#BookReview: War Made Invisible by Norman Solomon

Russia : Ukraine :: United States : Afghanistan (and Iraq). This is the point that Solomon makes over and over and over in various forms, looking at varying facets of the same simple refrain. Not a long book at just 240 pages, 28% of which (at least in ARC form) was documentation – which is on the higher end of “normal” in my experience – a truly in-depth analysis, this book is not. But the point it makes, and the bias it openly stakes, is in stark and balancing contrast to the dominant narrative through US media – which is its very point.

Basically, Solomon’s entire point comes down to the fact that in focusing on cruise missile bombing – not even as many actual bomber planes, certainly relative to prior generations of American war as recently as Vietnam – and, more recently and perhaps even more ubiquitously, drone bombings, the US Department of Defense has shifted the conversation about war away from the dangers faced by soldiers on the ground. Complicit with this is an American media that even when showing atrocities, also “reminds” people of the tragedy of 9/11 – without ever noting that the US DoD commits a 9/11 seemingly every few days, and the constant terror of hearing a drone hover around can be even worse, psychologically. (This is particularly clear in one passage in particular where he discusses speaking directly with Afghan citizens in the southern provinces, away from US media coverage.) A generation later, with Russia invading Ukraine on just as flimsy a pretext, suddenly the American media is hyping up every remotely-connected-to-Russia instance of civilian suffering in the affected region… because suddenly, the invader is not the US itself, but an enemy of the US.

Solomon even takes square aim at Samuel Moyn’s September 2021 book Humane, where Moyn posits that the US use of drones has made modern warfare “more humane”, with some valid points here. (Though to be clear, I also believe Moyn has some valid points from his side as well, and stated so in my review of that book.)

I made it a point to read this book on Medal of Honor day, and it is a truly fascinating – and needed, for Americans – book any day of the year. It brings a refreshing balance to overall US discourse about war and its repercussions, it certainly can open eyes that are willing to be opened, and it will strengthen the views of those who are already “in the know” of this subject. Very much recommended.

This review of War Made Invisible by Norman Solomon was originally written on March 26, 2023.