Michael Yon's book is about equal to the sum of its parts, but in certain ways it is a disappointment. I think greatest of all it stands as testament to the fact that we have almost no indepth coverage of this war from the perspective of battlefield reporting. There are only several reporters that we've been able to pay serious attention to, and Yon has been one of them. Yet his 'Moment of Truth in Iraq' reads like journalism - the sort which almost doesn't matter in retrospect. I would have liked a more sophisticated and comprehensive report on everything going on in Iraq, but I realized that would be impossible from a ground up report. That's what this book is, a view from boot level of Iraq, and it is exactly what we Americans, and everyone else around the world, needs to see.
It boils down to this. The American military is awesome and is representing our nation an order of magnitude better than our politicians in support of the war are, and two orders greater than those opposed. It is required reading for all those who thought that 'cultural differences' were an insurmountable obstacle to American peacekeeping. It refutes the characterization of our troops as a callous, unprofessional or incompetent occupying force. It destroys myths about the scale and intensity of the fighting and it makes the nature of the fighting transparently clear.
But best of all Yon illustrates exactly the effect that American Army and Marine commanders in the field deal with civilians, terrorists, allies, insurgents and all of the various parties on the ground. It demystifies the logistical issues and the dynamics of the politics surrounding the rebuilding of the country of Iraq.
Moment of Truth is fast and easy reading. I got through it rather quickly and I recognize many of the stories which I had previously encountered on Yon's blog. It's nothing like Fiasco or The Looming Tower in terms of sophistication, it is a popular book meant to be read by the masses, and so it should be. I think it will be the definitive introduction to the popular understanding that the US is not only capable of evolving the military capability of counterinsurgency, but that we're damned good at it and have proven it in spade in Iraq. This book is required reading for everyone, but especially people whose heads are stuck in Vietnam. This is not your old uncle's military.