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American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant

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  • No single work can do justice to the complexity and horror of war, but "Apocalypse Now" comes close. Set in the Vietnam War, the film – with its meditations on madness, spasms of violence, and depictions of how civilization breaks down on the front lines – echoes throughout the pages of American Spartan, a new memoir by former Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor military affairs reporter Ann Scott Tyson.

    The book is a portrait of Army Special Forces Major Jim Gant, depicted as a masterful philosopher-warrior drummed out of the service by feckless bureaucrats. Befitting the gravity of its subject, it takes readers into some very dark places. Some of them (post-traumatic stress disorder, the deep sorrow of losing a friend in combat) are clearly planned stops; others (the joyful thrill of killing on the battlefield, an emotionally resonant "everybody was doing it" defense of wartime misconduct) seem to be more impulsive.

    "Apocalypse Now"'s Colonel Walter E. Kurtz floats over "American Spartan" like a malignant cloud. Kurtz was determined to beat a vicious and resourceful North Vietnamese-led insurgency by living with natives and leading from the heart of the jungle; Gant follows suit in Afghanistan, becoming a friend, counselor, and surrogate son of "Tribe 33" while battling the largely Pashtun-based Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

    No single work can do justice to the complexity and horror of war, but "Apocalypse Now" comes close. Set in the Vietnam War, the film – with its meditations on madness, spasms of violence, and depictions of how civilization breaks down on the front lines – echoes throughout the pages of American Spartan, a new memoir by former Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor military affairs reporter Ann Scott Tyson.

    The book is a portrait of Army Special Forces Major Jim Gant, depicted as a masterful philosopher-warrior drummed out of the service by feckless bureaucrats. Befitting the gravity of its subject, it takes readers into some very dark places. Some of them (post-traumatic stress disorder, the deep sorrow of losing a friend in combat) are clearly planned stops; others (the joyful thrill of killing on the battlefield, an emotionally resonant "everybody was doing it" defense of wartime misconduct) seem to be more impulsive.

    "Apocalypse Now"'s Colonel Walter E. Kurtz floats over "American Spartan" like a malignant cloud. Kurtz was determined to beat a vicious and resourceful North Vietnamese-led insurgency by living with natives and leading from the heart of the jungle; Gant follows suit in Afghanistan, becoming a friend, counselor, and surrogate son of "Tribe 33" while battling the largely Pashtun-based Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

  • No single work can do justice to the complexity and horror of war, but "Apocalypse Now" comes close. Set in the Vietnam War, the film – with its meditations on madness, spasms of violence, and depictions of how civilization breaks down on the front lines – echoes throughout the pages of American Spartan, a new memoir by former Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor military affairs reporter Ann Scott Tyson.

    The book is a portrait of Army Special Forces Major Jim Gant, depicted as a masterful philosopher-warrior drummed out of the service by feckless bureaucrats. Befitting the gravity of its subject, it takes readers into some very dark places. Some of them (post-traumatic stress disorder, the deep sorrow of losing a friend in combat) are clearly planned stops; others (the joyful thrill of killing on the battlefield, an emotionally resonant "everybody was doing it" defense of wartime misconduct) seem to be more impulsive.

    "Apocalypse Now"'s Colonel Walter E. Kurtz floats over "American Spartan" like a malignant cloud. Kurtz was determined to beat a vicious and resourceful North Vietnamese-led insurgency by living with natives and leading from the heart of the jungle; Gant follows suit in Afghanistan, becoming a friend, counselor, and surrogate son of "Tribe 33" while battling the largely Pashtun-based Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

    "A momentous account... The overall story is enticing, brutal, and current." -- Publishers Weekly "An astonishing new account ... This book will be read a lot longer than most books about the American war in Afghanistan. It especially will resonate with people interested in Special Forces... We need people like Gant to do real foreign internal defense." -- Tom Ricks "Tyson concentrates on Gant's campaign, which produced plenty of fireworks, heroism, suffering and, this being Afghanistan, constant frustration... One of the only satisfying products of a dismally unsatisfying war: this entertaining book." -- Kirkus Reviews "American Spartan is a riveting, powerful account of the service of Major Jim Gant, a man seen by many of us as the "perfect counterinsurgent" ... Ann Scott Tyson had a ring-side seat ... and takes us there in this extraordinary, gripping book." -- General David H. Petraeus (US Army, Ret.) "This story captivated me like no other I've read on combat action in Afghanistan. I don't condone Jim Gant's every decision or the way he did things, but I do respect the hell out of what he did as a warrior." -- Dalton Fury, author of Kill Bin Laden "In the half-century since Robin Moore's The Green Berets, no other account of Special Forces at war could match its range and depth and candor-until now. American Spartan will enlighten and disturb readers with its searing honesty..." -- Dr. Kalev I. Sepp, former Green Beret and coauthor of Weapon of Choice "The Catch-22 of the Afghanistan War, a mixture of romanticism, fantasy and hard-core dedication... Read this book to savor the rich, candid details of love between a man and a woman, between Afghan and American comrades in battle, and between two cultures." -- Washington Post "Masterfully written and moving ... [American Spartan] is a must read and will stand the test of time." -- Chicago Tribune "Tyson raises a host of serious questions about the nature of war, the many aspects of loyalty, and the price paid by America's front-line fighters." -- Christian Science Monitor

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American Spartan | Military Press

A war story like no other, an unprecedented account of a warrior who took up the cause of villagers as if it were his own, and of a woman on the front lines of a distant war, American Spartan is an unforgettable tale—and one of the most remarkable and emotionally resonant narratives of war ever published.