Obama touts 'Redeployment', a short story collection by a veteran of the Iraq War

Obama called 'Redeployment' a 'quick but powerful reminder' about the experiences of 'ordinary soldiers in Iraq'.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Jan. 30.

It's a book recommendation of a presidential caliber.

President Obama had high praise for a solemn vacation read he finished over his Hawaii vacation: Phil Klay's "Redeployment."

"Over vacation, I read a book of short stories by Phil Klay called 'Redeployment'," he told Fareed Zakaria on CNN's GPS Sunday. "It's a quick but powerful and, for me, painful set of stories about the experience of ordinary soldiers in Iraq. And I think it's a reminder, particularly important for a commander in chief, that the antiseptic plans and decisions and strategies and opining of pundits that take place in Washington is very different from war and conflict as it's experienced by people on the ground."

Written by Marine veteran Klay, who served in Iraq's Anbar Province as a public affairs officer, "Redeployment," won the 2014 National Book Awards for fiction. It takes readers to the front lines of war in Iraq and Afghanistan – and back home, where soldiers face a different battle, struggling to make sense of their service and adapt to mundane life in suburbia.

The National Book Awards site describes "Redeployment" as a series of powerful vignettes on war.

"In 'Redeployment', a soldier who has had to shoot dogs because they were eating human corpses must learn what it is like to return to domestic life in suburbia, surrounded by people "who have no idea where Fallujah is, where three members of your platoon died," the site says. "A chaplain sees his understanding of Christianity, and his ability to provide solace through religion, tested by the actions of a ferocious Colonel....These stories reveal the intricate combination of monotony, bureaucracy, comradeship, and violence that make up a soldier's daily life at war, and the isolation, remorse, and despair that can accompany a soldier's homecoming."

And Mr. Obama isn't the book's only fan. Foreign Policy's Thomas Ricks called it "probably the best books I've read on the Iraq war."

"If you served in Iraq, or want understand what it was like for many people, you owe it to yourself to read Phil Klay’s book 'Redeployment', " writes Ricks.

For Mr. Obama, it was a reminder of the costs of war and the lives affected by the decisions made in the Oval Office.

"And part of the reason that I am deliberate about decision making when it comes to foreign policy and part of the reason that I do think it's important to aim before you shoot is because I've met enough young men in Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] and talked to enough families who have lost loved ones to remember that there're costs to the decisions that we make," he told CNN's Zakaria. "Sometimes we have to make them, but they're real and they're serious. We can't play political games and we can't engage in bluster or reaction or try to beat our chests when we make these decisions. If we're going to deploy folks to war, it better be for a darn good reason, and we better have a very clear objective that is worthy of the sacrifices that these folks make."

It wasn't the first time Obama plugged the book.

"I'm in the middle of a wonderful book that was recently released called Redeployment', by Phil Klay," Obama told People Magazine late last year. "He's an Iraq War veteran who's written a series of short stories. Really good. Really powerful."

Of course, each reader experiences the same book very differently, and the reaction of President Obama – a Nobel Peace Prize winner whom some have called a "pacifist turned hawk," and "one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades," to "Redeployment," is a unique one.

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