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Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Groundby Robert D Kaplan
"Too romantic and sentimental to be called analysis, too ideological to count as reportage, and yet too journalistic to be a straightforward polemic, Imperial Grunts is a disorganized and in many ways an incoherent book. Just when Kaplan the reporter is exercising his considerable talents to their best advantage, Kaplan the ideologue interrupts with his doctrine." David Rieff, the New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
In this landmark book, Robert D. Kaplan, veteran correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and author of Balkan Ghosts, shows how American imperialism and the Global War on Terrorism are implemented on the ground, mission by mission, in the most exotic landscapes around the world.
Given unprecedented access, Kaplan takes us from the jungles of the southern Philippines to the glacial dust bowls of Mongolia, from the forts of Afghanistan to the forests of South America — not to mention Iraq — to show us Army Special Forces, Marines, and other uniformed Americans carrying out the many facets of U.S. foreign policy: negotiating with tribal factions, storming terrorist redoubts, performing humanitarian missions and training foreign soldiers.
In Imperial Grunts, Kaplan provides an unforgettable insider's account not only of our current involvement in world affairs, but also of where America, including the culture of its officers and enlisted men, is headed. This is the rare book that has the potential to change the way readers view the men and women of the military, war, and the global reach of American imperialism today.
As Kaplan writes, the only way to understand America's military is on foot, or in a Humvee, with the troops themselves, for even as elites in New York and Washington debated imperialism in grand, historical terms, individual marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors — all the cultural repositories of America's unique experience with freedom — were interpreting policy on their own, on the ground, in dozens upon dozens of countries every week, oblivious to such faraway discussions.... It was their stories I wanted to tell: from the ground up, at the point of contact.
"America is no less an imperial power than Britain and Rome in their times, claims veteran journalist Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts, etc.) — one that is backed by the same sort of enforcers. To illustrate, he travels to seven nations and describes how American troops are, if not ruling the world, working to persuade it to follow our lead. The author joins elite units (generally marines or special forces) sent to shore up friendly governments, win people's hearts, train security forces and defeat terrorism — an increasingly vague term that includes narco-guerrillas, local warlords, unruly tribes and criminal gangs. Living among working soldiers, Kaplan makes no secret of his admiration for their camaraderie, practicality and rational if politically incorrect views. All roll their eyes when our leaders proclaim that defeating terrorism requires democratic governments; according to Kaplan, they believe this is nonsense in Colombia, Kenya, Yemen and the Philippines — all democracies. Forbidden to fight in these countries, Americans are building infrastructure and gathering intelligence as they instruct local units, hoping American-trained leaders will eventually rise to positions of authority. Military buffs will prefer the chapters on Iraq and Afghanistan, where the soldiers are slugging it out. Stabilizing all these nations may take decades, these men and women say — except in Iraq, where it may take longer. (On sale Sept. 13)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"One of the most important books of the last several years. Robert Kaplan uses his prodigious energy and matchless reporting skills to takes us on to the front lines with the new warrior-diplomats who use weapons, imagination, and personal passion to protect and advance the interests of the United States. This is a generation every American should come to know." Tom Brokaw
"A provocative survey of a changing military charged — it seems ever more apparent — with making the world American, regardless of the world's view of things." Kirkus Reviews
"While Kaplan's competence as a war correspondent is considerable, his true skill is that of the travel writer, a literary vagabond who wanders the world's back roads digging up earthy perspectives of the powerful and powerless alike. He burrows into a community and takes enormous risks to get a story that is often worth the effort. Imperial Grunts is vintage Kaplan." Chicago Tribune
"For better or worse, the grunts Kaplan describes so brilliantly will be out there representing America in the chaotic zones of a dangerous world, and to understand them one is well advised to read this book." Washington Post
"The book's structure — an author introducing himself to six geographical areas, then introducing them to us — can be repetitive, so the book sometimes drags. It is most compelling when the subject is the U.S. Army Special Forces." Wall Street Journal
"Kaplan is at his best when he captures the intimacy of troop life, relaying tips on how to escape from kidnappers and force cows out of airplanes, or turning a soldier's riff on AK-47s into a meditation about Russian culture.... But Imperial Grunts is an uneven book, its irregularities highlighted by its chronological structure." Los Angeles Times
"Robert Kaplan has brilliantly captured the story of today's U.S. military operating in far-flung places on strange missions. Imperial Grunts is the most insightful and superbly written account of soldiering in the New World Disorder to date. It is a must read for all Americans." General Anthony C. Zinni, United States Marine Corps (Ret.)
"Splendid! This is the finest work in print about today's American fighting men and the challenges they face around the globe. Kaplan's courage in researching this book under combat conditions is complemented by his integrity and great literary skill. Imperial Grunts simply could not be better." Ralph Peters, author of Beyond Baghdad
"Kaplan infuses us with a sense of hope about the future. Through astonishing observations, truths, and stories, Imperial Grunts introduces a brand-new way of thinking about the enduring virtue of the American spirit." George Crile, author of Charlie Wilson's War
A veteran correspondent for the Atlantic explores how American imperialism is pursued and how the global war on terrorism is fought worldwide by America's elite military forces.
About the Author
Robert D. Kaplan is a national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and the bestselling author of eleven previous books on foreign affairs and travel, including Balkan Ghosts, The Ends of the Earth, The Coming Anarchy, and Eastward to Tartary and most recently Imperial Grunts. He is currently the Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor at the United States Naval Academy. He lives with his wife and son in western Massachusetts.
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