War is the central theme of Grunt. It's also the topic of the book, the profession of many characters Roach interviews, and the setting or backdrop of a great many tragedies. Roach approaches war as a civilian, thinking less about the tactics of identifying and eliminating targets and more about the means by which the American military keeps soldiers safe and alive. War is figured not necessarily as a heroic battlefield but as a dangerous situation where the threat does not always come from a foreign power or enemy. Most of the scientists and researchers Roach meets in the course of the book are in some way combatting the negative effects of war. Their goal is not necessarily to make a war winnable but to make it survivable for the soldiers. This approach humanizes war, giving the reader a window into the lives of soldiers. War, it turns out, is nothing like what we imagine.
(The entire section is 631 words.)