War by Sebastian Junger - review by Patrick Hennessey

Patrick Hennessey

Band of Brothers



Fourth Estate 286pp £16.99

Sebastian Junger makes no secret of the ambitious scope of this book. Written over a year when he was embedded with an American Airborne Infantry Company in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, its title is simply War. His subject is not merely the current conflict, but the nature of conflict itself.

Junger bravely confronts one of the problems inherent in writing a book like this at the off: ‘Journalistic convention holds that you can’t write objectively about people you’re close to, but you can’t write objectively about people who are shooting at you either.’ When I was serving we were sceptical of some journalists who seemed to lose a sense of perspective as they strove for ‘objectivity’, forgetting that the Taliban were instructing their snipers to target journalists and medics first. I approached this book with the same caution but was quickly disarmed. Junger concedes that pure objectivity is impossible in war and concentrates instead on being honest. What follows is brilliant.

Junger divides the book into three sections, each with an equally expansive subtitle – Fear, Killing, and Love. The first third pulls us in to the Korengal Valley, ‘the Afghanistan of Afghanistan’, and introduces us to the men with whom Junger shared a year. The writing is lively

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