The Soldier: A History of Courage, Sacrifice and Brotherhood, Darren Moore

The Soldier: A History of Courage, Sacrifice and Brotherhood, Darren Moore

This book, written by a former soldier in the Australian Army, looks at the impact of fighting on the individual soldier. Moore begins by looking at the relationship between the soldier and the governments that use them, who joins the army and what motivates them, how the soldier is trained, and the split between the military world and that of the civilian, but the largest part of the book looks at the impact of killing on the soldier (three chapters and 160 of the 421 pages of text). Here Moore looks at how armies get their soldiers to kill and the impact it has on the soldiers themselves. Well over half of this section looks at the impact of killing one's own, either in executions or friendly fire. This is a particularly interesting section, examining an act that goes against the very forces that Moore identifies as keeping an army in the field and fighting - loyalty to ones own small group of colleagues and the wider army family.

Moore presents us with one dilemma that he doesn't really attempt to answer. To fight effectively an army needs the support of its public, and to feel that its efforts are appreciated. At the same time it is clear that soldiers are angry when their dead and wounded are hidden from public view. At this time these two requirements are clearly in conflict - the more the public are aware of the casualties being suffered in a conflict, the less support there is for continuing to fight.

This perhaps reflects one of the strong points of this book. Moore presents his material in a clear and unbiased manner, and the text is normally clear of the author's own conclusions, allowing the readers to make their own mind up. This changes in the final chapter, 'Is There a Need for War?', where Moore does give us his own views, arguing that the state that isn't willing to fight for its freedoms will soon lose them, but that the decision to go to war has to be a last resort (and not as an apparently easy way to solve foreign policy problems) and that wars must only be fought when there is a clear, worthwhile and achievable objective.

Moore's work serves as a valuable reminder of the real cost of war to the soldiers who actually carry out the fighting, and run the risk of death or appalling injuries, and should be essential reading for any political leader considering a resort to force.

1 The Soldier and the State
2 Who Serves
3 A Soldier's Journey
4 The Cost of War
5 Love, Sex and War
6 Kill or be Killed: Live and Let Live
7 Killing Your Own - The Death Penalty
8 Killing Your Own - Friendly Fire
9 The Military Versus the Media
10 Is There a Need for War?
Author: Darren Moore
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 500
Publisher: Icon Books
Year: 2009

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