Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blue-Collar in the Best Sense

A BRIEF WORD ON ROBERT KAPLAN'S "IMPERIAL GRUNTS"


I just finished Robert Kaplan's excellent Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground, which looks at how U.S. soldiers and marines are handling various engagements around the world. Kaplan details some combat, but he mostly focuses on hearts-and-minds campaigns waged by a few dozen Green Berets in isolated spots like Colombia, where the rules of engagement allow shooting only when you're shot at.

Kaplan repeatedly says that strategy decisions take place in Washington and are primarily a concern of America's elites—but the execution of those decisions worldwide is in the hands of a blue-collar force, in the best sense of that term: men (and occasionally women) who are primarily concerned with what works for their particular mission rather than ideological purity.

What works, from the author's perspective, is steadfastness, hands-on local knowledge, and friendliness, sort of like the marines' old saying that a marine is both your best friend and your worst enemy.

This is the third book of Kaplan's that I've read after his excellent Eastward to Tartary and Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the potential—and the limits—of American engagements abroad.

For a free taste of Kaplan's thinking, see his op-ed piece in today's Times, "Next: A War Against Nature." (Login required.)

1 comment:

Curzon said...

But you haven't read Coming Anarchy yet??

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