Wednesday, September 26, 2007

House to House

I just finished reading House-to-House, by SSG David Bellavia, a terrific book by a soldier recounting his time in the infantry in Iraq. The centerpiece of the book is the battle to retake Fallujah from the jihadis which is told in detail that is both breath-taking yet excruciating (in a good way), forcing the reader to put himself in the boots of the soldiers taking and dishing out the bullets.

The moral torments lived by soldiers, the dilemmas, the struggles with conscience and prayer and God, are all told well. The book reminded me of the horrors and struggles of medical training in med school and residency - the camaraderie of the team against the world, facing the dregs of society and trying to make the situation better against impossible odds, the day-to-day hassles of bureaucracy and higher-ups, - it's all there, only to the nth degree for the infantryman.

Interestingly enough, Michael Ware of CNN comes across as the soldier's reporter. While his journalism has struck me as anti-American, he seems to bond with the soldiers and is right there with them getting shot at and eating crap.

The book really makes one consider whether the whole endeavor is worth the sacrifice we ask of these soldiers. While there is and should be debate on that point (and I would say it is as I believe would SSG Bellavia), what one is left with is that we cannot let these young men down either in theater or once they return to America, and that society as a whole has to engage in war - the military alone cannot do all the fighting. I think our leadership has failed the nation and the nation has failed our young men in uniform by not committing the entire resources of the nation (not just material, but expertise, time, and resources of all different sectors) to winning. We need a new philosophy to bring together the principals and make everyone feel involved - I think programs of national service (for young and old), a new organization for democracies, and a realignment on the true roots of Islamic terrorism (Saudi Arabia/Pakistan/Iran) would be far better polestars for policy than the spent policies of the Bush administration or the whining of