Is war boring? 32 year-old war correspondent David Axe says yes.
"Covering war today is boring, because there's really just not that much shooting," Axe told his audience Wednesday at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. Of the seven years Axe has spent in and out of violent conflicts around the world, maybe an hour of it was spent in the midst of shooting or other hair-raising action. The rest, he said, was mostly waiting.
This revelation (which it was to him, as a so-called "war tourist" at the age of 25), was the genesis of the popular internet comic turned book, War Is Boring, which chronicles his travels from Iraq to Afghanistan to Chad to East Timor in search of excitement and bankable stories that would pay for his trip--all illustrated in handy, graphic-novel form.
The second, possibly more significant reason that war is boring, Axe says, is that it doesn't do what we believe it's supposed to do.
"War as a concept is disappointing," he says. "It's not that good at doing what many of us understand it to be for. It's just not all that useful. We're fighting people in Afghanistan that we can't even identify. We don't know what their motives are, what they want, or what will make them happy, except maybe us leaving."
Heavy (if not unique) thoughts from a young-ish man. What's a bit less heavy--and quite original indeed--about Axe is the way he's communicating his experiences through web comic and illustrated reporting form. Just the thing, perhaps, to spark the interest of other young Americans, who may themselves have become bored by wars they've never seen.
To hear David Axe's Baker Institute talk in its entirety, and the long Q&A session that followed, see this video:
For more on war and writing, try this conversation between Tobias Wolff and Tim O'Brien: