Drones, Counterinsurgency, and Coming Home | Nonfiction Previews, Oct. 2014, Pt. 1

Dreazen, Yochi. The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War. Crown. Oct. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780385347839. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780385347846. MILITARY
A decorated two-star officer, Maj. Gen. Mark Graham is all too familiar with the suicide epidemic among soldiers—and how it’s shoved under the rug by the military. He and his wife have lost both their soldier sons, but the death of one by his own hand was treated very differently from the other’s death in combat. The Grahams have since advocated for suicide prevention and the compassionate treatment of the families involved, which sometimes puts them up against the top brass. Top-ranked military journalist Dreazen brings us the story; with hunterkillera reading group guide and resource book.

McCurley, Lt. Col. T. Mark with Kevin Maurer. Hunter Killer: Inside America’s Unmanned Air War. Dutton. Oct. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780525954439. $27.95. MILITARY
Everything you ever wanted to know about drones, more properly called remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), which have figured significantly in Middle East warfare without our fully understanding how and why they were developed. McCurley has spent a decade flying RPA and in fact wrote the first tactical manual for a type called the Predator. He’s also been involved in Tier One counterterrorism missions, including the hunt for American-born terrorist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, which makes this book not just background for understanding a contentious issue but a you-are-there war memoir.

Nagl, John A. Knife Fights. Penguin Pr. Oct. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781594204982. $27.95. MILITARY/MEMOIR
Now a retired lieutenant colonel, Nagl realized in the first Gulf War that conventional warfare was on the way out and asymmetric warfare—battling guerrillas, terrorists, and insurgents—was on the way in. He persuaded military high-ups to send him back to study counterinsurgency at Oxford (he had already studied there and at West Point), which led to his writing Learning To Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. Post 9/11, the wisdom of his ideas was recognized, and he was asked to coauthor the U.S. Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency field manual with generals David Petraeus and James M. Mattis. Here’s a deep insider’s account on how we are learning to eat soup with a knife.

Risen, James. Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780544341418. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780544341425. POLITICAL SCIENCE/INTELLIGENCE
An investigative reporter for the New York Times, Risen has a way of digging out the facts, and here he digs deep to discover what endless fighting in the Middle East has cost America, from wasted or misappropriated funds to the violation of the basic civil liberties that have defined our country. Take heed: Risen won a 2006 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on warrantless wiretapping by the Bush administration, and he’ll come out fighting. With a 75,000-copy first riseprinting.

Rodriguez, Daniel with Joe Layden. Rise: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780544365605. $26. MILITARY/MEMOIR
Before he became an honors student at Clemson University and, at five-foot-eight and 175 pounds, a wide receiver for the university’s Division I football team, he was a soldier in Afghanistan, attaining the ranks of sergeant and receiving both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. While there, he promised his best friend that he would pursue his big-time football dream, and working hard to keep that promise helped Rodriguez cope with the posttraumatic stress syndrome that has become a huge and insufficiently acknowledged problem for returning soldiers today. Rodriguez has already received lots of coverage, from the New York Times to ESPN, and claims over 10,000 Twitter followers. A nice memorial: his friend didn’t make it out alive.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.