Hesitation Kills by Jane Blair

“Somehow in the protests, the American people had forgotten about more than two hundred thousand of us who sat here, endangering our lives for them.” p 75

I finally finished this book (mostly out of my eagerness to move on to something that I hope is better).

“Hesitation Kills” is told by Lt Jane Blair, a female USMC officer who fought in Iraq in direct support of the 1st Marine Division (she was involved in the operations of unmanned aerial vehicle operations). This book is told from her point of view based on a journal she kept during her time in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I found this book irritating in some areas and enjoyable in others. First, the author seems to struggle trying to figure out who the audience is – she spends half of the book speaking in Marine-speak as if the reader is/was a Marine and knows what all the inside references meant. There’s a glossary at the back which helped some but not always. The other half of the time she seemed to think the reader was an idiot who had no idea how the average Marine thinks or acts or why they behave certain ways. For the reader like me who has some familiarity with the military but not in-depth knowledge, this is incredibly frustrating.

The parts I enjoyed were the stories she retells from the other Marines. Some of these are really hilarious and highlights some of the themes in other war books such as how the Marines handle boredom after the end of active operations but are still waiting to come home. She also makes excellent points about how the Iraqis react to the operation and their process of rebuilding (or lack thereof). And I have to agree with the author that the media definitely spun stories of Iraqi citizens’ reactions to fit the story.

I think she also makes an excellent point about how the American people during times of war (with the exception of wars prior to and including WWII) go along as if nothing else is happening and I imagine just how angry this makes the men and women of the military. The very last part of the book talks about how hard it is going to be for the Marines to integrate back into a normal, peacetime lifestyle. The author makes a comment about how post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t always manifest itself in some person just breaking and going on a spree firing a weapon. It can be the person who isolates themselves from the rest of society. I thought this was very interesting because my dad was a Marine and he never talks about it (although he seems to have reintegrated himself quite well :)) but this almost added a missing piece of the puzzle for me.

Overall, I have a hard time recommending this book simply because the frustrating parts overwhelm the good parts. It’s a short read (275) so it’s not likely to take up a lot of your time (minimal amount of regret compared to some other books).

Has anyone else read this? What are your thoughts? Are there are other books I should be reading about the Iraq war and/or the Marines you would suggest?

Up next: “The Pacific War: The Strategy, Politics, and Players that Won the War” by William B Hopkins.

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About jenvolk5

Bank auditor by day, trivia and knowledge hound all other times.
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5 Responses to Hesitation Kills by Jane Blair

  1. David Navarre says:

    Paragraph 5, sentence 2 needs editing as it just ends “about how some situations”. Must have been an inadvertant deletion.

  2. Jay says:

    I’ve heard that mentioned elsewhere – that everyone ‘back home’ just goes on about their business as if nothing else is happening – and I’m sure things would be very different if our territory or our citizens were directly under attack instead of just our “interests.” I’ve often thought about doing one of those ‘adopt a soldier’ type things where you correspond with one or send care packages etc. I don’t know why I’ve never acted upon that, though. Maybe your post well help “shame” me to action. 🙂

  3. Alexandria says:

    whats the overall tone of Jane’s writing?

    • jenvolk5 says:

      Hi Alexandria – sorry for the delay in the reply. You would think her point of view would be pro-military and that dominates throughout the book but I found it to be pretty candid in most places. In a couple of places, she seems to overcompensate for being a female officer in the military (understandable) but not too much. Does that help?

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