May 30, 2003
Wall Street Journal
Book review of “Jarhead”, by Anthony Swofford. A book about a troubled man who commits criminal acts and blames them on the culture of the Marine Corps and the nature of war, which he does not experience.
There is success and then there is huge success. “Jarhead” has enjoyed the second kind: best-seller status, fawning reviews and the “relevance” that only war can bring to a book by a military man. Would it be uncharitable to question whether such success has been deserved? Perhaps. Well, then, let us be uncharitable. The author certainly is.
In the opening pages of “Jarhead” (Scribner, 260 pages, $24), Anthony Swofford says that he repeatedly stole and sold the gear of other Marines, knowing it would cost his fellow soldiers weeks of pay and poor fitness reports, compromising their future in the corps. Is he remorseful? Not a bit. And why should he be? He portrays the Marines, generally speaking, as homicidal delinquents.
The New York Times gushed about Mr. Swofford’s “searingly honest portrayal of the combat soldier,” but his combat experience was brief: He experienced no firefights and two shellings in Desert Storm, which caused him to lose control of his bladder. But “Jarhead” isn’t mostly about combat; it’s about arrested development: part dysfunctional family, part boot-camp ritual, part sex and booze, part existential angst, part high jinks and part antiwar cant — e.g., Desert Storm was fought to protect “the profits of companies, many of which have direct ties to the White House.”
May 1, 2003
Marine Corps Gazette
2nd Place, 2003 Chase Essay Contest
Traditional Marine Corps small unit roles have been snatched up by the Special Operations Command.
No service was better prepared to fight the war on terror than the Marine
Corps, yet it was relegated to the periphery. Has the nation’s premiere
small unit infantry been replaced by the Joint Special Operations Command?
All Dressed Up With No Place To Go
In October of 2001, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England appeared on CNN to
bolster the war against terrorists. Larry King: Can you give us an overview
of what the Navy special ops do?
Secretary England: Well, of course the Navy has probably best special
operations force the world has ever known. It has the United States Marine
The Secretary was articulating what Marines already knew: the Corps was the
natural salient for the war on terror. Marines and their associates had
predicted this fourth generation war-where combatants would “bypass the
enemy’s military entirely and strike directly at his homeland at civilian
targets” -and adopted a warfighting doctrine ideally suited to decentralized
guerilla battlefields. Born in the cauldron of Vietnam, maneuver warfare was
molded by a collective frustration and chiseled into the Marine psyche in
the 1980s. It is not hype; from platoon sergeants to division commanders the
watchword is to maneuver, not to fight by brutal attrition.