Clarion Summons picks up where Hovee’s earlier book, Wayward Soldier, leaves off. The landscape broadens dramatically to deliver unique snapshots of one of the most misunderstood and critical periods in American history. The journey that Hovee takes in traversing the war years is anything but linear. His observations since 911 emanate from a unique vantage point, both as a clinical psychologist and as a Reserve officer. He operated close enough to the wars to speak with some authority and yet sufficiently removed to objectively engage in thoughtful and objective analysis. Still regardless of the content of the varied essays, Hovee cannot help but remain passionately involved throughout the book. Things matter to him in a similar fashion to the jacked-up soldier returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. This is apparent whether an essay reviews questionable unit practices in the early phases of the Iraq war or addresses more practical and mundane role responsibilities-functions of a Reserve psychologist.
The essays are quite diverse and spread out over a broad map of contingencies and theoretical ideas, some of which are rather unconventional. Hovee draws from the wellspring of his own unique experiences as a citizen, student, soldier and psychologist These include a radio interview in New York City, international conferences in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, a visit to an infamous concentration camp in Poland, work at a private prison with ethical lapses analogous to Abu Ghraib, studies at a Peace University in Austria, earlier studies in Israel, extended deployment to Landstuhl, Germany and military trainings at Army installations. Hovee’s varied life experiences primarily during the war years enables him to pursue various areas of study and developing ideas that crystallize in these essays.
Hovee is not averse to delving into the soft underbelly of the military and governmental policies when his own experiences, analysis and studies inexplicably guide him in that direction. His determination to unmask aspects of the war years to the detriment of the preferred American image is noteworthy since he is still actively affiliated with the Reserve. Yet this approach is almost fundamental to what Hovee continues to advocate – a significant paradigm shift where greater transparency and freedom of speech are normalized in a military environment. This is where Hovee gains closest proximity to his enlisted soldier roots, committed to safeguarding the wellbeing of green soldiers who traditionally have been at the most vulnerable leading edge of the spear.
Hovee’s inference that increasingly is manifest in his essays is that leadership both in government and the military often sets the stage for ethical failings by soldiers. The essays by and large reflect this emphasis on operating humanely and with a high moral standard in a wartime setting, even one with such ambiguity and ongoing threat potential as has been revealed in Iraq and Afghanistan. His most potent appeal for soldiers is to avoid the highly tempting low road that often leads to prejudicial attitudes, mistreatment, abuses, torture and even unjustified killing of innocent civilians, enemy combatants and even fellow soldiers. Hovee’s final emotion-packed summation demonstrates this surrender to the dark side as one that ultimately undermines a more balanced world view, our connection to human beings in general and more particularly our own humanity. Furthermore, recovery from this blackhole deep within the soul may prove to be very daunting - one potentially filled with a sense of horror, unwanted and painful memories, self-loathing, guilt and a host of other psychological difficulties.