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Thus, he covers both sides of the issue effectively, and notes that while eighteen Americans died, between 500 and 1,000 Somalis died on the ground. Thus, as a journalist, he uses balance and both sides of the issue to make his points and back up his reasoning. That is the mark of a good journalist, and probably one of the reasons the book was considered for a National Book Award. It is an emotional book, but it is also balanced and fair, leading the reader to make their own conclusions about what happened in Somalia.
One of the great strengths of the book is the way the author portrays the soldiers. They are more than a group of men fighting together, they are a team, a cohesive group that care about each other and will never leave another behind. That is one of the enduring themes of the book, and it is repeated often. Even after some are rescued, their only thought is to return to the city to help their fellow soldiers. Bowden writes, "Alive or dead, they were coming home. This fight wasn't over until every one of them was back" (300). He clearly shows their dedication to each other and their determination to save everyone. The leadership of the Army may be flawed, planning may be poor, but the individual soldiers take their work seriously and care about their fellows with a bond that is difficult to describe. The author manages to do that by showing their bravery in the face of battle and their courage when they rescue each other from the fight.
The author illustrates the utter devotion these soldiers have to their jobs and their country. He writes, "It was hard to imagine what interest the United States of America has in such a place. But Struecker was just twenty-four, and he was a soldier, so it wasn't his place to question such things" (51). By placing statements like these throughout the book, he shows the blind devotion of the soldiers, but also encourages the reader to contemplate how they feel about the involvement in Somalia (and other countries). Thus, the book is historical fact, but also encourages additional thought and debate on the reader's part.
No book is perfect, and this one certainly has issues. The author does seem biased in some area of the book, and it is clear he feels the government swept the incident under the rug when it should have been investigated and studied. It is clear there are some members of the armed forces that he does not respect (such as the arrogant Sergeant Howe), and he feels that some of the decisions were hasty and mismanaged. However, he portrays the men as heroes and their work as necessary, and even notes that through it all, they did manage to capture and keep the two initial targets. Therefore, the mission was a success, in a way. However, the fight became infamous when images of Somalis dragging dead Americans through the streets hit the airwaves, and President Clinton removed all the troops. The fight seemed to be for nothing and the deaths of eighteen unnecessary.
In conclusion, this is more than an important historical account of what happened in Somalia in 1993. It is an intimate look into the lives of Army Rangers and Delta Force personnel, and how they react to battle. More than that, it shows the military is not perfect - in fact, it can be extremely flawed and inefficient. It also questions the wisdom of war, and becoming involved in skirmishes like the one in Somalia. What is the role of the United States in peacekeeping, and when do we draw the line? The events in Mogadishu illustrate the problems with these skirmishes. The deaths of these eighteen soldiers seem to mean little, as the entire project was aborted just a few days later. Should we have been in Mogadishu in the first place? After reading this book, it is up to the reader to judge that, and it seems most readers will say a resounding, "no."
Editors. "Mark Bowden: Biography." AtlanticMonthly.com. 2007. http://www.theatlantic.com/about/people/mbbio.htm
Mark Bowden. Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999.[continue]
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