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The Three Battles of Wanat: And Other True Stories

de Mark Bowden

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"In addition to three extraordinary pieces on war, this book includes Bowden's incisive sports writing, think pieces, and a selection of fascinating profiles--from a piece on the world's youngest and most baffling dictator, Kim Jong-un, to features on newspaper scion Arthur Sulzberger and The Wire creator, David Simon"--published in Atlantic Monthly.--Back jacket flap.… (mais)
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A variegated collection of essays and articles by the noted journalist, the best of which being those dealing with contemporary military affairs, particularly the story of a small battle in Afghanistan that gives this book its title. ( )
  Shrike58 | Aug 23, 2016 |
There is a lot to like in this collection of previously published writings by Mark Bowden. The topics range widely and include war, personal profiles, sports and general things, like his experience trying to raise guinea hens because of their penchant for eating deer tick. The articles reflect his attention to detail, clear writing and sense of humor.

The title piece tells about one of the most violent American confrontations with the Taliban in the Afghanistan War. The three battles were: the engagement itself—where Lt. Jonathan Brostrom was one of 9 fatalities; the battle by his father—a retired Army colonel— to lay blame on the military leadership and chain of command; and the successful fight by Col Bill Ostlund to clear his name. In the piece, Bowden confronts the reader with much to consider about war including courage, waste, confusion, honor, and especially grieving.

Two other engaging essays on war are about amazing technological advancements that both assist and challenge combatants. “The Last Ace” tells about how modern fighter pilots have advantages in the air that could not have been dreamed of just a few decades ago, but one needs to balance the jaw-dropping expenses of these planes with their need. “The Killing Machines” considers the history, utility and morality of drones in the so-called war on terrorism. These remarkable machines provide the capability of killing at a distance with no risk to our combatants. Bowden argues that this technological advancement is not unlike the advantage offered by the sling to ancient soldiers. However, its very remoteness presents with moral dilemmas and obligations never before considered.

The celebrity profiles were universally enlightening, not so much because of the personalities themselves, but because each is shown coping with an important contemporary issue. Joe Biden on being a humane and approachable politician; Kim Jung Un on the perks and dangers of being and absolute dictator; Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. on the future of print news in the digital age; Judy Clarke on the appropriateness of capital punishment; and David Simon on spin in storytelling.

The pieces on sports were lighter but most were quite entertaining. “Attila’s Headset” was a remarkably insightful examination of one of our most successful college football coaches—Steve Spurrier. His wife calls him “a spoiled brat.” Maybe that is what it takes? The hardest job in football turns out to be the guy who calls the shots for the TV coverage. It turns out that this is a much underappreciated, but critical contribution to our enjoyment of these events. Likewise, Bowden’s coverage of the silent count to overcome crowd noise in pro football can only add to the readers’ enjoyment of watching these games.

The miscellaneous essays at the end of the book were the weakest part of the collection. Bowden’s battles with guinea hens, as well as his defenses of the Tom Wolfe and the movie Zero Dark Thirty seem to be close to his heart, but carry much less weight than the rest of the collection. ( )
  ozzer | Feb 15, 2016 |
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There is one thing that about the Battle of Wanat that will remain forever beyond reproach. At the worst of the fight, Lieutenant Jonathan Brostrom ran to the point of greatest danger and died to help his men.
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"In addition to three extraordinary pieces on war, this book includes Bowden's incisive sports writing, think pieces, and a selection of fascinating profiles--from a piece on the world's youngest and most baffling dictator, Kim Jong-un, to features on newspaper scion Arthur Sulzberger and The Wire creator, David Simon"--published in Atlantic Monthly.--Back jacket flap.

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