivid soldier portraits are journalism of a high literary order. His art—and that is what it is—makes this book not just for the moment, but for the ages.”—James F. Hoge, Chair of the New York Publicity Library Helen Bernstein Award Selection Committee

“Let me be direct. The Good Soldiers by David Finkel is the most honest, most painful, and most brilliantly rendered account of modern war Ive ever read. I got no exercise at all the day I gulped down its 284 riveting pages.”—Daniel Okrent, Fortune

"Eschewing moral judgment, policy proposals and military techno-babble, Finkel writes concisely and vividly about trauma and regret, leaving us defenseless against the steadily accruing collateral damage of combat. This is not a new story. Still, to borrow the first sentence of the Ford Madox Ford novel whose title Finkel's reprises, this is the saddest story I have ever heard. Amid the protracted debate about troop deployments in Afghanistan that has considered seemingly every voice but that of the soldiers, The Good Soldiers offers a searing reminder of the human cost of escalation. The book's title, innocuous at first glance, is a provocation. With its echoes of the twentieth century's 'Great War'—Ford's novel, published in 1915, is set on the eve of World War I—The Good Soldiers acknowledges the irony of a search for heroism in a conflict that conscientious observers had already written off as a mistake, and one that could no longer even hold the attention of the American public . . . In any war, the reporter stands in a privileged position, seeing many sides at once. Soldiers in the fight are too busy to cultivate an omniscient perspective, and the men and women back home can't understand the desperate measure of sitting in a Humvee with one foot planted in front of the other, so that if a roadside bomb explodes it would destroy just one foot, not two. Finkel seems equally attuned to the prerogatives of bureaucrats, families and fighters, and recognizes the difficulty of empathizing with another point of view . . . The thirteen chapters of The Good Soldiers are masterworks of compressed narrative. Each chapter is pegged to a single day of the 2-16's sixteen-month tour, and each is prefaced by a remark of Bush's about the surge that more often than not registers as hopelessly at odds with facts on the ground."—Akiva Gottlieb, The Nation

"The long war in Iraq is being fought in an age of instant and accessible communication, but one of its many ironies is that most Americans remain more uninformed about and emotionally distant from how it is being fought than they have been during any war in our history. The Good Soldiers is an antidote. In one of the finest pieces of nonfiction writing I've read in a long time, Washington Post staffer David Finkel reports on the realities of the U.S. military's 'surge' in Baghdad with on-the-ground coverage of the 14-month deployment there of the 2nd Battalion of the Army's 16th Infantry Regiment . . . He gathers his remarkable reporting into a beautifully structured, compelling narrative that reads like a novel. He avoids politics and policy; this book's sole focus is to document the experiences of the soldiers on the front lines in the surge. Finkel brings them to us in a story that is by turns inspiring, terrifying and heartbreaking. Whether you support the war in Iraq, oppose it or don't care anymore, The Good Soldiers will show you something you need to know."—Colette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times

"If you want to know what war is like, you can ask politicians, and they will tell you what they think you want to hear. Or you can ask soldiers, and they will tell you the truth. Washington Post reporter David Finkel followed the latter path, and his The Good Soldiers is a horrific masterpiece. He spent eight months in Iraq with the U.S. Armys 2-16 Ranger battalion, which tried to bring order to one of Baghdads toughest areas during the 2007-2008 American surge . . . No single book can change nations proclivity to view war as a legitimate policy tool, but The Good Soldiers will take its place among the classics of combat Journalism and perhaps will jar some of those who wield power into pondering the same question the soldiers asked: 'Is it worth it?'”—Philip Seib, The Dallas Morning News

"Finkel's journalistic skill is significant. He has a sharp eye for detail that illuminates the bigger picture. He captures the frustration of trying to secure an old spaghetti factory that was to be key to establishing a command post in a volatile Baghdad neighborhood . . . Finkel's lens has the dispassion of the journalist but the focus of someone who has been allowed to be intimate with the rawest of emotions in the rawest of times. The Good Soldiers will have value as a document of one small aspect of the surge, but it also should stand on its own as a valuable piece of combat literature beyond the Iraq War."—Mark Brunswick, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“[A] new classic . . . the reader cannot get enough . . . As a compelling read, The Good Soldiers is all good.”—J. Ford Huffman, Military Times

“David Finkel has written the most unforgettable book of the Iraq War, a masterpiece that will far outlast the fighting.”—David Maraniss, author of They Marched into Sunlight

