Anthony Swofford's tales of battle in the Gulf. Apr 21, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 31 • By MAX BOOT
A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles
by Anthony Swofford
Scribner, 257 pp., $24
FOR ALL THE NONSTOP COVERAGE of the war in Iraq, there is one place reporters cannot go: inside the minds of the combatants. That remains the realm of the participants, and we are now lucky enough to have an important new memoir that provides a mesmerizing glimpse inside the mind of a soldier who fought in the first Gulf war.
Anthony Swofford called his book "Jarhead" because that's what he was--one of the "jarheads," a slang term for Marines that derives from their "high and tight" crew cuts. Swofford was a lance corporal in a scout-sniper platoon, an elite light force that operates ahead of the main body to conduct reconnaissance missions and to eliminate targets of opportunity. His outfit was among the first units to arrive in Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, and he stayed until the end of the campaign. "Jarhead" intersperses accounts of his time in the desert with flashbacks to his childhood and flash-forwards to his post-military life.
Like many service members, Swofford comes from a family of veterans: His grandfather was in the Army Air Force in World War II, his father in the Air Force in Vietnam, his uncle in the Marine Corps, and his brother in the Army. He also came from a broken home, his parents going through an acrimonious divorce. At age seventeen, he decided to enlist to "prove both my manhood and the masculinity of the line" and "to impose domestic structure upon my life, to find a home."
None of this is unusual in today's armed forces. What sets Swofford apart are his intellectual inclinations; he makes casual references to reading the "Iliad" or Camus's "The Stranger" during free moments. There used to be many such writers in uniform, back in the days of the draft, but now they are precious few. After leaving the Corps, he attended the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and he puts his training to good use in "Jarhead," delivering the best depiction of American enlisted men since "From Here to Eternity"--the work of another grunt who served in an all-volunteer army.
The bulk of "Jarhead" is composed of funny, sad, and profane stories of a soldier's life, the sort of stories that have been told around a campfire since the days of Homer. Few of them can be reprinted in a family magazine like THE WEEKLY STANDARD, because Swofford writes the way most ordinary soldiers speak. But here is a typical tale, about a married grunt in an NCO club in Okinawa talking with a newly arrived tanker:
The guy next to him, new to the island by about five days, began describing a woman who sounded a lot like the grunt's wife--dark brown hair, strong nose, nice chest, runner's legs, Southern twang. . . . And then the tanker mentioned that the woman was married to some dumb grunt--and that's a quote from her, dumb-as-a-board grunt--and how the dumb grunt had bought the woman a new convertible. . . . The tanker said that all he did his last three days in the States was make conversation with this broad, this poor dumb grunt's wife, in her new sky-blue convertible, parked at the beaches at Oceanside and San Clemente and Dana Point, and God bless America and the virtuous ladies who guard her holy shores, the tanker said. And that's when the cuckolded grunt began to beat severely on the tanker, and he didn't say a word, he just beat the tanker to the ground.
Even in this, I had to change a few words. But as the anecdote suggests, Swofford and his platoon mates spent an awful lot of their time conversing about, well, nooky--how they weren't getting any, and how they were suspicious that their wives and girlfriends back home weren't similarly deprived. Talk of politics is conspicuously absent from this book, as it no doubt is from the conversations of most grunts. They're not fighting for grand abstractions, these professional warriors. They're fighting for their own survival, for their "family"--their fellow soldiers--and for the thrill of it.
Amitai Etzioni on his life and times.Apr 21, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 31 • By ARNOLD BEICHMAN
My Brother's Keeper
A Memoir and a Message
by Amitai Etzioni
Bill Clinton's military aide tells all.Apr 21, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 31 • By BENJAMIN SCHEMMER
Dereliction of Duty
The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Endangered America's National Security
by Robert Patterson
In brief: Dorothy Rabinowitz's "No Crueler Tyrannies" and the "Touchstone Reader."Apr 21, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 31 • By
Books in Brief
No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times by Dorothy Rabinowitz (Free Press, 256 pp., $25). The term "witch hunt" has been used so often--and so inaccurately--that one automatically mistrusts it these days. Yet one recent set of events does bear a striking resemblance to the Salem trials: the hysteria over sexual abuse of children in day-care centers that frenzied the nation in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In brief: John T. Noonan on the High Court and Michael Kochin on gender in Plato.Dec 30, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 16 • By
BOOKS IN BRIEF
Narrowing the Nation's Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States by John T. Noonan Jr. (University of California Press, 208 pp., $24.95).
A SLIM MAJORITY of the Supreme Court has over the past decade expanded states' immunities against federal authority. These decisions are the target of John T.
Our holiday gift to you: We offer our choices for books to enjoy over the holidays or to consider as last-minute gift ideas.11:00 PM, Dec 19, 2002 • By
Editor's Note: We'll be on hiatus for the holidays, so next week, we'll be posting some of our favorite recent pieces from both The Weekly Standard and The Daily Standard--some holiday-related, some not. Enjoy, and have a terrific and safe holiday season!
