A deceptively straightforward account of a platoon’s fifteen-month deployment in a remote outpost in the Korangal Valley of Eastern Afghanistan, War (Twelve, $15.99), by Sebastian Junger, is a brave attempt at documenting the lives of men in constant danger, the incongruities of combat, the boredom and the fear, and the fine line between the living and the dead. The stories of what happens to these men are interspersed with explanations of the science behind fear, courage, and the bonds that develop among men who trust each other with their lives.
WAR SINCE 1900 (Thames & Hudson, $45), edited by Jeremy Black, not only details the wide range of 20th-century warfare, but also points out the continuities, similarities, and differences that characterize the vast number of armed conflicts of the last one hundred years. From land wars to modern troop deployment, from technological advancement to counterinsurgency, War Since 1900 is an expansive survey of the methodology of war, providing a wealth of time-lines, photographs, maps, and charts, all complemented by inviting, accessible text. This book makes clear that “war might not conform to rules or limits”; its presentation of the facts will make this volume an instant favorite for history buffs.
In his masterful new book CULTURES OF WAR (W.W. Norton, $29.95), John W. Dower, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of Embracing Defeat and War Without Mercy, turns his keen historical eye on the cultures that create modern wars of annihilation. A striking comparative study of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, September 11th, and the Iraq war, the book examines many themes including the catastrophic failures of intelligence, the targeting of non-combatants, and the attraction of mass destruction. As he did in his previous prize-winning works, here, again, Dower gives us history writing at it absolute best.