“From a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at the height of his powers comes an incandescent and profoundly moving book: powerful, intense, enraging. This may be the best book on war since the Iliad.”—Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book and March

“This is the best account I have read of the life of one unit in the Iraq War. It is closely observed, carefully recorded, and beautifully written. David Finkel doesnt just take you into the lives of our soldiers, he takes you deep into their nightmares.”—Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble

“Brilliant, heartbreaking, deeply true. The Good Soldiers offers the most intimate view of life and death in a twenty-first-century combat unit I have ever read. Unsparing, unflinching, and, at times, unbearable.—Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle

“This is the finest book yet written on the platoon-level combat of the Iraq war . . . Unforgettable—raw, moving, and rendered with literary control . . . No one who reads this book will soon forget its imagery, words, or characters.”—Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars

“[Finkel] writes with the you-are-there immediacy of Richard Tregaskiss Guadalcanal Diary, taking the reader into the field . . . Aspects of the surge, the author writes, were merely rhetorical. Others were unquestionably successful, particularly the reduction in the number of attacks on Americans—successes to be chalked up to the bravery of the men and women under fire, and in no way, Finkel says, to anything happening in Washington . . . A superb account of the burdens soldiers bear.”—Kirkus Review (starred review)

“A success story in the headlines, the surge in Iraq was an ordeal of hard fighting and anguished trauma for the American soldiers on the ground, according to this riveting war report. Washington Post correspondent Finkel chronicles the 15-month deployment of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad during 2007 and 2008, when the chaos in Iraq subsided to a manageable uproar. For the 2-16, waning violence still meant wild firefights, nerve-wracking patrols through hostile neighborhoods where every trash pile could hide an IED, and dozens of comrades killed and maimed. At the fraught center of the story is Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, whose dogged can-do optimism—his motto is 'Its all good'—pits itself against declining morale and whispers of mutiny. While vivid and moving, Finkels grunts-eye view is limited; the soldiers perspective is one of constant improvisatory reaction to attacks and crises, and we get little sense of exactly how and why the new American counterinsurgency methods calmed the Iraqi maelstrom. Still, Finkels keen firsthand reportage, its grit and impact only heightened by the literary polish of his prose, gives us one of the best accounts yet of the American experience in Iraq.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

About the Author

David Finkel is a staff writer for the Washington Post, and is also the leader of the Posts national reporting team. He won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2006 for a series of stories about U.S.-funded democracy efforts in Yemen. Finkel lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters.

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Ashley Bowen, February 6, 2012 (view all comments by Ashley Bowen)
The Good Soldiers, David Finkel’s 2009 account of the 2-16’s eighteen months in eastern Baghdad, provides a profound meditation on the multifaceted reality of war and its costs. Finkel outlines four distinct realities of the war in Iraq: conversations and meetings with Iraqi civilians; uneasy coordination between the US, Iraqi military, and national police; firefights, IEDs, or EFPs; and politics or PR. He also acknowledges that for wives, girlfriends, and family members there is yet a fifth war, characterized by waiting for phone calls, single parenting, resentment, and the emotional and physical demands of a returning soldier. Finkel is careful to avoid explicitly judging one experience of war as somehow more valid or “real” than the others. Implicitly, however, it is clear that his sympathies like with the soldiers’ experience of war.

In order to gain access to the 2-16, Finkel promised that his book would not be political or judge the relative success or failure of “the surge.” He is true to his word but The Good Soldiers is not a work of “objective” journalism and is inherently political. Finkel sets up George Bush’s perceptions of the war as an ironic foil for each chapter. Despite telling an Australian audience that it was an attempt to contrast the realities, it is hard to read The Good Soldiers and not feel that Bush was completely out of touch with the war’s reality. This did not bother me so much (I suspect that Finkel and I share similar politics) as his refusal to be transparent about it. The issues, beliefs, and values that motivate his desire to go to Iraq, embed in east Baghdad instead of the Green Zone, and visit Army medical centers are worth exploring�"both in terms of his narrative credibility and because they are issues that all citizens struggle with during a war. That said, I was pleased that he chose not to write in the first person.

I'd be particularly interested to learn more about his response to Wikileaks and the release of “Collateral Murder.” On one hand, the book provides a much fuller context for the events in Al-Amin. On the other hand, the meditative tone and Finkel’s arrangement with the military absolved him from having to take a stand on the actions and policies of the soldiers. In the book, he suggests that the journalists may not have acted appropriately (115). He absolves himself from making a judgment by saying, “that would be for others to decide” (ibid). I believe that those “others” are not just military officials. Public intellectuals, like a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, should feel obligated to engage with these questions. It is popular non-fiction like The Good Soldiers that ultimately provides fodder for an engaged public to debate war and the nature/limits of a free press.

