Customer Review

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly heartfelt account of modern warfare, 23 Jan. 2010
This review is from: An Ordinary Soldier: Afghanistan: A Ferocious Enemy. A Bloody Conflict. One Man's Impossible Mission (Hardcover)
Author Doug Beattie won a Military Cross for his actions described in this book, which take place in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2006. You might therefore expect some ferocious combat in his book, An Ordinary Soldier and you certainly get that but also something else that is often missing from other military memoirs: emotional honesty.

Beattie lays himself open to the reader, describing his actions - sending men off to fight and sometimes die, calling in merciless air support to batter other people, shooting wounded soldiers and so forth - in describing these, he is highly self-critical: are these the right things to do? Are these actions comparable to the Nazis? Can I still retain my humanity? Am I the same person? This reflection is both honest, candid and laudable.

Another facet of Beattie's book that is commendable is how he describes the relationship betwixt the British forces and the Afghanis who choose to fight alongside them: passionate but disorganised, poor but generous; some he admires a great deal, others he cannot stand.

As with other books describing the war in Afghanistan, one wonders just what we are doing out there, what we are actually achieving at such a cost of lives, both Afghanis and British? Beattie seems to get bogged down in a series of firefights, attempting to dominate land, only then having to relinquish it; nothing but the spilling of much blood seems to be the end result. There are certainly no military victories, much less any "nation-building" to describe.

Doug Beattie's book, An Ordinary Soldier, will be familiar to readers of the genre in terms of the military aspects portrayed therein and as such does not sufficiently differentiate itself from other titles. Where he leaves his mark is in the arena of self-criticism, the candid and unflinching contemplation of his actions. Beattie makes evident that the British infantryman is no mindless automaton but one who is capable of retaining his humanity in the worst of conditions.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Aug 2012 23:53:05 BDT
P. B. Wagner says:
Since you think the book has commendable aspects, and is not only equal to other accounts in combat description but distinguishes itself in emotional candour and self-criticism, I'm puzzled about why you only awarded 3 stars?

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Aug 2012 19:08:55 BDT
Fair comment, P. B. - perhaps my reasoning wasn't all that clear. Essentially, I don't actually review much of what I read and I've read quite a few books on the U.K.'s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An Ordinary Soldier, in terms of the operations described, was incredibly familiar to me; the only distinguishing thing about this book was the emotional honesty. Therefore, I felt that much of this material had already been covered elsewhere and was not sufficiently different from many other titles.
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