“What It’s Like to Go to War” by Karl Marinates

What It is Like to Go to WarWhat It is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The whole book is really good, and a reliably peek into what it is like to go to war. The final two chapters or so are curious, but not to the detriment of the book as a whole. In the second to last, Marlantes gets into what has been known as the “just war tradition” without ever calling it that (for reasons he does not explain). Essentially, he outlines how war and violence might be justified and be minimally injurious (morally, ethically) to those who fight in combat.

The last few segments talk at greater length than it should (given his relative lack of credentials) on parenting, the role of women in post-combat rehabilitation, and other various topics. Here, Marlantes relies on a kind of gender essentialism that I think is unnecessary. He does not adequately account for the fact that women now are serving in combat, for example. (i.e. for Marlantes, women welcome warriors home, but what if the warriors are women, and what if men are equally capable of welcoming warriors home?)

Relying heavily on the paradigm of the Power of Myth espoused by Joseph Campbell, his use of archetype and ancient mythic frameworks that we in the West have inherited from Rome and Greece is very helpful and full of keen insight. Particularly useful are his reflections on The Club of Veterans, which maybe should have been his final chapter…

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