Sebastian Junger is a masterful documentarian of modern warfare. His 2010 book War, along with companion films Restrepo (2010) and Korengal (2014), invited those who have not been to war into the inner life of a U.S. army combat platoon at a remote outpost in the Korengal Valley of Afghan­istan. Those works vividly display the alternating boredom and exhilaration of war, the anguish of loss, the unit’s pervasive distrust of Afghan civilians, and the intense and complex love of soldiers for one another.

If War is about making war, Tribe is about returning from war. It lacks the keen focus on individual soldiers that made the earlier book so powerful. Junger acknowledges that many veterans are struggling to integrate into civilian life after their military service, that “the U.S. military now has the highest reported PTSD rate in its history,” and that the suicide rate of American veterans now exceeds that of the population. A study released in July 2016 by the U.S. Depart­ment of Veterans Affairs documented that in 2014 an average of 20 veterans per day died by suicide, with especially high rates among male veterans aged 18–29.

Junger rejects several common assumptions about these problems: that suicide among younger veterans is associated with deployment (it is not); that combat intensity is the primary driver of posttraumatic stress disorder (factors like premilitary trauma and current social support are also important), and that the best response to struggling veterans is medical treatment and lifelong disability income. He points out that these responses ignore the ways that war can constructively bind service members and civilians within powerful and healing systems of “shared public meaning.”