The Good Soldiers is so literary and so moving that it may fail to problematize the war, soldiers’ experiences, or traditional concepts of masculinity. The meditative tone, attention to the micro and macro realities of war, and strong characterizations of the 2-16 soldiers creates an engrossing book. Finkel echoes Hemingway’s style when he uses long sentences with many “ands” in them. When he describes an IED or EFP, Finkel begins entire paragraphs with “and was he in the midst of saying something when it happened?” (64). Likewise, readers familiar with Catch-22 will pick up on the allusion in the description of a soldier who “breaks” early in the 2-16’s tour. Finkel asks, “was it an act of mental instability, as some thought, or was it the calculated act of someone trying to get home, which was Kauzlarich’s growing suspicion?” (206). These allusions make the text stronger by underscoring the tragic, deeply confusing nature of war. However, I finished The Good Soldiers wondering if these techniques did not undercut Finkel’s mission to demonstrate the reality of war. When he spoke to an Australian writers conference in 2010, Finkel discussed the importance of finding the right amount of detail. He wanted The Good Soldiers to feel neither distant nor become a kind of “war porn.” I do not suggest that because the book is beautifully written it fails as an exploration of war. However, I suspect that by mimicking some of the great war novels of the 20th century, The Good Soldiers may reinforce readers’ iconic, often romantic, notions of war.
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Lawrence Lai, November 30, 2010 (view all comments by Lawrence Lai)
This book is about the surge in Iraq from 2007-2008 and is an insider's look at the life and challenges faced by the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich. It looks at the personal experiences of the men on the ground, unbiased by political rhetoric. It is really an eye-opener of what the Iraqi war means and how it is really more of a war of winning hearts and minds but the payment are people laying their lives down for that cause. At the end of the day one has to ask is it really worth the lives given for this win and a more important question of what it really means to win?
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312430023
Author:
Finkel, David
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Military - Iraq War (2003-)
Subject:
Military - United States
Subject:
International Relations - General
Subject:
Soldiers -- United States.
Subject:
Iraq War, 2003- - Campaigns - Iraq - Baghdad
Subject:
World History-Iraq War (2003-?)
Subject:
Modern - 21st Century
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20100831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 34 black-and-white photographs
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
8.28 x 5.47 x 0.89 in

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Product details 336 pages Picador USA - English 9780312430023 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , Starred Review. A success story in the headlines, the surge in Iraq was an ordeal of hard fighting and anguished trauma for the American soldiers on the ground, according to this riveting war report. Washington Post correspondent Finkel chronicles the 15-month deployment of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad during 2007 and 2008, when the chaos in Iraq subsided to a manageable uproar. For the 2-16, waning violence still meant wild firefights, nerve-wracking patrols through hostile neighborhoods where every trash pile could hide an IED, and dozens of comrades killed and maimed. At the fraught center of the story is Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, whose dogged can-do optimism—his motto is “Its all good”—pits itself against declining morale and whispers of mutiny. While vivid and moving, Finkel's grunt's-eye view is limited; the soldiers perspective is one of constant improvisatory reaction to attacks and crises, and we get little sense of exactly how and why the new American counterinsurgency methods calmed the Iraqi maelstrom. Still, Finkel's keen firsthand reportage, its grit and impact only heightened by the literary polish of his prose, gives us one of the best accounts yet of the American experience in Iraq. Photos. Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc)
"Review" by , "A superb account of the burdens soldiers bear." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Review" by , "Unforgettable — raw, moving, and rendered with literary control... No one who reads this book will soon forget its imagery, words, or characters."
"Review" by , "Brilliant, heartbreaking, deeply true. The Good Soldiers offers the most intimate view of life and death in a twenty-first-century combat unit I have ever read. Unsparing, unflinching, and, at times, unbearable."
"Review" by , “Finkel has made art out of a defining moment in history. You will be able to take this book down from the shelf years from now and say: 'This is what happened. This is what it felt like.'”
"Review" by , “Let me be direct. The Good Soldiers by David Finkel is the most honest, most painful, and most brilliantly rendered account of modern war I've ever read. I got no exercise at all the day I gulped down its 284 riveting pages.”
"Review" by , “Over and over, I cried. I endured nightmares. I have read hundreds of books about war and almost two dozen books about the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them affected me. But none has affected me as deeply as The Good Soldiers.”
"Review" by , “Heart-stopping... captures the surreal horror of war.”
"Review" by , “A whole generation of these men will (God willing) be coming home, and The Good Soldiers is as good a guide as I can imagine to who they'll be when they get here.”
"Review" by , “[A] new classic... the reader cannot get enough... As a compelling read, The Good Soldiers is all good.”
"Review" by , “David Finkel has written the most unforgettable book of the Iraq War, a masterpiece that will far outlast the fighting.”
"Review" by , “From a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at the height of his powers comes an incandescent and profoundly moving book: powerful, intense, enraging. This may be the best book on war since the Iliad.”
"Review" by , “This is the best account I have read of the life of one unit in the Iraq War. It is closely observed, carefully recorded, and beautifully written. David Finkel doesn't just take you into the lives of our soldiers, he takes you deep into their nightmares.”
"Synopsis" by , A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR for:

