The Right War by Nathan Maddox

Nathan Maddox’s The Right War (CreateSpace, 278 pp., $8.99, paper) is a first novel that deals with the events of September 11, 2001. Maddox served with the U. S. Army’s Americal Division in Vietnam from 1970-71, and received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered while patrol in the Quang Nam Province. Today, he is the executive inspector general for a large state government agency in Springfield, Illinois.

The book is attractively designed and well edited. The cover presents three airplanes flying in formation in shades of gray and brown. The title is beneath the planes in red.

I am no student of aircraft or anything close to it, but they seem to be A-10 Thunderbolts (Warthogs) flying low over terrain that might be Afghanistan. The author refers to the A-10 Thunderbolt as “the finest war planes any infantryman had ever seen.” I am eager to be corrected if I am wrong.

The Right War, which is dedicated to “those who did not come home,” is a book of alternate history, what might have been. This is not my favorite fictional format because usually the research is lightweight. This book, however, is very well researched. In his acknowledgements section Maddox includes an extensive list of impressive folks who helped him.  At least one librarian is in the group, which helps explain the high quality of the details.

Maddox has written a literate, erudite political thriller dealing with what might have happened after 9-11 if the military had had free reign, rather than being hampered by politics and the leadership of civilians such as those in the White House and in Congress.

Gen. Jack Lewis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, leads a coup against President Smith, who became president by suppressing the votes of men and women in the military, and who then ordered that military people who expressed objections be severely punished.

The Right War offers the reader a detailed blueprint for exactly how our military could take over the country—how military forces could be used, as Maddox puts it, to “secure the president, vice president, cabinet members, and Congress.”  All that is required to start this process is what the author refers to as a “triggering event.”  September 11th is that event in this carefully plotted book. Gen. Jack Lewis assumes control of the government and removes President Smith for dereliction of duty.

Lewis gives his reasons for taking over as necessary “to save our country from a string of misguided leaders.” Maddox says that those misguided leaders gutted the military services. When did that happen? That must be more alternate history.

Everything goes smoothly for Lewis and his junta until near the end of the book. I will not act as a spoiler, but as smart and well-organized as the usurping general is, he fails to foresee difficulties in returning the nation to democratic rule. He had the best intentions when he seized power so he could punish Afghanistan for bombing our mainland. And punish them he did.

The author’s research is very thorough; he even names the nationalities of those who took over the aircraft that attacked us on September 11th. None of the nineteen were from Afghanistan. Fifteen were Saudi Arabians. I still don’t get why Saudi Arabia got a free pass and the bin Laden family got fast flights home in September. Maybe it had to do with oil and Saudi connections to the Bush family.

There are many solid references to the Vietnam War in this well-plotted thriller. My favorite is where the father of one character is said to have returned from his combat tour in Vietnam to confront “ridicule, not reward.” I was gratified that this book did not blame Jane Fonda or John Kerry.

I highly recommend this novel,.which deals with what might have happened in a few days in Afghanistan if the military had its way—as opposed to the ten-year mess that transpired in our effort to build a democratic nation in a place where there is no material available for such a transformation.

The author hammers away a bit too much about how we have unsecured borders that allow terrorists free access to our country. I believe those nineteen September 11th terrorists did not enter the country from either Canada or Mexico. If I am wrong about that (as I might be about the airplanes on the cover), please let me know.

—David Willson