War – Sebastian Junger

Sebastian Junger’s War recounts his experiences in Afghanistan with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment as he visited them on and off throughout the year.  Junger’s account of the Afghan War is unique as he places his emphasis on what the soldiers on the front lines are facing rather than the politics of the war.  By examining the actual men fighting the war, the reader comes to understand that overarching debates about the war have very little impact on our soldiers fighting the war.  Our nation may have sent them there to do a job that is very political in our minds as civilians, but, as Junger emphasizes, the soldiers of Second Platoon are not fighting and dying for us but for each other.  They fight because if they don’t they let done the man standing next to him and all the men in the platoon.  One hesitation, one lapse in attention could kill everyone. This is what the men fighting in Afghanistan worry about. They have no interest or stake in how many troops are withdrawn, how long they been there, or the cost of the war. To them, it is about not failing the man next to you.

This is something that we as civilians need to understand and think about when discuss our soldiers in broad general terms.  As politicians and pundits debate the war with vitriol, we need to understand that this has little affect on how the soldiers feel about the war while they are there fighting.  After they come home and have time to digest what happened them and again emerge themselves in the broader debate they may form opinions about the war, but when the Taliban engage a soldier in a firefight, their biggest fear is failing the men next to him.  What Junger has captured is important and I think should change the way we as civilians understand and discuss the war in Afghanistan especially as we begin to withdraw soldiers.  The most important issue we need to remember is that when the US sent money and weapons to Afghanistan to defeat the Soviet Union it was a success, but when the US left, the nation fell into tribal warfare until the Taliban emerged.  This time the US need to make sure that when they withdraw the nation does not fall back into tribal warfare – this would be a colossal failure politically, militarily, and economically.

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