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Hog pilots, blue water grunts : the American military in the air, at sea, and on the ground /
Robert D. Kaplan.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Random House, c2007.
description
xii, 428 p.
ISBN
1400061334 (alk. paper), 9781400061334 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
More Details
imprint
New York : Random House, c2007.
isbn
1400061334 (alk. paper)
9781400061334 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
6273443
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [403]-408) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
America's African Rifles With a Marine Platoon African Sahel, Summer 2004 In the early summer of 2004, just as the United States was dismantling the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, sending home its effective proconsul, L. Paul Bremer III, U.S. Marines and Army Special Forces were in various stages of deploying to the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert, the Sahel, one of the few battlegrounds left in the Global War on Terror for the U.S. military to enter, as it was already deployed in so many other parts of the world. Local alliances and the training of indigenous troops have been a traditional means of projecting power at minimum risk and fanfare. This was true of Rome even in regard to adjacent North Africa, to say nothing of its Near Eastern borderlands; and it was particularly true of France and Britain, two-thirds of whose expeditions were composed of troops recruited in the colonies.* As Tacitus writes, "We Romans value real power but disdain its vanities."1 Taking Tacitus to heart, I went to * See Sallust's The Jugurthine War, composed between 44 and 40 b.c., and Douglas Porch's introduction to the Bison edition of Col. C. E. Callwell's Small Wars: Their Principles & Practice (1896; Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1996). These are but two examples of a vast military literature about how imperial powers used their influence. the Niger River region of the African Sahel, or "coast," a belt of savannah and scrub on the Sahara's southern edge, to witness a version of America's reach that was radically different from Iraq, certainly more modest, and hopefully more successful. Among the great rivers of Africa, after the Nile and the Congo there is the Niger, which medieval Arab geographers such as Ibn Battuta called "the Nile of the Negroes." The Niger rises within 492 feet of the Atlantic Ocean in the jungly, mountainous borderland of Guinea and Sierra Leone and flows northeast into Mali, past the desert caravan centers of Timbuktu and Gao. Then, arcing southeast through Niger and along the Benin border, it drops down into Nigeria, breaking up into an immense delta amid the malarial swamps of the Bight of Biafra. The curvilinear journey of 2,600 miles from the sea deep into the desert, and back to the sea again, seems almost contrary to the laws of nature. Herodotus, in the course of his travels in the fifth century b.c., heard mention of the river. In the vicinity of eastern Libya he was told about a group of young and adventurous Nasamonians, who lived in nearby Syrtis along the Mediterranean coast. These Nasamonians had packed a good supply of food and water and set off into the interior of Libya. After traveling for many days southwestward through the desert they came upon a region of sparse vegetation where they were attacked by black men "of less than middle height," speaking an unintelligible language. These "dwarfs" carried the Nasamonians through a marshy country whereupon they sighted a "great river with crocodiles" that "flowed from west to east."2 The Niger was no less remote to twenty-first-century Americans than it had been to the ancient Greeks. It passed through some of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world. The Sahara Desert had effectively cut West Africa off from the traffic of peoples, ideas, and technology that moved between the Mediterranean and Eurasia from the classical age onward. Islam itself was weakened in the course of its arduous journey south. The Tuaregs, for example, a Berber people who began moving south from the central Sahara to the Niger River about a.d. 1000, were only nominally Muslim. They built few mosques; few of them made the haj to Mecca. Tuareg men wore veils; not Tuareg women. The word
First Chapter
America’s African Rifles

With a Marine Platoon

African Sahel, Summer 2004

In the early summer of 2004, just as the United States was dismantling the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, sending home its effective proconsul, L. Paul Bremer III, U.S. Marines and Army Special Forces were in various stages of deploying to the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert, the Sahel, one of the few battlegrounds left in the Global War on Terror for the U.S. military to enter, as it was already deployed in so many other parts of the world.

Local alliances and the training of indigenous troops have been a traditional means of projecting power at minimum risk and fanfare. This was true of Rome even in regard to adjacent North Africa, to say nothing of its Near Eastern borderlands; and it was particularly true of France and Britain, two-thirds of whose expeditions were composed of troops recruited in the colonies.* As Tacitus writes, “We Romans value real power but disdain its vanities.”1 Taking Tacitus to heart, I went to

* See Sallust’s The Jugurthine War, composed between 44 and 40 b.c., and Douglas Porch’s introduction to the Bison edition of Col. C. E. Callwell’s Small Wars: Their Principles & Practice (1896; Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1996). These are but two examples of a vast military literature about how imperial powers used their influence.

the Niger River region of the African Sahel, or “coast,” a belt of savannah and scrub on the Sahara’s southern edge, to witness a version of America’s reach that was radically different from Iraq, certainly more modest, and hopefully more successful.

Among the great rivers of Africa, after the Nile and the Congo there is the Niger, which medieval Arab geographers such as Ibn Battuta called “the Nile of the Negroes.” The Niger rises within 492 feet of the Atlantic Ocean in the jungly, mountainous borderland of Guinea and Sierra Leone and flows northeast into Mali, past the desert caravan centers of Timbuktu and Gao. Then, arcing southeast through Niger and along the Benin border, it drops down into Nigeria, breaking up into an immense delta amid the malarial swamps of the Bight of Biafra. The curvilinear journey of 2,600 miles from the sea deep into the desert, and back to the sea again, seems almost contrary to the laws of nature.

