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Reviews for The Good Soldiers

by David Finkel

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

A success story in the headlines, the surge in Iraq was an ordeal of hard fighting and anguished trauma for the American soldiers on the ground, according to this riveting war report. Washington Post correspondent Finkel chronicles the 15-month deployment of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad during 2007 and 2008, when the chaos in Iraq subsided to a manageable uproar. For the 2-16, waning violence still meant wild firefights, nerve-wracking patrols through hostile neighborhoods where every trash pile could hide an IED, and dozens of comrades killed and maimed. At the fraught center of the story is Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, whose dogged can-do optimism-his motto is "It's all good"-pits itself against declining morale and whispers of mutiny. While vivid and moving, Finkel's grunt's-eye view is limited; the soldiers' perspective is one of constant improvisatory reaction to attacks and crises, and we get little sense of exactly how and why the new American counterinsurgency methods calmed the Iraqi maelstrom. Still, Finkel's keen firsthand reportage, its grit and impact only heightened by the literary polish of his prose, gives us one of the best accounts yet of the American experience in Iraq. Photos. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Finkel chronicles the work of the Second Battalion, Sixteenth Infantry Regiment, during a 14-month tour in Iraq. The only real enthusiast for the war was commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kautzlarich, but the rest of the battalion mostly approached the tour in the classic spirit of doing a job. A dirty job it was, too, as more sophisticated roadside bombs grew capable of destroying an armored Hummer and most of the men inside it. (The battalion lost 15 killed and many more maimed for life.) Most of the men ended by describing the war, the Iraqis, and the country in strings of four-letter words, but they had made a real effort to hold down civilian casualties while keeping the insurgents on the defensive, at which they may have achieved some modest success in 2007 and 2008. A memorable portrait of soldiers good enough to do their duty in a bad and ugly war, this is a superior addition to the Iraq War literature.--Green, Roland Copyright 2009 Booklist