It was difficult to read David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers for more than a chapter at a time, because I found myself weeping at an alarming rate. But of all the books I (and we) have read about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — all the excellent and not so great “we were there” and “embedded reporters” accounts — Finkel’s book stands head and shoulders above the rest. This is war as it is experienced by the soldiers on the ground. We are with the 2-16, an Army Rangers battalion, who were sent to Baghdad at the beginning of “the surge” in 2007. Finkel has a terrific journalistic eye (he won the Pulitzer Prize as a reporter for the Washington Post), and we share the soldiers’ experiences as they attempt to bring a kind of peace to Baghdad. The trauma of being away from friends and family, the daily boredom of patrolling a city that is all too frequently punctuated by the terror that comes with an attack or a suicide bomb, the lack of trust of the civilians — all this comes through in writing that is both vivid and visceral. And Finkel is fully aware of the irony that this group of young men fighting what appears to be a rearguard (and losing) battle are led by Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, whose lifetime motto has always been “it’s all good.” After reading about the reality of life lived under the constant threat of death and bodily injury, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion (and I have to believe that Finkel did) that a better motto would have been, “none of this is good.” After reading Finkel’s fine book, I had a deeper understanding of both the physical and mental risks we are subjecting our soldiers to. When we read about returning soldiers committing suicide or murder, or even the recent incident at Ft. Hood, it’s not hard to see why these sorts of things occur.