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Guest Post: Deichman Reviews Senator’s Son

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

My friend and sometime co-author Shane Deichman reviews Senator’s Son: An Iraq War Novel  by Luke S. Larson ( my review will be coming later this month).  For those readers unfamiliar with Shane, he is a former USMC Science Adviser at JFCOM. Physicist. Former Managing Director of Operations for IATGR. Former Managing Director of EnterraSolutions, LLC. ORCAS (Oak Ridge). Currently with the National Missile Defense Agency, Shane blogs at Wizards of OzDreaming 5GW and Antilibrary:

Review: Senator’s Son

by Shane Deichman

Nearly 25 years ago, as a freshman college student balancing a science major with the obligatory credits in the Humanities, my English 101 professor introduced me to the concept of “verisimilitude“: the likeness or resemblance of a creative writing effort to reality. While this was a difficult feat for me in my writing assignments, it is something that Luke Larson has effortlessly achieved in his first novel, Senator’s Son.

Luke was a journalism major at a rival PAC-10 school, courtesy of an NROTC scholarship to the University of Arizona, and as a junior officer in the U.S. Marine Corps served two tours in Iraq (both in al Anbar province – first in 2005 during the election of the Iraqi Transitional Government that was to draft a permanent constitution, and again in 2007 during the Iraqi national referendum and the start of General Petraeus’s “Surge”).

Senator’s Son wastes no time hurling the reader into the breech. Written in a tempo prestissimo style, this rapid-fire novel gives you a no-holds-barred perspective of modern counterinsurgency from multiple perspectives: the families at home with a dissociated populace; the wounded warriors battling the demons of recovery, opiate pain-killer addictions and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; the careerist bureaucrats that infiltrate every large organization; and most importantly the junior officers and non-commissioned officers who must make up for “higher’s” planning inadequacies and strategic myopia. Larson’s use of a 2047 scenario in the southwest Pacific, with a lone Senator holding the deciding vote on whether or not to commit U.S. military power abroad, helps to reinforce the strategic consequences our actions today can have on future generations.

Set in 2007 Ar Ramadi, a city of nearly a half-million that serves as the provincial capital of al Anbar province just west of Baghdad, Senator’s Son is the story of the platoons of GOLF Company. GOLF is a Marine company (part of a Marine battalion tied to an Army brigade) responsible for sweeping missions in south Ramadi in the days prior to the 2007 Iraqi national referendum (and a few months prior to “The Surge”). Their early ventures from the “Snake Pit” (a heavily fortified Marine firm base) poignantly demonstrate the complexities of contemporary warfare.

The force protection concerns are palpable – one can almost smell the raw sewage flowing through the ruined streets of a dying city, and feel the peering eyes of snipers tracking you in their sights. Every piece of litter is a potential Improvised Explosive Device, and every sound a threat. And like Mayor Giuliani’s “Broken Windows” theory in late 1990s New York City, the reluctant shift from a hardened, up-armored patrol mindset to one of cooperative engagement with a foreign culture underscores the essence of counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine now codified in FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5: Counterinsurgency.

Like real life, there are few “happy endings” in this book. Each platoon commander in GOLF has his own strengths and fallibilities: from steadfast Bama’s bravery and bigotries to the maverick Greg’s ingenuity and independence. And each must face his own demons in the prose that Larson deftly weaves.

At a minimum, Senator’s Son is a brilliant primer on leadership: how to learn which rules are worth breaking, the importance of adaptability when there are no black-or-white situations but only gray, and the primacy of relationships.

But it is also a tribute to those who answer a call to serve – whether they serve in their own communities as volunteers, or have the privilege of wearing the Eagle-Globe-and-Anchor of a Marine (like my grandfather, a mortarman with CHARLIE-1-6 in Guadalcanal and Tarawa, and my grandmother, a clerk-typist at Hunters Point-San Francisco who met my grandfather after his malaria washed him out of the Fleet Marine Force). Senator’s Son is a testament to the resilience of those who carry the burden of personal sacrifice with such humility that we can take our own freedom for granted.

This book is a “must read” for anyone who cares about the greater world beyond our neighborhood – and the role that power (be it the “hard” power of weaponry and kinetic energy, or the “soft” power of relationships) can play in shaping the world for better or for worse.

