Title: What It Is Like to Go to War
Author: Karl Marlantes
Acquired: Book Expo America
Review: I think one of the reasons I’ve procrastinated on writing this review is because I just don’t quite know what to say about What It Is Like to Go to War. Karl Marlantes’ nonfiction follow-up to his widely-regarded novel Matterhorn a fascinating hybrid of a nonfiction book — part memoir, part history, part manifesto — that explores a central conflict from Marlantes’ time as a Marine:
The Marine Corps taught me how to kill, but it didn’t teach me how to deal with killing.
Marlantes has an impressive intellectual background, and he pulls from a huge range of sources to develop his thesis about how we can help the young warriors (a deliberately chosen descriptor for soldiers) we send to war as they fight and when they come home. As Marlantes explains near the end of the book:
Throughout this book I have attempted to honestly share my experiences of combat with an eye toward how I might have managed those experiences with more wisdom and psychological, spiritual, and ethical maturity. I have argued that had I been more conscious when I was fighting in Vietnam, I would have contributed just as effectively, or even more effectively, tot he war aims of those in power. I would have wreaked less havoc and pain and still gotten the job done.
As I read, I felt a bit like I was sitting down and trying to have a discussion with someone who clearly knows more and has thought more about a topic than I have. That’s not to say the book in inaccessible, because it’s certainly not. Marlantes makes his arguments clearly and without condescension. But I also ended up not really knowing what to say in response to many of his arguments except, “Yes, absolutely!” I’m very curious to read and hear what other soldiers or military experts might have to say in response — any good sources to seek out, let me know!
What It Is Like to Go to War is a meditation on what it is like to be a warrior, and a compelling argument about what we can to do help young warriors when they return from battle. It’s a wide-ranging and thoughtful book that I hope will make the rounds among the sorts of people who can make the types of decisions that will most help the young men and women we send to war.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!