December 2008


Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood
by Donovan Campbell
March 10, 2009
Random House
336 pages

In March 2004, 2nd Lieutenant Donovan Campbell and the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (2/4) were shipped to Ramadi, Iraq for a six-month deployment. Lieutenant Campbell commanded the 1st Platoon of G (Golf) Company also known as Joker One. Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhoodis the title of the first book by Donovan Campbell. Mr. Campbell describes his first days with Golf Company and the training he and his Marines went through prior to their deployment.

The bulk of the book details life in Ramadi for Joker One. Six months of constant patrolling, guarding and searching, with an almost daily dose of combat. In the beginning Lt. Campbell believed in the mission, as time went on and the casualties mounted his primary concern became protecting his Marines. By the end, he had come to accept that his Marines were going to be hurt every time they left their compound.

Reading this book brings several questions to mind. The most important of which is why have American soldiers and Marines been sent to die in Iraq. A quote by Mr. Campbell seems to sum up the American experience in Iraq, “…every decision that we made in this crazy country always seemed a difficult choice between bad and worse and that nothing ever turned out quite the way we hoped.” (201)

Lt. Campbell and his Marines volunteered to go to war and they suffered physical and psychological trauma because of it. They performed heroic deeds while attempting to stabilize a country that did not want them there. We sound not allow our young men to suffer such injuries for trivial causes. It should only be in cases of true national emergency or actual national defense that we ask this of them rather then to make some small point foreign policy point.

Before America’s leaders decide to send American troops to impose their particular vision of how the world should be, they should read the story of Joker One. American soldiers and Marines are not pawns on a chessboard and should not be treated as such. Donovan Campbell and his Marines are probably better then we, as Americans, deserve.

If you have any interest in the American military or small unit actions in the war in Iraq I would recommend this book. This review is based on an advance copy.

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During the 1990’s the United States saw an unprecedented decrease in crime.  Nationwide there was an approximately 40% decrease in all seven of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) categories.  Police departments across the nation have taken credit for the decreasing crime in their jurisdictions and scholars of various disciplines have tried to find their own answers for the decline.  In The Great American Crime Decline, Professor Franklin E. Zimring, of the University of California, Berkley, School of Law, has summarized the most popular explanations in an attempt to determine what really happened and why.

Professor Zimring looked at six widely held explanations for the crime decline.  These were divided into two categories.  The first contains factors that have long been used to explain crime increases and decreases – incarceration, demography, and economic conditions.  The second are those explanations which were created in a specific attempt to explain the events of the 1990s.

The first category was ideally situated to explain the crime decreases of the 1990s.  Incarceration rates were at an all time high, the percentage of population made up of high-crime aged youths had dropped, and the economy continually expanded during the ‘90s.  Even though common sense might tell you that these were good explanations of the crime decrease, Professor Zimring does not entirely agree.

Professor Zimring found possible causes for some of the ‘90s crime decline amongst the above explanations.  However, it only amounted to between 15% and 50% of the decline, depending on which studies you agree with.  I would tend to agree with the low number just to be on the safe side, but for the sake of argument I will split it down the middle and go with 32%.  That still leaves a major portion of the decline to be explained by the second category, explanations that were created after the decline because they fit the results.  The three theorized causes in the second category were police, the decline of crack cocaine, and the increased access to abortion.

Professor Zimring has shown that none of the explanations offered served to explain the over 40% crime decline during the 1990s.  This has not stopped government, police departments in particular from claiming their actions were responsible. A large portion of the decrease was probably the consequence of cyclical forces beyond the existing ability of social science to explain.

If you have an interest in policing or crime this is an interesting work.  If not you might find it a bit dull. It was a little heavy on the statistics but if you know what a regression is you’ll be OK, if you don’t you’ll probably be OK you just need to gloss over a few parts.  I found one of the most interesting parts to be the refutation of Steven Levitt’s theory, which he put forth in Freakonomics, that Roe v Wade was responsible for the ’90’s crime decrease.