The Junior Officers’ Reading Club

Christopher Coker of the London School of Economics and Political Science (I always want to render the “and Political Science” in parentheticals, for some reason) has an interesting review of two new books in the Times Literary Supplement: Patrick Hennessey’s The Junior Officers’ Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars and James Fergusson’s A Million Bullets. It’s a short review, but it’s a more accurate, and apt, characterization of the two authors’ subjects (Iraq and Afghanistan) than I’ve read anywhere else. This blurb on NATO struck a chord:

Traditionally soldiers have read books to orientate themselves, either to make sense of their personal experience of war or to have a greater understanding of the larger picture, “what it’s all about”. Churchill tells us he was spurred on to study by catching himself using a good many words, the meaning of which he could not define properly. What would he make of war today? As Matthew Parris pointed out in The Times, the NATO mission in Afghanistan is a semantic nightmare: “agent for change”; “assymmetric means of operation”; “capacity building”; “conditionality demand reduction”; “injectors of risk”; “kinetic situation”; “licit livelihood”; “light footprint”; “partnering and mentoring”; “reconciliation and reintegration”; “rolling out a touchdown approach”; “upskilling”. Today’s soldiers (or “stability enablers” as NATO prefers to call them) are lost in jargon. It represents both a lack of real conviction in policing the frontier, an embarrassment about war itself, and a confusion about the operational purpose, which always seems to be changing. Afghanistan is a tactically, not strategically, driven war as objectives and goals are recalibrated (usually downwards) according to success or failure in the field.

Read the rest here.


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