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Imperial Grunts

On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond...
Written by: Robert D. Kaplan
Narrated by: John H. Mayer
Length: 18 hrs and 37 mins
Categories: History, Military

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Publisher's Summary

In this landmark book, Robert D. Kaplan, veteran correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and author of Balkan Ghosts, shows how American imperialism and the Global War on Terrorism are implemented on the ground, mission by mission, in the most exotic landscapes around the world.

Given unprecedented access, Kaplan takes us from the jungles of the southern Philippines to the glacial dust bowls of Mongolia, from the forts of Afghanistan to the forests of South America, not to mention Iraq, to show us Army Special Forces, Marines, and other uniformed Americans carrying out the many facets of U.S. foreign policy: negotiating with tribal factions, storming terrorist redoubts, performing humanitarian missions, and training foreign soldiers.

In Imperial Grunts, Kaplan provides an unforgettable insider's account not only of our current involvement in world affairs, but also of where America, including the culture of its officers and enlisted men, is headed. This is the rare book that has the potential to change the way readers view the men and women of the military, war, and the global reach of American imperialism today.

Never before has America's overarching military strategy been parsed so incisively and evocatively. Kaplan introduces us to lone American servicemen whose presence in obscure countries is largely unknown, and concludes with a heart-stopping portrait of marines in the first battle in Fallujah. Extraordinary in its scope, beautifully written, Imperial Grunts combines first-rate reporting with the sensitivity and insights of an acclaimed writer steeped in history, literature, and philosophy, to deliver a masterly account of America's global role in the twenty-first century.

©2005 Robert D. Kaplan (P)2005 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the critics say

"His on-the-ground reportage makes for riveting reading. He provides vivid and highly chilling accounts of the dangers faced by members of the American military in places like Falluja in Iraq and Colombia's Arauca Province, even as he leaves the reader with a keen appreciation of the expertise and versatility of Special Forces units." (The New York Times)
"One of the most important books of the last several years." (Tom Brokaw)
"An experienced military journalist has created this worthwhile portrait of American ground troops, mostly in elite units, working with the armed forces of other countries to fight terrorism, to be sure, but actually doing a job once done by the Roman legions." (Booklist)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Clark
  • 2006-03-29

completely engaging and informative

In Imperial Grunts, Kaplan takes you to various parts of the world, giving you a wonderful history of each, then current events, then a look at the country through the eyes of the special forces. Having known some of the special forces men personally this report seems completely credible. This book has opened my eyes to much of the world by looking at what is happening on the ground. I was truly educated by this book and it was a pleasure to read.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jason
  • 2005-12-07

Stories worth telling but not told by media

A sober, illuminating collection that provides some badly needed affirmation for our grunts on the ground. Take a stereotype, any stereotype--of our guys, allies or the enemy--and this book smashes it to pieces. Unvarnished, disturbing, engrossing.

Love the historical context provided, as well as the absence of flag-waving and back-slapping.

One passage, which took place in Columbia, upset me so much I couldn't get it out of my mind. It inspires an odd confluence of emotions: compassion for those I can personally never help, and a desire for retribution against those who were once victims themselves.

Highly Recommended.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Marc
  • 2006-02-05

Insight in intricate operations

Excellent book, this book really bring into focus the problems middle management in the current US Army as well of the army of it's friends (my country).

Kaplan does critically describe the role of the foot soldiers on the ground and what the political/media influence on this.

I don't think there is another book that goes that deep. It also gives a look how the embedding functions in the US Army.

Altough political correct the story is not, It does tell a yet untold story.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rob
  • 2005-10-03

Excellent book

For those of you that are fascinated by history in general or the war on Terror and the American military's role in it; you will find this to be a wonderful book.

Authors and journalist these days get "a pass" by the public for filing their stories as if they have first hand experiences of the events. In fact, too much of what is written these days is composed in the comfort of a hotel based on interviews and gossip with the participants.

This book is the result of years of first hand experiences living with the troops that are on ground around the world fighting the War on Terror. It interleaves the day to day experiences of the soldiers and marines with a more global perspective that puts it all into context.

The author's attention to detail and ability to paint a picture of exotic places or a simple soldier's meal really took me away to my days as a trooper. You can practically see the tiredness in the soldier's eyes; you can hear the clatter of the gear as they walk, and you can smell the gun oil, dried sweat and the indescribable odor of ammunition.

If you want to know more of what its like to be an American soldier in the 21st century, get this download.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2008-05-15

Must Read

Mr. Kaplan has captured the true spirit of America's warriors. He gets into their minds and is able to retell what he learns with compassion, accuracy and makes it all enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Steve Adams
  • 2020-03-04

Unsung American military abroad

From Yemen to Colombia to Mongolia to Iraq to the Philippines to stateside bases, Robert Kaplan imbedded himself with American service members in a variety of places to tell their stories in a really fascinating boook.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Tyler Quinn
  • 2019-01-02

Swashbuckling tale that will change your perspective

A very well researched and thorough personal account of the US military around the world. While there are a few inaccuracies they are minor and the thesis is interesting that imperialism isn’t sought after rather it happens upon a nation in the act of projecting power and protecting interests. Kaplan is a great author and I look forward to reading more of his books.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joan H. Bauk
  • 2017-11-22


Excellent combination of historical reference, current events and analysis. I will encourage my son, and Army officer, to read this.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Mahal
  • 2012-05-07

Not what I thought

What did you like best about Imperial Grunts? What did you like least?

Few of the stories.

What do you think your next listen will be?

something with more of a story to it.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

not much. the story its self was little off. the description was a little off, but the book was still ok.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?


  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • T. Hindes
  • 2009-07-30

One of the best books ever

If you like world history or just want to know what military's have done through out history and how they effect us today this book is a MUST