(cross-posted at Antilibrary, Wizards of Oz and Zenpundit)

Recommended Reading

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Top Billing! Instapundit & Fabius Maximus – First, Glenn Reynolds 

 SO HERE’S A QUESTION: Would a default on Treasuries accomplish what the Balanced Budget Amendment was supposed to achieve, by forcing the government to spend no more than it takes in? With more collateral damage, of course. . . .

Then Fabius Maximus responds with this very important post:

Would a default by the US government help America?

….There are no easy or certain solutions.  We have to work our problems carefully,  in the correct sequence, aware of trade-offs.   I believe a default – in any form – is not necessary at this time.  Nor will it be if we act quickly and wisely.  The costs of default would be large and avoidable if feasible.

The chief problem we face today is a weak economy, and the risk of a double-dip recession (historically quite common).  In the third year of this recession the reserves at all levels are drained – households, businesses, and governments.  We are weak, as was the world in a physical sense after WWI – vulnerable to the 1918  influenza.   Another downturn might be worse than the first.   Should the economy weaken from here, failure to promptly enact another stimulus program might have cataclysmic – even historic – consequences

Too often, discussions of foreign policy and military strategy are divorced from economic realities. Debt financing deternines the current outlier of using American power. This could change if we change our fiscal and monetary policies, but right now, operations are largely debt-financed, like government spending in general.

ShlokyLara M. Dadkhah On CAS = FAIL

Lara M. Dadkhah, a graduate student in Security Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, has written the most brain-dead op-ed I’ve read on the war in Afghanistan in years. It’s an infantile perspective on a complex dynamic. Lots of cheerleading, no insight.

An epic slam, and quite deserved. There was a lot of online speculation as to who the author was, given the minimal available info online about “Lara M. Dadkah”, but I have seen a highly credible person vouch for her as his former student, so she was not a “sock puppet” or a character with a hidden agenda. It was simply a mediocre op-ed by an employee of Booz Allen.

WSJ (Evgeny Morozov)- The Digital Dictatorship (hat tip Adam Elkus)

….It’s easy to see why a world in which young Iranians embrace the latest technology funded by venture capitalists from Silicon Valley, while American diplomats sit back, sip tea and shovel the winter snow on a break from work, sounds so appealing. But is such a world achievable? Will Twitter and Facebook come to the rescue and fill in the void left by more conventional tools of diplomacy? Will the oppressed masses in authoritarian states join the barricades once they get unfettered access to Wikipedia and Twitter?

This seems quite unlikely. In fact, our debate about the Internet’s role in democratization-increasingly dominated by techno-utopianism-is in dire need of moderation, for there are at least as many reasons to be skeptical. Ironically, the role that the Internet played in the recent events in Iran shows us why: Revolutionary change that can topple strong authoritarian regimes requires a high degree of centralization among their opponents. The Internet does not always help here. One can have “organizing without organizations”-the phrase is in the subtitle of “Here Comes Everybody,” Clay Shirky’s best-selling 2008 book about the power of social media-but one can’t have revolutions without revolutionaries.

FuturejackedSocionomic Trendspotting 2010 – The Gritty Reboot

….Rest assured, the mob, whether led by NY Attorney General Cuomo, some upstart in Congress that we have not yet heard much of or some Federal DA, will get back to the bankers. The end result will not be pretty. People will want scalps and these jokers are the most blind scions of privilege seen strutting and preening on the world stage since the French Revolution.

SWJ Blog (William McCallister)The Men Who Would Govern Marjah

….While simple cause and effect narratives make for good reading, cultural complexity is inseparable from the study of cause and effect, especially in a place like Marjah. We continually espouse what we believe ought to happen but rarely how a given political or economic initiative might actually play itself out within a given cultural context. What might the Afghan approach to gaining a foothold in Marjah look like? How might the landowners, merchants and farmers, civil administrators, leaders of the Afghan National Army (ANA), local police, local fighters, and allies of the Taliban interact with one another? How might the imposition of government authority in Marjah play itself out? How might elements of the ANA and police support government administrators in imposing a central authority?

Chicago Boyz (Joseph Fouche) –  Razzia III: The Finel Solution ( also see Razzia II: The Finel Countdown and Razzia)

New Atlanticist (Dr. James Joyner) – The (New) German Question

Steven Pressfield – Writing Wednesdays #27: “Help!”

Metamodern Chemists deserve more credit: Atoms, Einstein, and the Matthew Effect

Don VandergriffSun Tzu and America’s Way of War

Scholar’s StageMusings – How We Ought To Think About History

That’s it!

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