Most people remain prisoners of their first adult perspectives. Scott Taylor, for over 20 years the editor-publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine, thinks of himself as a soldier who became a journalist. According to his autobiography Unembedded: Two Decades of Maverick War Reporting (Douglas & McIntyre, Toronto, 2009), Scott was an arts student before he became a soldier in the mid-1980s. This explains much about him, because in many ways he does remain an artist.
Taylor has many detractors in Canada. He is blunt and opinionated, rubs many people the wrong way, and – even more unforgiveable – is usually right. This is perhaps why it is best to still think of him as an artist. He sees things very clearly, portrays them as accurately as he can, and forces us to challenge our own perspectives and beliefs. From his sojourns in Iraq, the shambles of disintegrating Yugoslavia, and back to Iraq and Afghanistan, he has seen much.
What is really admirable about Scott Taylor is his utter inability to surrender to group-think; he draws his own conclusions from his own observations. If he has made mistakes (and this reviewer isn’t really sure that he has), they are honest mistakes. He doesn’t have an ideological perspective to put blinkers on him, and relies instead on a rough sense of decency which has served him well as a moral compass. At times he has felt helpless, as all decent men occasionally must. There are times he has been enraged, but again does not let this master him.
Among the convention-tied apparatchiks of Canada’s civil service, academia and the military, Taylor is often denigrated as an amateur, a poseur, and a loose cannon. The last charge might be true; but loose cannons are better than secure ones that never shoot. His autobiography is a fascinating portrait of the artist as a war correspondent and deserves wide circulation. Taylor has long captured this reviewer’s respect and admiration and Unembedded cements this capture in place.