Un-American: A Soldier's Reckoning of Our Longest War

Erik Edstrom (Author)


Eloquent, devastating . . . packed with gimlet-eyed analysis -- cultural, economic, historical -- of how American life came to look the way it does . . . Edstrom's keen observational powers encompass both the physical world and social nuance. --Los Angeles Review of Books

A manifesto about America's unchallenged war machine, from an Afghanistan veteran and new kind of military hero.

Before engaging in war, Erik Edstrom asks us to imagine three, rarely imagined scenarios: First, imagine your own death. Second, imagine war from "the other side." Third: Imagine what might have been if the war had never been fought. Pursuing these realities through his own combat experience, Erik reaches the unavoidable conclusion about America at war. But that realization came too late--the damage had been done.

Erik Edstrom grew up in suburban Massachusetts with an idealistic desire to make an impact, ultimately leading him to the gates of West Point. Five years later, he was deployed to Afghanistan as an infantry lieutenant. Throughout his military career, he confronted atrocities, buried his friends, wrestled with depression, and struggled with an understanding that the war he fought in, and the youth he traded to prepare for it, was in contribution to a bitter truth: The War on Terror is not just a tragedy, but a crime. The deeper tragedy is that our country lacks the courage and conviction to say so.

Un-American is a hybrid of social commentary and memoir that exposes how blind support for war exacerbates the problems it's intended to resolve, devastates the people allegedly being helped, and diverts assets from far larger threats like climate change. Un-American is a revolutionary act, offering a blueprint for redressing America's relationship with patriotism, the military, and military spending.

Product Details

$28.00  $25.76
Bloomsbury Publishing
Publish Date
May 19, 2020
6.4 X 1.0 X 9.5 inches | 1.2 pounds

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About the Author

Erik Edstrom graduated from West Point in 2007. He was then deployed to Afghanistan, where he served as infantry platoon leader. Erik spent the remainder of his military service as the Presidential Escort Platoon Leader during the Obama administration. He is a graduate of U.S. Army Ranger school, was selected for the U.S. Special Forces (SFAS), and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. After the military, Erik went on to earn an MBA and Master of Science at Oxford University. He lives in Boston.


"A decade of reflection culminated in this well-researched meditation on a basic question: Why is it so difficult for Americans to reckon with the reasons, costs, and impact of our wars? . . . Edstrom's bracing inquiry should be at the forefront of the debate about our national perspective on patriotism, the military, defense spending, and, most challenging, our lack of courage to question these crucial issues." --Booklist, starred review

"Exceptional . . . Un-American is most extraordinary because even after the indoctrination of West Point, Edstrom dared to question some of the decisions and the presence of US military as invaders not saviors. For a real look at the marketing of and true cost of war, this is a must-read." " --New York Journal of Books

"A blistering indictment of the American militarist economy and its much-vaunted war on terror. But it isn't Edstrom's anger that gives Un-American its staggering power-although there's plenty of that-but rather the profound thoughtfulness and perception of his observations, earned at such awful cost. Every chickenhawk president, politician and pundit who has had a hand in blithely casting American soldiers into our futile wars should be made to read this book-and to then seek forgiveness." --Scott Anderson, author of LAWRENCE IN ARABIA: WAR, DECEIT, IMPERIAL FOLLY AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST

"[A] bright-eyed, scathing indictment of not only the systemic governmental failures that led to our GWOT quagmires but also of an American culture that still somehow deifies the insanity of dying in a pointless war. Required reading for the voting public, particularly anyone who's ever used the phrase 'Support our troops.'" --Matt Young, author of EAT THE APPLE

"Above all, Un-American is an act of significant patriotism and civic courage. One needn't agree with all of Erik Edstrom's conclusions to admire his commitment to moral truth-telling regarding America's endless terror wars. This is a fierce, ferocious debut, a book anyone who seeks to be an engaged citizen should read today." --Matt Gallagher, author of EMPIRE CITY and YOUNGBLOOD

"An insider's you-are-there look at modern war. Veterans will love it or hate it, but there will be few in between." --Kirkus Reviews

"A searing indictment of American militarism . . . this outraged, well-informed jeremiad will galvanize readers who agree with Edstrom's assessment that the 'war on terror' is 'self-perpetuating, self-defeating, and immoral." --Publishers Weekly

"Unflinching and powerful." --Library Journal

"Edstrom illuminates his personal experiences with apropos quotes from a wide range of sources and contextualizes anecdotes with supporting data. It is deeply, profoundly uncomfortable to go on the mental journey from enthusiastic cadet to fully awakened cynic with Edstrom. [Un-American] forces acknowledgment of our shared culpability in an ongoing if slow-moving tragedy, which is painful - but deeply necessary if we are to learn any lessons about how - and whether - to wage war." --Kayla Williams, director of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security and author of PLENTY OF TIME WHEN WE GET HOME: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War