If you’re longing to read a book that gives you an insider’s look to what it can be like to be an action officer inside America’s largest office building, but that you can also take on a beach weekend, join us for our August ClearanceJobs book club pick – The Heart of War Misadventures in the Pentagon, by Dr. Kathleen McInnis.
As the title hints, it’s a blend of fiction meets reality, and a read anyone who has navigated the entertaining and confusing military-industrial complex will instantly appreciate. McInnis is the daughter of a DoD civilian who grew up crossing the span between the U.S. and UK, the military and civilian world. Today she is an international security analyst for the Congressional Research Service and a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. With that knowledge in the backdrop (in addition to The Heart of War, McInnis’s other publishing includes titles like How and Why States Defect from Contemporary Military Coalitions.
While The Heart of War is a work of fiction, it’s couched in the real life scenarios and settings that those who work in and around the Pentagon will appreciate. Speaking from my own experience as a twenty-something female who worked in the Pentagon, it was sometimes equal parts ethereal and mundane. As Dr. Heather Reilly, the protagonist of The Heart of War tries to explain to her significant other:
“It’s pretty much like anywhere else. I work in a cubicle. My coworkers seem pretty obsessed with PowerPoint. And there’s lots of memos. Except in the Pentagon they tend to be about things that could, you know, lead to war.”
The novel navigates not just the complexity of working in the defense foreign policy machine, but also the odd twists and turns a government or military career can take. When Reilly arrives at the Pentagon, she sees herself in one role. She’s quickly reorged into a new position – one she doesn’t have the expertise in. But like all good action officers, she has the ability to research – and the ability to retrain herself to be useful in her next role.
The Heart of War sheds light on the amazing work being done across the Pentagon and the unique paths that lead to service. It also highlights the roles women have played both in the Pentagon and in war zones. There’s nothing fictional about the fact that when the military deploys, there are academics, researchers, and policy monks – both men and women – behind the scenes and sometimes on the front lines.
Join us in reading the book this month, and engage in a story laced with reality and full of the folly any civilian who’s experienced a first day at the Pentagon can recognize, and that anyone can appreciate.