Herodotus, in the course of his travels in the fifth century b.c., heard mention of the river. In the vicinity of eastern Libya he was told about a group of young and adventurous Nasamonians, who lived in nearby Syrtis along the Mediterranean coast. These Nasamonians had packed a good supply of food and water and set off into the interior of Libya. After traveling for many days southwestward through the desert they came upon a region of sparse vegetation where they were attacked by black men “of less than middle height,” speaking an unintelligible language. These “dwarfs” carried the Nasamonians through a marshy country whereupon they sighted a “great river with crocodiles” that “flowed from west to east.”2

The Niger was no less remote to twenty-first-century Americans than it had been to the ancient Greeks. It passed through some of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world. The Sahara Desert had effectively cut West Africa off from the traffic of peoples, ideas, and technology that moved between the Mediterranean and Eurasia from the classical age onward. Islam itself was weakened in the course of its arduous journey south. The Tuaregs, for example, a Berber people who began moving south from the central Sahara to the Niger River about a.d. 1000, were only nominally Muslim. They built few mosques; few of them made the haj to Mecca. Tuareg men wore veils; not Tuareg women. The word “Tuareg” itself is Arabic for “the abandoned of God.” The flow
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2007-05-01:
Wherever Kaplan travels (in this case, to all three branches of the U.S. military), he always brings back gold. With a nine-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2007-07-16:
After 9/11, Atlantic Monthly correspondent and bestselling author Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts) spent five years living with U.S. troops deployed across the globe. He first reported on his travels in 2005's Imperial Grunts, an incisive and valuable primer on the military's role in maintaining an informal American empire. In this shrewd and often provocative sequel, Kaplan introduces readers to more of the soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who staff the empire's forward outposts. Although the author's travels take him to Iraq, he spends most of his time with "imperial maintenance" units that are training indigenous troops, protecting sea lanes and providing humanitarian relief from Timbuktu to the Straits of Malacca. Kaplan clearly admires the American troops he meets, though he sometimes questions their civilian masters. He saves his harshest judgment for his fellow journalists, whose relentless criticism of anything less than perfection amounts to media tyranny, in his view. Kaplan sees the war on terror and "the re-emergence of China" as the U.S.'s two abiding challenges in the 21st century and argues that, after Iraq, the military will seek a smaller, less noticeable footprint overseas. Kaplan combines the travel writer's keen eye for detail and the foreign correspondent's analytical skill to produce an account of America's military worthy of its subject. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
"A valuable bridge across the country's widening civil-military divide. It is an important contribution to our understanding of how this military works in the 21st century." The New York Times "No one understands better the burdens carried by today's men and women in uniform. If you aren't reading Kaplan, you aren't fully informed." Minneapolis Star Tribune "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." The Wall Street Journal "Recommended reading for anyone seeking to understand the full reach of America's global military power, or trying to comprehend the incredibly complicated, but increasingly important, soft-power demands being placed on today's military." The Boston Globe From the Trade Paperback edition.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Library Journal, May 2007
Publishers Weekly, July 2007
Booklist, August 2007
Wall Street Journal, September 2007
Washington Post, September 2007
New York Times Full Text Review, October 2009
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
In this extraordinary book, Robert D. Kaplan lets readers experience up close the American military worldwide in the air, at sea, and on the ground: flying in a B-2 bomber, living on a nuclear submarine, and traveling with a Stryker brigade on missions around the world. Provided unprecedented access, Kaplan moves from destroyers off the coast of Indonesia to submarines in the central Pacific, from simulated Iraqi training grounds in Alaska to technology bases in Las Vegas, from army and marine land forces in the heart of the Sahara Desert, to air bases in Guam and Thailand and beyond. Hog Pilots, Blue Water Gruntsprovides not only a riveting ground-level portrait of the Global War on Terrorism on several continents, but also a gritty firsthand account of how U.S. soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are protecting sea-lanes, providing disaster relief, contending with the military rise of China, fighting the war in Iraq, and crafting contingency plans for war with North Korea and Iran. Expanding on Kaplan's acclaimed Imperial Grunts, the first volume of his exploration of the American military, which "offers the reader an enlightened way to understand what is happening in the world" (San Francisco Chronicle),Hog Pilots, Blue Water Gruntsshifts focus to the Pacific, where emerging Asian powers present vexing diplomatic and strategic challenges to U.S. influence. In this volume, Kaplan completes his analysis of army Special Forces and the marines, while also taking readers into the heart of the myriad tribal cultures of the air force, surface and subsurface navies, and the regular army's Stryker brigades. Kaplan goes deep into their highly technical and exotic worlds, and he tells this story through the words and perspectives of the enlisted personnel and junior officers themselvesmen and women who, as he writes, have "had their national identities as Americans engraved in sharp bas-relief." This provocative and illuminating book, likeImperial Gruntsbefore it, not only conveys the vast scope of America's military commitments, which rarely make it into the news, but also shows us astonishing and vital operations right as they unfoldfrom the point of view of the troops themselves. From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Better They Fought, the Better Relief Workers They Becamep. 3
America's African Riflesp. 12
Alaska to Thailand: The Organizing Principle of the Earth's Surfacep. 35
A Civilization unto Itself, Swishing Through the Crushing Voidp. 94
Geeks with Tattoos: The Most Driven Men I Have Ever Knownp. 138
NATO's Ragged Southern Edgep. 174
The Gurkha Standardp. 208
Tribal Mafiasp. 226
A Dependable Blue-Collar Planep. 266
Timbuktu, Soviet Stonehenge, and Gnarly-Ass Junglep. 303
The Big Glider and the Jagged Boomerangp. 329
The Morbid Tyranny Out of Antiquityp. 349
Afterword: The Non-warrior Democracyp. 371
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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