The New York Times

Chicago Tribune

Slate.com

The Boston Globe

The Kansas City Star

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

The Christian Science Monitor

Winner of the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism

It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. It became known as "the surge." Among those called to carry it out 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.

Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home — forever changed. The chronicle of their tour is gripping, devastating, and deeply illuminating for anyone with an interest in human conflict.  With TheGood Soldiers, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Finkel has produced an eternal story — not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.

"Synopsis" by , Combining the action of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down with the literary tone of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, The Good Soldiers takes an unforgettable look at those in the surge, the heroes and the ruined, returning from the Iraq War.
"Synopsis" by ,

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR:

THE NEW YORK TIMES

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

SLATE.COM

THE BOSTON GLOBE

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

THE PLAIN DEALER (CLEVELAND)

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

WINNER OF THE HELEN BERNSTEIN BOOK AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM

It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. It became known as "the surge." Among those called to carry it out 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.

Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home — forever changed. The chronicle of their tour is gripping, devastating, and deeply illuminating for anyone with an interest in human conflict.  With The Good Soldiers, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Finkel has produced an eternal story — not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.

David Finkel is a staff writer for The Washington Post, and is also the leader of the Posts national reporting team. He won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2006 for a series of stories about U.S.-funded democracy efforts in Yemen. Finkel lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize

Winner of the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award

It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. He called it the surge. “Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences,” he told a skeptical nation. 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.

Fifteen months later, the soldiers returned home forever changed. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel was with them in Bagdad, and almost every grueling step of the way.

In his remarkable report from the front lines, David Finkel looks for the true story behind the surge and tries to measure its success against the plan that was proposed in 2007.

Combining the action of Mark Bowdens Black Hawk Down with the literary brio of Tim OBriens The Things They Carried, The Good Soldiers is an unforgettable work of reportage. In telling the story of these good soldiers, the heroes and the ruined, David Finkel has also produced an eternal tale—not just of the Iraq War, but of all wars, for all time.

"Against the tradition of combat memoirs, [Finkel] chooses to keep himself out of the action, so that The Good Soldiers sometimes reads more like a novel than a reporters journal, with Finkel as the omniscient narrator . . . The Good Soldiers is more than a splendid account of men in combat. It will stand as the classic book about an extremely challenging war."—Daniel Ford, Durham, New Hampshire, Michigan War Studies Review

"David Finkel faced an unenviable task in writing his on-the-ground account of war in Iraq. Not only did he come very close to being killed, he also labored under the weight of our collective exhaustion. Six years of war in Iraq has produced a mountain of news reports, newspaper series, long magazine articles, documentary films, TV shows, Hollywood features, volumes of poetry and literally hundreds of books, mostly memoirs and journalistic accounts of the lives of the U.S. soldiers. Yet into this crowded field Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Finkel plunged. In The Good Soldiers Finkel follows the 15 months' deployment of the Second Battalion, Sixteenth Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army. The narrative follows the battalion—about 700 soldiers—from Fort Riley, Kan., in early 2007 to the violent, sewage-clogged sprawl of East Baghdad, and then back. This last movement, the return home, is the most profound. Finkel's main character is the battalion commander, Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, a man in his early 40s who comes across as affable, committed, religious, hard-working and naive. He wonders why Iraqis hate him. 'It's all good' and 'We're winning' roll off his tongue without irony. The wounding and death of various soldiers punctuate the larger arc of the book. The deaths are tragic, but the injuries are most harrowing."—Christian Parenti, The Washington Post Book World

