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An archetypal Officer speaks.
on 25 March 2013
Don't buy this book if you want to read another shoot-em-up (though it describes a lot of instances of people getting shot). Don't read this book if you want to preserve a romantic view of war (although it describes platonic love between brothers-in-arms as set against the contrasting brutality). Don't trust the editorial crap on the back cover ("the only book on Afghanistan you will ever need to read"). This should spur you on to find out how the hell soldiers, civilians and Afghans came to experience this hell on earth.
Bury shows himself to be of his generation of soldiers; men and women who were drawn to conflict for some altruistic and some selfish motives, but who were condemned to partake in the tactics of western war in the absence of any apparent link to strategy or statecraft. He charts his own progress to the crucible of horror from innocent childhood play to very adult misadventure.
It left me wondering how this generation are supposed to live with the memories of the wars of choice in which they partook. At least those who watched their friends and enemies die in wars gone-by did so because of campaigns that were in many cases necessary. Recent discretionary campaigns will be much harder to come to terms with for those engaged in them (as well as their families). Bury charts his own adaptation to the madness with compassion, candour and good-humour. He is capable of the kind of reflection that is not bestowed on many who put themselves in his situation.
He has taken all of the best parts from his education and moral training and has applied them in a place that no amount of analysis can seem to rationalise. Ignore the cover which is designed to appeal to those who buy the raft of other contemporary soldier-autobiographies; this is the thinking man's book on what it is to experience Afghanistan first-hand as a Platoon Commander.