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“The Men Who Stare at Goats” by Jon Ronson

Thu 13th August 2015

The Men Who Stare at GoatsThe Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Men Who Stare at Goats is a broad examination of the US use of New Age-inspired approaches to warfare, right from its post-Vietnam, 1960s-Californian roots through to it’s influence on techniques used in the War on Terror.

Ronson continues his investigations into events and reported activities that regularly get swept under the conspiracy theory carpet. Somehow Ronson presents a side of the argument that seems to give these theories credence, though I expect it’s more a matter of Ronson being unsure himself and reporting what he discovers. Unfortunately, there is rarely any hard evidence, merely stories told by people who claim to have been there.

In The Men Who Stare at Goats, the history of New Age techniques is presented by a mix between descriptions of what happened (largely sourced from other books) and interviews with people who served in the US Army special forces when these techniques were experimented with. There are a few side stories that fit into the narrative, as the ideas leaked out to other governmental agencies and even a few civilians who exploited opportunities to train people in these techniques.

This book is a fascinating, but slightly troubling look at the US approach to defence. While you could dismiss it as little more than rumour and hearsay, it would be worrying to not question why when seemingly presented with an approach to more peaceful encounters with enemy forces the only thing that stuck was how to torture prisoners in more creative ways. Worth reading.

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