"The Iraq war in David Finkels heart-stopping new book is not the Bush administrations misguided exercise in hubris, incompetence and ideological fervor meticulously chronicled by Thomas Ricks in his benchmark 2006 study, Fiasco. It isnt the bungled occupation run out of the Green Zone bubble, depicted with such acuity by Rajiv Chandrasekaran in his 2006 book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City. And it isnt the foreign-policy imbroglio debated year after year by neoconservatives and liberals, by politicians, Pentagon officials and pundits. No, the war described in Mr. Finkels book, The Good Soldiers, is something far more immediate and visceral: the war as experienced on the ground, day by day, moment by moment, by members of an Army battalion sent to Baghdad during the surge in 2007. With a novelistic sense of narrative and character, Mr. Finkel—the national enterprise editor of The Washington Post and a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter—shows the fallout that the decision to invade Iraq and the wars 'ruinous beginnings' would have on a group of individual soldiers, who, by various twists of fate, found themselves stationed in a hot spot on the edge of Baghdad . . . Like Michael Herrs Dispatches and Tim OBriens Things They Carried, this is a book that captures the surreal horror of war: the experience of blood and violence and occasional moments of humanity that soldiers witness firsthand, and the slide shows of terrible pictures that will continue to play through their heads long after they have left the battlefield . . . By using the New Journalism techniques Tom Wolfe made famous several decades ago—describing scenes in novelistic detail and closely interviewing subjects so as to capture their thoughts and memories—Mr. Finkel does a vivid job of conveying what these young men think while out on hazardous patrols, how they feel when they kill a suspected insurgent and how they react when they see one of their own comrades go down or be burned alive. Included in the book are several devastating accounts of soldiers Humvees being blown up by EFPs (a particularly lethal type of IED called an explosively formed penetrator); some moving encounters with Iraqis who want to cooperate with, even befriend, the Americans but who are terrified of reprisals; and a horrifying, almost blow-by-blow account of the 2007 killing of two Reuters journalists, who were mistaken for insurgents by a United States helicopter crew that opened fire. The central focus of Mr. Finkels book is the battalions leader, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, a perennial optimist convinced that his men would 'be the difference' in winning the war. Colonel Kauzlarich was 'a skinny boy with jutting ears who had methodically recreated himself into a man who did the most push-ups, ran the fastest mile and regarded life as a daily act of will.' Mr. Finkels portraits of other members of Battalion 2-16 are equally dynamic and haunting. Theres Jay March, who was out of options after high school, wandered into a recruiting office in Sandusky, Ohio, and joined up because he was impressed by a recruiter named Phillip Cantu, an Iraq war veteran whod witnessed the capture of Saddam Hussein (and who later killed himself when the stresses of the war finally caught up with him) . . . It is Mr. Finkels accomplishment in this harrowing book that he not only depicts what the Iraq war is like for the soldiers of the 2-16—14 of whom die—but also the incalculable ways in which the war bends (or in some cases warps) the remaining arc of their lives. He captures the sense of comradeship the men develop among themselves. And he also captures the difficulty many of the soldiers feel in trying to adapt to ordinary life back home in the States, and the larger disconnect they continue to feel between the war that politicians and generals discussed and the war that they knew firsthand."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich's favorite saying is 'It's all good.' In April 2007, he led a battalion of 800 soldiers into one of the most dangerous areas in Baghdad. The 2-16 Battalion left Fort Riley, Kan., to stay in Iraq for 15 months. The average age of the soldiers was 19. David Finkel, a reporter for the Washington Post, does a stunning job of bringing us inside their lives, hearts and minds. He notices what they hold for good luck, how they stand to keep from getting hit, what parts of their bodies they tend to protect. He takes us into the terribly dangerous Humvees, moving coffins, as they move across the Iraqi landscape; they are hit again and again, dragged in, cleaned up and sent out again. He goes home with the men on leave and shows how several are forever changed. They have seen their fellow soldiers burn to death, explode, return home missing limbs, eyes, feet, hands. By July 2007, he writes, many of the men looked frantic and exhausted, even as they tried to keep their spirits up. 'The thing is,' Kauzlarich says, preparing to call a newly widowed woman, 'they can't kill all of us.' Finkel has given us an indelible insight into this war. Back in Col. Kauzlarich's house in Kansas, a stuffed animal equipped with a motion sensor yells 'I seeeee you' when his children enter the kitchen. It is meant to remind them of their father when he is at war. It is one of many details that give this book its resounding echo."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"'The front-line soldier I knew lived for months like an animal, and was a veteran in the cruel, fierce world of death . . . The front-line soldier has to harden his inside as well as his outside or he would crack under the strain.' That was the war correspondent Ernie Pyle, writing about the soldiers he lived alongside and chronicled in his World War II dispatches. Fast-forward 64 years to 2007, the year the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel brings to astonishing life in his chronicle of modern combat, The Good Soldiers. Like Pyle, Finkel brilliantly captures the terrors of ordinary men enduring extraordinary circumstances . . . The 2-16 was part of the campaign other­wise known as 'the surge,' announced by President George W. Bush on Jan. 10, 2007, which sent an additional 21,000 troops into Iraq to quell sectarian violence, in hopes some reconciliation might take place. We pick up with the action in Iraq after approximately 3,000 soldiers have been killed and some 25,000 wounded. The numbers are a backdrop to Finkels real drama, which by the books end rises to fever pitch. Had they made a difference, the men of the 2-16 begin to wonder. Were they still 'good soldiers'? Answering that question is the fascinating core of this ferociously reported, darkly humorous and spellbinding book. As Finkel describes it, the men of the 2-16 struggled to be decent in a terrifying environment . . . Finkels central organizing idea is this: War is hell, decent men are often called to fight it, and their story is intrinsically worth telling. In this way, he is cousin to writers like John Hersey or Tim OBrien who grapple with the raw subject of violence in war. It is curious that more literary writers havent taken up this challenge; writing about combat is really writing about social change, made either at the end of a gun or of an idea. And often lost in the debate over war is the war within the men themselves who fight it. Finkel has made art out of a defining moment in history. You will be able to take this book down from the shelf years from now and say: This is what happened. This is what it felt like . . . Finkel expertly captures the soldiers fear, giddiness and courage. Their speech is studded with profanity, its staccato rhythms instilling in the inchoate experience of war an almost musical, repetitive beat. They die with alarming regularity, remembered by families back home and seen by a tired nation on TV sets and in newspapers . . . The book rides a line between the reality of the situation in Iraq—putting us thoroughly in the soldiers heads—and that at home, with cutaways to Congressional sessions about the apparent lack of progress on the ground. Finkel seems to suggest that if the politicians knew just how impossible and trying the circumstances were, theyd understand why more hadnt been done. In one moving, surreal passage, Finkel describes the soldiers watching an antiwar protest in Washington on the television. The protest feels as if its taking place in a parallel universe, oddly divorced from a sense of life in Iraq, operating on the assumption that making peace is as simple as leaving the country. The event is capped off with a 'die-in,' meant to memorialize some of the very men in Kauzlarichs battalion who had been killed . . . By immersing himself so thoroughly in the soldiers experience, ensuring that he himself is not a ‘character in their story, Finkel brings the art of storytelling back to the drama of war. He asks not so much why the Iraq war is being fought (although this question is integral, smoked into the very grain of the narrative), but how the soldiers survived. 'The strategy of winning an enduring peace had failed,' he writes. 'The strategy of defeating terrorism had failed. The strategy of spreading democracy throughout the Middle East had failed.' For many writers, this might have seemed a jumping-off point: a geography of apparent utter military failure. But as Finkel also writes, he explained to the soldiers that his intent 'was to document their corner of the war, without agenda.' In doing so, he gives unforgettable voice to the men who fought and lived—and to those who did not—and whose voices we otherwise might not have heard."—Doug Stanton, The New York Times Book Review

