Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: No Easy Day

No Easy Day is Mark Owen's account of the mission that killed Osama bin ladin, and an autobiographical account of how he came to be on that mission.

What's most impressive about the book is the picture of the American military. They were under incredible constrains: for instance they had to take photos and provide documentary evidence of the combat site after the combat in order to satisfy lawyers and provide the government evidence that they did engage combatants rather than civilians. I know the Israeli army is under similar constraints, but I didn't expect the commando types to not only have to take out a target, but also document all the circumstances they did. In the book, Owen describes a colleague who quit when the documentary requirements for doing the job became too much as the locals learned the rules the US military operated under. For instance, insurgents would make sure that their weapons were stowed in a different place from where they slept, assured that if the Seals came to make an assault they would be considered non combatants and therefore spared to fight another day.

The amount of weight in body armor and gear is also incredible. Jumping out of a helicopter with 60 pounds of gear does sound really extreme. The constant training and fitness preparation does sound really daunting. Another thing that comes through is how much Owen (a pseudonym) loves his job. For instance, he could have joined the Navy as an officer, given that he had a college degree, but chose to enlist because it would provide him with more combat. He proudly boasts that he'd never had a desk job or been away from the front-lines: he was either training or deployed.

That's cool information about Seal Team 6, the amount of work that goes into preparing for the Neptune Spear mission, and the Obama-ordered mission itself, including maps of the compound they assaulted, and a detailed description of what happened. If you are a gun nut you will love the description of all the custom weaponry available to Seals and what the load out was.

The account of the assault was exciting, and it's interesting to read the Osama did not himself take up arms but was shot in action.

There's some politics in the book. The author was clearly not an Obama fan, and bragged that he probably secured Obama an election victory. In reality, the killing of Bin Laden was not a factor in the 2012 elections, having occurred too early in the campaign. On the other hand, the account was exciting and fun to read. The book's short --- I finished it in about 4 hours, so it's a suitable airplane book. Recommended.

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