I was an Army wife for over 12 years, I have been through deployments galore, and when President Bush announced there would a surge in an effort to quell the violence in Iraq, my heart went out to all the soldiers who would be deployed, extended, or stop-loss’ed due to it. Everyone else was thinking- would this surge work? that is what Dave Finkel tried to answer when he was embedded with a unit at the heart of the operations of the surge.
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 almost every grueling step of the way.
What was the true story of the surge? 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 Bowden’s 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.
There are plenty of books that explore the political aspects of the war, and what makes this book so good, is that it is not one of them. It accepts the reality of the war without asking the why, and moves on from there. This book tell the story of the surge from almost every angle. The fear during a attack, the macabre laughter at a body in a well, the dismal morale, those who survived and those who didn’t. It is simply a great tale of unit, doing their best in very tough circumstances. It is straightforward and impactful. Reading this book will make you proud of everyone that serves, and remind us that no matter what the politics of the war are, we must always remember all the good soldiers.