"The conduct of war has changed utterly in the twenty years since the Berlin Wall came down, and much the same is true of war reporting. Forget the Internet, satellite uplinks, digital photography, and lightweight video cameras—the real revolution was the decision by the U.S. military to embed reporters in its combat units. First the Marines, then the Air Force, and finally the Army opened up to journalists, who had been kept out of the loop since the Vietnam War, which many in the military thought was lost because of reportorial bias. The new policy burst upon us during the run-and-gun to Baghdad in the spring of 2003, and it has produced some of the best war prose and video in journalistic history. Now one of those 'embeds' has given us a magnificent look at the 2007 troop surge and the strategic changes that transformed the Iraq War from a long-running calamity into something beginning to look like success . . . The story begins in February 2007 at Fort Riley, Kansas, as Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich forms up his battalion to deploy to Iraq . . . The New Army has pumped up the size and menace of smaller units . . . The 2/16—Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment—comprised 802 men when it made the jump from snowy Kansas to hot, stinking Sadr City, a suburb in eastern Baghdad. Finkel describes their hegira thus, in his loose, almost hip-hop prose: 'A bus to a plane. A plane to another plane. Another plane after that to some helicopters, and at last they arrived at the place where they were to spend the next year, which wasnt the Green Zone, with its paved roads and diplomats and palaces' . . . Against the tradition of combat memoirs, [Finkel] chooses to keep himself out of the action, so that The Good Soldiers sometimes reads more like a novel than a reporters journal, with Finkel as the omniscient narrator. Of the battalions fifteen months in Iraq, he is with it for a bit more than half the time . . . Some chapters are expanded versions of dispatches sent to the Washington Post from Baghdad, and these we can reasonably conclude describe events Finkel witnessed firsthand. Among the most affecting is the story of Izzy the interpreter (an assumed name, for fear of the death sentence imposed on Iraqis who worked with the Americans) and his daughter. The family was at home when a 'monstrous explosion' destroyed their apartment house, killed twenty-five, wounded hundreds, and drove a shard of glass into the little girls skull. As an Iraqi, she had no right to treatment by U.S. Army doctors, but an older sister had been born in New York City, and [Major Brent Cummings] used this lucky circumstance to lever the injured girl into the [Forward Operating Base]s hospital, never saying outright which of the children was the American citizen. 'Man,' says the major when the glass is safely extracted and the little girl can smile at her family, 'I havent felt this good since I got to this hellhole' . . . The Good Soldiers is more than a splendid account of men in combat. It will stand as the classic book about an extremely challenging war."—Daniel Ford, Durham, New Hampshire, Michigan War Studies Review

