Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Forever War

I suspect that Dexter Filkin's Forever War will continue to be read when other excellent books about the Iraq War, like Fiasco, Cobra 2 and (to a lesser extent) Imperial Life in the Emerald City will be replaced by works from later authors. These books tell a slice of the macro story, particularly how policy makers in DC and generals on the ground made mistakes that led to the horrors of the Iraq War. Some years from now, we will have more complete macro histories, perhaps by the same authors that will provide the story from beginning to end.

Filkin's book, which stretches from pre-9/11 Afghanistan to Iraq 2006 is focused on the stories that took place at the ground level. He tells the stories of Iraqis trying to survive the insurgency and American soldiers trying to fufill their missions with a lack of Arabic, insufficient cultural information and orders that don't help. The majority of these stories are tragic, but Filkins wisely laces the sadness with humor, although typically of the absurd sort.

His stories are so vivid and perfect that you don't want the book to end, despite the horrors that he is showing. If you are tired of Iraq books, consider going back to the well for this one.

Reading this recent interview you will see that things have changed dramatically in Iraq, although not completely as his last paragraph indicates.

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