Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review: 13 Hours

Book Review: 13 Hours, by Mitchell Zuckoff. September 8, 2015.  352 pages.

The harrowing, true account from the brave men on the ground who fought back during the Battle of Benghazi. - Amazon

Fellow comrades have been reading this book and talking about how great it is.  I’ve asked them for a list of things to watch for in the coming movie, but none have come through.  I thought they were avoiding this, but after reading the book, I cannot come up with such a list myself.  Here is why.

The only new information 13 Hours offers are the minute-by-minute tactical movements and events during the multiple attacks that started on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi.  You will not get one whiff of political-level or strategic-level information in this book.  The only information that was new to me is the operators’ reports on how Ambassador Stevens died and when.  These differ on what I’ve seen elsewhere, but I am inclined to defer to the account in 13 Hours, as every fact within seems to be double-sourced or better.

The author does a great job at capturing the events of that long night and the heroic actions by the American’s on the ground there.  He only covers the conversations and movements of the shooters, so you will learn very little about the Americans who were hiding inside the buildings as the shooters defended, first, the Embassy Compound, then the nearby CIA Annex.  

The author has failed this reader by not only avoiding the political side of the story, but by repeatedly clarifying why he is avoiding the politics.  He presents this in a moral equivalence manner that is insulting to anyone who has been paying attention to the strategic and political failures of that night.  The reason his book is selling is not addressed in the book, as few outside the shooter’s families and colleagues would have an interest to read about the positions, movements and actions of those shooters that night.

My guess is the author tried to write something similar to Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down.  He fell short for two reasons: 1) the Benghazi fight is far less complex and far smaller than the fight in Mogadishu, and 2) the author keeps a very narrow view on the tactical environment alone.

This is a story of heroes - of great men in a fight for their lives - published in a politically charged atmosphere.  If you are looking for reasons to charge Hillary Clinton for negligence or worse, forget it.  Whatever criticisms the shooters share of their predicament - of not getting the support they requested before and during the attack - they are not alone.  Every person who was in a firefight will tell you that they could have used more resources, more support or a bigger gun.  It is a reality that is constant with men who choose to live dangerously.

For these reasons, I cannot recommend 13 Hours.  

I assume the movie will be a worthy patriotic movie where you will come to know and respect the men and what they did that night.  And hopefully the movie will drive Hillary from her public life once and for all.  Unless they expand the scope of the movie to include the strategic and political view, don’t expect any information that [rightly] smears the incompetence and disinterest of the failed Secretary of State Clinton or her failed boss, President Obama.  

If you want to read about great American men, and be given the full strategic and tactical picture, I’d recommend these two favorites: Black Hawk Down or The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

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