“[Finkel] set out to answer two questions: what was the true story of the surge, and was it a success? Other questions arose form his reporting. How, for example, does a lieutenant colonel in charge motivate soldiers when they begin to doubt the cause for which they are risking their lives? Did they make a positive difference? In short, were they still good soldiers? Finkel ultimately leaves the answers to the readers, but not before he paints an unforgettable picture of combat and its effect on frontline soldiers. His depiction of warfares terror and his vivid soldier portraits are journalism of a high literary order. His art—and that is what it is—makes this book not just for the moment, but for the ages.”—James F. Hoge, Chair of the New York Publicity Library Helen Bernstein Award Selection Committee

“Let me be direct. The Good Soldiers by David Finkel is the most honest, most painful, and most brilliantly rendered account of modern war Ive ever read. I got no exercise at all the day I gulped down its 284 riveting pages.”—Daniel Okrent, Fortune

"Eschewing moral judgment, policy proposals and military techno-babble, Finkel writes concisely and vividly about trauma and regret, leaving us defenseless against the steadily accruing collateral damage of combat. This is not a new story. Still, to borrow the first sentence of the Ford Madox Ford novel whose title Finkel's reprises, this is the saddest story I have ever heard. Amid the protracted debate about troop deployments in Afghanistan that has considered seemingly every voice but that of the soldiers, The Good Soldiers offers a searing reminder of the human cost of escalation. The book's title, innocuous at first glance, is a provocation. With its echoes of the twentieth century's 'Great War'—Ford's novel, published in 1915, is set on the eve of World War I—The Good Soldiers acknowledges the irony of a search for heroism in a conflict that conscientious observers had already written off as a mistake, and one that could no longer even hold the attention of the American public . . . In any war, the reporter stands in a privileged position, seeing many sides at once. Soldiers in the fight are too busy to cultivate an omniscient perspective, and the men and women back home can't understand the desperate measure of sitting in a Humvee with one foot planted in front of the other, so that if a roadside bomb explodes it would destroy just one foot, not two. Finkel seems equally attuned to the prerogatives of bureaucrats, families and fighters, and recognizes the difficulty of empathizing with another point of view . . . The thirteen chapters of The Good Soldiers are masterworks of compressed narrative. Each chapter is pegged to a single day of the 2-16's sixteen-month tour, and each is prefaced by a remark of Bush's about the surge that more often than not registers as hopelessly at odds with facts on the ground."—Akiva Gottlieb, The Nation

