It’s 2032 and the world is still at war in the Middle East and Central Asia. Iran is in flames, there are uprisings in Saudi Arabia, and a coup in Tajikistan. Still a geopolitical mess of oil, religion, politics and corruption, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Or perhaps not, as the fighting and dying has changed from the proud Marines and soldiers of today to paramilitary forces fighting under private banners and funded by the likes of ExxonMobil, BP, Credit Suisse and Lukoil, a not-unthinkable scenario where a mixture of Blackwater, private enterprise and national interests fight and scheme for supplies of oil, food and raw materials.
Author and Marine veteran Steven Pressfield’s newest book, “The Profession,” lives up to his reputation for combining gripping action with intellect and principle. Following his “honor, courage, commitment” theme honed in “Gates of Fire” and “The Afghan Campaign,” Pressfield uses one of the protagonists in the story as his narrator and tells the story of conflict in the 2030s from his boots-on-the-ground level.
The storyteller is Gilbert “Gent” Gentilhomme, a Marine veteran serving under his former Marine commander, General James Salter. Both are mercenaries—highly paid warriors who still live by the bonds they learned as Marines. War, be it either conventional war, peacekeeping in Africa or quelling rebellions in Central Asia, is more than just a series of violent incidents, and as in his prior books, Pressfield introduces the reader to combat-related concepts of loyalty, love and fidelity.
It’s difficult to decide on good and evil when war is being fought by surrogates, and in the “The Profession,” both Gent and Salter find their straightforward, hard-charging Marine background at odds with the nuances of their current situation. Similar to those Marines who fought the Sunnis in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2005-06, yet found them to be allies in 2008, Gent seeks safety and solace with his fellow troops, while trusting Salter to deal with big-picture geopolitics and those dubious sorts of despots and oligarchs.
Clearly, Pressfield has done his research on the complexities of today’s three-block war, including an embed in Marjah, Afghanistan, last year and the intricacies of international politics. “The Profession” blends an opening action sequence as brutal as any Route Michigan ambush with a renegade mercenary army later invading and seizing a sovereign state—not an impossible scenario perhaps taken from Blackwater’s 2004-05 thoughts on possibly buying ships, forming a Marine expeditionary-like unit and being hired by the United Nations.
A combination of nuance and incredible violence, “The Profession” remains a story of loyalty; of Gent and his men, but more important, Gent and Salter to each other. But it’s these bonds of loyalty and love, sharpened by their Marine Corps training and ethos, that Pressfield uses in his surprising ending in which Salter stretches “honor, courage, commitment” to its absolute limit. Honor and commitment: to your fellow Marine, to your country, or to who or whom?
This one is highly recommended!