Published by Penguin on March 4th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Short Stories (single author), General
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“I had at least thought there would be nobility in war. I know it exists. There are so many stories, and some of them have to be true. But I see mostly normal men, trying to do good, beaten down by horror, by their inability to quell their own rages, by their masculine posturing and their so-called hardness, their desire to be tougher, and therefore crueler, than their circumstance. And yet, I have this sense that this place is holier than back home. Gluttonous, fat, oversexed, over-consuming, materialist home, where we’re too lazy to see our own faults. At least here, Rodriguez has the decency to worry about hell. The moon is unspeakably beautiful tonight. Ramadi is not. Strange that people live in such a place.”
Redeployment is a collection of twelve fictional short stories written by Phil Klay. Klay is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who was stationed for a year in Iraq as a Public Affairs Officer. These stories are about the recent war in Iraq and the Marines make an appearance in all the stories. This is not a “rah-rah war” book, which some may be looking for and some may be trying to avoid. The individual viewpoints vary, but they are all thoughtful and nuanced. The stories are told from a multitude of perspectives (combat troops, Marines on leave in the US or adjusting to life back home, a chaplain, support staff, etc.), but they share common themes: the growing disconnect between civilians and the military, the mistaken perceptions that civilians have about war and the military, the conflicting emotions in a war zone and at home, and the experiences of combat troops versus that of non-combat units/support staff.
My favorite short story is Money as a Weapons System, which really highlights the absurdities of nation-building during a war. Nathan, a foreign service officer, arrives in Iraq determined to make a difference and encounters all sorts of bureaucratic entanglements. The story is told in a humorous way, but it is a more than a little depressing when you remember that the story has roots in reality.
A few of the stories, mostly those that take place in the war zone, contain an abundance of acronyms. The heavy use of acronyms serves to highlight the difference between the civilian world and the military world, but it can disrupt the flow of the story when you don’t know what anyone is talking about. This glossary was really valuable to have on hand when reading.
There is violence, sexual content, and bad language, but that is to be expected in any book about the realities of war. I think this book is important for any American of voting age. It is impossible to have a full grasp of what it is like to be a soldier in a war zone, but Redeployment does provide a little insight. Everyone’s experience will be different and Redeployment is a important and necessary companion to the more popular books about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The weird thing with being a veteran, at least for me, is that you do feel better than most people. You risked your life for something bigger than yourself. How many people can say that? You chose to serve. Maybe you didn’t understand American foreign policy or why we were at war. Maybe you never will. But it doesn’t matter. You held up your hand and said, “I’m willing to die for these worthless civilians.” At the same time, though, you feel somehow less. What happened, what I was a part of, maybe it was the right thing. We were fighting very bad people. But it was an ugly thing.”