"The long war in Iraq is being fought in an age of instant and accessible communication, but one of its many ironies is that most Americans remain more uninformed about and emotionally distant from how it is being fought than they have been during any war in our history. The Good Soldiers is an antidote. In one of the finest pieces of nonfiction writing I've read in a long time, Washington Post staffer David Finkel reports on the realities of the U.S. military's 'surge' in Baghdad with on-the-ground coverage of the 14-month deployment there of the 2nd Battalion of the Army's 16th Infantry Regiment . . . He gathers his remarkable reporting into a beautifully structured, compelling narrative that reads like a novel. He avoids politics and policy; this book's sole focus is to document the experiences of the soldiers on the front lines in the surge. Finkel brings them to us in a story that is by turns inspiring, terrifying and heartbreaking. Whether you support the war in Iraq, oppose it or don't care anymore, The Good Soldiers will show you something you need to know."—Colette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times

"If you want to know what war is like, you can ask politicians, and they will tell you what they think you want to hear. Or you can ask soldiers, and they will tell you the truth. Washington Post reporter David Finkel followed the latter path, and his The Good Soldiers is a horrific masterpiece. He spent eight months in Iraq with the U.S. Armys 2-16 Ranger battalion, which tried to bring order to one of Baghdads toughest areas during the 2007-2008 American surge . . . No single book can change nations proclivity to view war as a legitimate policy tool, but The Good Soldiers will take its place among the classics of combat Journalism and perhaps will jar some of those who wield power into pondering the same question the soldiers asked: 'Is it worth it?'”—Philip Seib, The Dallas Morning News

"Finkel's journalistic skill is significant. He has a sharp eye for detail that illuminates the bigger picture. He captures the frustration of trying to secure an old spaghetti factory that was to be key to establishing a command post in a volatile Baghdad neighborhood . . . Finkel's lens has the dispassion of the journalist but the focus of someone who has been allowed to be intimate with the rawest of emotions in the rawest of times. The Good Soldiers will have value as a document of one small aspect of the surge, but it also should stand on its own as a valuable piece of combat literature beyond the Iraq War."—Mark Brunswick, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

“[A] new classic . . . the reader cannot get enough . . . As a compelling read, The Good Soldiers is all good.”—J. Ford Huffman, Military Times

“David Finkel has written the most unforgettable book of the Iraq War, a masterpiece that will far outlast the fighting.”—David Maraniss, author of They Marched into Sunlight

“From a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at the height of his powers comes an incandescent and profoundly moving book: powerful, intense, enraging. This may be the best book on war since the Iliad.”—Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book and March

“This is the best account I have read of the life of one unit in the Iraq War. It is closely observed, carefully recorded, and beautifully written. David Finkel doesnt just take you into the lives of our soldiers, he takes you deep into their nightmares.”—Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble

“Brilliant, heartbreaking, deeply true. The Good Soldiers offers the most intimate view of life and death in a twenty-first-century combat unit I have ever read. Unsparing, unflinching, and, at times, unbearable.—Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle

“This is the finest book yet written on the platoon-level combat of the Iraq war . . . Unforgettable—raw, moving, and rendered with literary control . . . No one who reads this book will soon forget its imagery, words, or characters.”—Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars

“[Finkel] writes with the you-are-there immediacy of Richard Tregaskiss Guadalcanal Diary, taking the reader into the field . . . Aspects of the surge, the author writes, were merely rhetorical. Others were unquestionably successful, particularly the reduction in the number of attacks on Americans—successes to be chalked up to the bravery of the men and women under fire, and in no way, Finkel says, to anything happening in Washington . . . A superb account of the burdens soldiers bear.”—Kirkus Review (starred review)

“A success story in the headlines, the surge in Iraq was an ordeal of hard fighting and anguished trauma for the American soldiers on the ground, according to this riveting war report. Washington Post correspondent Finkel chronicles the 15-month deployment of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad during 2007 and 2008, when the chaos in Iraq subsided to a manageable uproar. For the 2-16, waning violence still meant wild firefights, nerve-wracking patrols through hostile neighborhoods where every trash pile could hide an IED, and dozens of comrades killed and maimed. At the fraught center of the story is Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, whose dogged can-do optimism—his motto is 'Its all good'—pits itself against declining morale and whispers of mutiny. While vivid and moving, Finkels grunts-eye view is limited; the soldiers perspective is one of constant improvisatory reaction to attacks and crises, and we get little sense of exactly how and why the new American counterinsurgency methods calmed the Iraqi maelstrom. Still, Finkels keen firsthand reportage, its grit and impact only heightened by the literary polish of his prose, gives us one of the best accounts yet of the American experience in Iraq.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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