A work of personal experience by a reporter cohabitating with soldiers in Afghanistan.
A work that states the patently obvious. At least, patently obvious to anyone with testosterone: That men fight for the men beside them. That the bond between soldiers is the greatest emotional bond that men can experience. That the platoon is approximately the same size as the maximum survivable hunter gatherer group. That this level of in-group altruism is particular to man.
In that sense, the book is perhaps interesting to the common man. In the political sense, it is yet another silly book by silly people, for silly people.
I explain to people often, universally at their amazement, why it’s so hard to convert people in that part of the world to something on the order of advanced civilization. It’s not a complicated reason. It’s that in a world where farming is so fruitless, the land so barren, and the civilization so lacking in infrastructure, that the comfort, thrill, joy, and sense of success that men can possess as raiders is impossible to replicate elsewhere.
Or let me put it this way: there isn’t anything in that part of the world that’s more interesting to do than go hunt and kill people. It’s status enhancing. It’s entertaining. And it’s simply more interesting than the absolutely fruitless and boring alternatives.
Our boys are captured in prisons we call classrooms. Forbidden to move. Forbidden to compete. Forbidden to display dominance. Forbidden in fact, to be male. Forbidden to interact with the world except with words, like girls. These boys disassociate from society because of these deprivations. They play video games. They play sports. They wear clothing that represents abandonment. They don’t enter college. They just simply give up on society. They don’t ‘own’ responsibility for society any longer. THey don’t want it. And in many respects, they can’t handle it. Because they have been so sensory-deprived that they have no capacity, nor any learned method of how to do so.
How many of these boys, when deprived of modern entertainment and food surpluses, when given the chance, would happily carry around rifles and grenades, and with joy, enthusiasm, and wonder, attack an entrenched enemy sequestered in small numbers, in fixed positions, on the defensive?
How many of our current soldiers, if told ‘select your team, select your weapons and ammunition, take your time, and kill everyone on the other side you can, while taking the fewest casualties of your own’ would not happily join up in record numbers?
It’s not a small number.
It’s just surprising that Junger, or anyone for that matter, would fail to understand these basic human traits. That is, unless you’re a member of the church of secular humanism. Where you live an abstracted view of christianity. Where you think that submission and safety are the same as competition, winning and experience.
It’s also surprising that any military historian, any military strategist, would fail to understand Kegan’s Thesis: that ‘winning’ is a cultural, and perhaps, civilization-defining construct that has been inherited and reinforced for millennia. And that the western concept of winning is pointless in central asia. Indeed, pointless among any of the Raiding-Cultures. And that in turn, how one could fail to understand just how endemic the ‘Raiding’ concept is to central asian and arab thinking. And how they cannot conceive of any other, just as how westerners can rarely conceive of any other.
And once that Tribal-Raider-versus-Heroic-Army is understood, it becomes obvious that islam is a Raider’s Political Strategy rather than a western heroic army strategy, or western ‘religion’ in any sense of the word. Or more strategically, the raider sits and waits until you’re vunlerable to strike, and the heroic army seeks the defining clash.
1) We cannot win a war fighting it on our terms. We can only win the war fighting it on their terms.
2) It is enjoyable, and even preferable for many men to live in combat, versus the tedious and boring farming or industrial life. It is only when the benefits of capitalism and trade are sufficient to be vaguely fascinating, and the freedoms are sufficiently broad, competitive and entertaining, that men will, on occasion, for some period of time, find peace all that interesting.
Every historian who studies the vastness of human history, for the purpose of learning what is there, rather than projecting upon it what he desires to find in it, will eventually come to the conclusion that each civilization embodies the behaviors of it’s early military traditions. Bushmen and simple herders. Plain and desert raiders. Western individualist river and forest farmers, boatmen and horsemen. Eastern hierarchical farmers. And the jews, hindus and buddhists who abandoned all political pursuit (land holding) for submission and mysticism.
If you don’t know this obvious bit of human cultural development, then its only because you weren’t given any history by the same cadre of pacifists that are destroying our boys minds one package of unexercised neurons at a time.