William Kristol, editor
READ ANYTHING by the greatest living American comic writer (besides Andy Ferguson), Donald E. Westlake.
In brief: Novels by Joel Rosenberg and Richard Dooling and Bill Wyman's Rolling Stones tome.Dec 16, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 14 • By
BOOKS IN BRIEF
The Last Jihad
by Joel C. Rosenberg
Forge, 304 pp., $24.95
AMID THE HEMMING AND HAWING about how to confront Saddam Hussein, Joel Rosenberg, former aide to Steve Forbes and Benjamin Netanyahu, uses fiction to convey the threat Iraq poses to international security. Though the picture painted by Rosenberg is disconcerting, the possibilities he raises are real.
Several years after Bush completes his second term and his successful war on terror, another popular Republican president is surfing a surging economy and unprecedented domestic security.
From the September 22, 2002 Washington Times: A new book on film editing finally gives the great Walter Murch his due.12:00 AM, Sep 26, 2002 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
THE MOVIE INDUSTRY is peculiar for many reasons, among which is this: The least important and most interchangeable artists in the community (actors) are the best known and rewarded, while the most-skilled and least replaceable artists (writers and editors) are virtually anonymous. To wit: Everyone in America knows who Adam Sandler is.
Michael Oren's authoritative account of the Six Day War--and its legacy.Jun 10, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 38 • By AMITAI ETZIONI
Six Days of War
June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East
by Michael B. Oren
Oxford University Press, 446 pp., $30
IN "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East," Michael B. Oren gives a meticulous, blow-by-blow history of what is, unfortunately, an old-fashioned kind of war.
Just before the short but decisive conflict, Egypt had closed the Straits of Tiran and demanded the removal of the United Nations forces that were serving as buffers in Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
John Esposito struggles to sanitize Islamic thought.May 27, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 36 • By STANLEY KURTZ
Terror in the Name of Islam
by John L. Esposito
Oxford University Press, 196 pp., $25
OSAMA BIN LADEN may be hunkered down, half-starved in some Pakistani village right now, yet he continues to sow considerable confusion among America's leftist academics.
Take, for example, John L. Esposito, founding director of Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, past president of the Middle East Studies Association, and foreign-affairs analyst for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at President Clinton's State Department.
The dissonant life and times of Charlie Mingus.May 6, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 33 • By HARRY SIEGEL
Tonight at Noon
A Love Story
by Sue Graham Mingus
Pantheon Books, 288 pp., $24
FOR MANY, the name Charlie Mingus conjures the image of a goatee-sporting, jive-talking jazz bassist and composer, a mixture of New York beatnik and Angry Black Man. Mingus was all of those things. He hung out with Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, denounced the white race, and worked at moving past the cant and sentimentality of a racially defined identity.
All the way with LBJ.Apr 29, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 32 • By ROBERT D. NOVAK
Master of the Senate
The Years of Lyndon Johnson
by Robert A. Caro
Knopf, 1,167 pp., $35
IT HAS BEEN twelve years since publication of "Means of Ascent," the second volume of Robert Caro's "The Years of Lyndon Johnson," but the long-anticipated third volume, "Master of the Senate," is worth the wait.
An autopsy of socialism.Apr 22, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 31 • By FRED SIEGEL
Heaven on Earth
The Rise and Fall of Socialism
by Joshua Muravchik
Encounter, 417 pp., $27.95
Romantics, Patriots and Revolutionaries 1776-1871
by Adam Zamoyski
Viking, 512 pp., $34.95
THERE ARE TWO KINDS of radical: the consolable and the inconsolable. The consolables are those whose grievances can--at least in theory--be addressed, while the inconsolables are those whose rage admits no limits. The 1970s terrorist "Carlos the Jackal" is a good example of an inconsolable.
The uneasy friendship of Truman and EisenhowerApr 1, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 28 • By MICHAEL BARONE
Harry & Ike
The Partnership that Remade the Postwar World
by Steve Neal
Scribner, 324 pp., $26
"HARRY & IKE," Steve Neal's book on the relations between Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, might well have had a second subtitle--"Great Presidents Behaving Badly." It tells two stories. The first is the collaboration of two able and dedicated public officials in launching the United States on its victorious course in the Cold War, and without whom that struggle might have taken quite a different course.
Robert Warshow, the who did pop culture right.Mar 25, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 27 • By TERRY TEACHOUT
The Immediate Experience
Movies, Comics, Theatre and Other Aspects of Popular Culture
by Robert Warshow
Harvard University Press, 302 pp., $18.95
AMONG my prized possessions is a battered copy of Robert Warshow's "The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre and Other Aspects of Popular Culture," an obscure collection of critical essays published in 1962 to no special acclaim.