Full Spectrum Disorder, by Stanley Goff.
Goff served as an NCO in the U.S. army from Vietnam to Haiti. He is an experienced killer, a thirty-year veteran of our splendid little wars, a very pissed-off veteran, and a hardcore leftist. He’s set himself the task of demolishing our current military fantasies, which isn’t too hard. The usual military anecdotes of incompetence, brutality, pants-shitting terror, etc. are told with style. He’s clearly been in the thick of most of the Imperial mistakes of my lifetime. At his best, he combines the rip-roaring stories with serious criticism of U.S. military strategy. Technology-obsessed generals, neo-con idiots in suits, pathetically dishonest politicians, and military failures cycle through the stories he tells. Bitter old soldiers tell good angry stories, and their targets are deserving.
He loses his thread when he tries to connect military incompetence and foolishness with the essential evil of Empire, though. His disgust with the Army’s decline and his loathing of capitalism imperialism are both genuine but there isn’t much of a connection here, and each chapter has an awkward bit where he tries to glue these two things together. There are two books here, and they don’t sit well with each other.
He’s also way further left than I. I’m one of the coffeehouse liberals he despises. In a memory passage he describes the difference between the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, Mexico and the FARC revolutionaries in Colombia. The Chiapas movement was crushed, he says, because they never had the balls to make war. When it came down to whether to blow stuff up and machete people, they refused, and the government didn’t, and they’ve been a spent force since. The FARC, on the other hand, is an army. They are just as brutal as any other army, and they still control large portions of the country. He quotes Mao: “Political power grows out the barrel of a gun” and he isn’t messing around. Way more hardcore than I’ll ever be; I’m anti-violence.
I’m of two minds about this book. His stories and his detail are wonderful. The criticism of the U.S. Military sounds accurate, and I’m not one to argue here. But the ideology feels tacked-on as though some Soviet censor had ordered it. And I’m not ready to burn any villages with Stan, yet. B+