Bookmarks Issue: 

The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground

A-Hog PilotsIn Imperial Grunts (2005), Robert D. Kaplan, a national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, chronicled his five years living with U.S. troops abroad, focusing mainly on Afghanistan and Iraq. In this sequel, he offers another intimate view of the American military at work-protecting its territory, providing disaster relief, and planning for future conflicts. Kaplan's globe-hopping tour of duty focuses largely on the Pacific, with stops in Indonesia, Thailand, Alaska, Guam, and submarines patrolling the Pacific Ocean. These firsthand accounts from Special Forces troops, marine patrols, and air force squadrons illustrate the important role that noncommissioned soldiers play both in combat arenas and the less publicized, yet no-less-important, work of maintaining allies and gaining valuable intelligence.
Random House. 448 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 1400061334

Wall Street Journal 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Again and again in this book, we see how military service, even in peacetime, provides the catalyst that allows common men to perform uncommon deeds. In wartime, of course, this effect is invaluable-but somehow the extraordinary feats being performed daily by our troops in Iraq and elsewhere go unappreciated." Robert H. Scales

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"No armchair observer, Mr. Kaplan takes embedding to a new level, joining service personnel in grubby tents and grubbier bars in 'a mournful place at the edge of nowhere.' . . Mr. Kaplan addresses large issues, but the book focuses mainly on the men and women he met on his travels through the military world." Philip Seib

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Kaplan doesn't just admire the troops, he also praises their missions. Through their exploits, he forms a vision of how the American empire might preserve itself: as an international network of military power tied together by small foreign bases, global air and sea capabilities, personal relationships with foreign governments and American warriors willing to fight." Phillip Carter

Seattle Times 3 of 5 Stars
"The primary strength of Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts is the first-hand window into what we don't normally see-the people instead of the policy. ... The hardest part of the book to stomach is Kaplan's war gaming, which focuses on Asia." Richard Seven

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"Some chapters, particularly those describing his sojourns with the Navy and the Air Force, come across as little more than paeans to the awesomeness of the U.S. military and its magnificent flying and sailing machines, with a brief overview of the theater in which they are deployed. ... There is nary a word of criticism for anyone in uniform." Sean D. Naylor

Critical Summary

Robert D. Kaplan turns away from the more incendiary front line of the war on terror in this follow-up to Imperial Grunts. He spent over two years embedded with a diverse group of soldiers, and his admiration for their work comes through on every page. That same high esteem opens up the major vein of criticism, as some reviewers fault Kaplan for veering "dangerously close to cheerleading" (Washington Post). Well-researched and sympathetically drawn, these portraits of the modern military are essential reading for those interested in the day-to-day lives of our men and women overseas.