By Robert Goldich
Best Defense guest re-respondent
To "An African-American Academy Grad":
I am sorry you didn't like my posting. But don't tell me that when I said "all too many" African-American Academy football players I meant anything else than just that. I know what I said and that was what I meant. If I had thought -- which I manifestly did not, and do not -- that what I said was true of all African-American midshipmen, I would have said so.
I did not say what I said lightly. I have heard it from too many people for whom I have high respect and who are intimately familiar with the Naval Academy. My views are buttressed by a careful reading of, again, all too many accounts of various ways in which the mission of the Academy to commission Navy and Marine Corps officers of high quality has been compromised by excessive emphasis on football and football players of all races.
I could not agree with you more that we as a nation must progress in the long, slow, and painful process of making up for 250 years in which African-Americans were held in chains, often literally, and treated as property. And essential to that progress, in striving for diversity at the Naval Academy, is selecting midshipmen based on their potential to succeed as officers of the Navy and Marine Corps and not as football players. Otherwise we have what has been called the soft bigotry of lowered expectations. If we start calling anyone who calls attention to problems related to race "racist," we get nowhere.
I should emphasize that I am all in favor of vigorous programs of both intramural and intercollegiate athletics at the Naval Academy and the other service academies. Competitive athletics are an integral part of inculcating physical endurance and performance under high pressure, and washing out those who cannot do so, in preparation for commissioned service. This is true everywhere but it is especially true for the Marine Corps, and especially for Marine infantry officers. I don't question this at all.
Finally, I should also note that if I condemn any group of people in this sorry situation, it certainly isn't any midshipmen, African-American or otherwise. Rather, it's the almost entirely lily-white cohorts of retired senior naval officers who exert incredibly heavy pressure on the Academy and the Navy generally to carve out special niches for football players. The African-American recruiting situation I describe is only one of these niches.
By "An African-American Academy Grad"
Best Defense guest respondent
Mr. Goldich, as an African-American, a former football player at the Academy, and a Marine Infantry Officer, I take great exception to your article, especially point number two. Your comments are totally out of line, misinformed, without merit or factual basis, and frankly, borderline 'racist.' You could have crafted a more plausible argument based on well-researched facts vice editorial commentary.
I, like many other African-Americans who have played football, had great service records, graduated, and have gone on to serve our great nation with distinction. We did it by not hiding behind a football program, but by holding and being held to the same standard as every other midshipman. If you want to attack the institution, at least get your facts straight and mount a coherent argument, but don't bring race into the argument. I get it, you used the disclaimer of 'all too many,' but you know that was a weak attempt at implying that all blacks that attend the Academy are academically weak and have bad behavior. I will admit, I wasn't the smartest midshipman, but I met the standard and I graduated on time. The day I graduated, my shipmates to the right and left of me were not African-American. So maybe they should not have been admitted into the Academy either due to their lack of academic prowess and shady behavior.
Mr. Goldich, don't diminish what many of my shipmates and I worked so hard for because of a loosely supported argument that is borderline racist because you failed to do the proper research to mount an articulate argument. It is 2013 and people are still writing crap like this that actually feeds into this stereotype . I get it, you have the right to write whatever you want. I respect that, but this is the very reason we, as a nation, cannot progress.
Mr. Ricks, I read your blog everyday because you post some really thought provoking pieces. However, I think an apology is in order for what was posted on behalf of Mr. Goldich. It was extremely offensive. He could have excluded point number two and still he would have been off base, but it would have been more palatable. Most of your articles call for action of some kind, on behalf of those the article is directed. I want to see if you are in fact fair, just, and hold yourself to the same standard -- or will there be silence on the net?
By Robert Goldich
Best Defense department of third rail issues
Gee, what a surprise -- Naval Academy football players doing something bad. This is not the Navy per se at all. It is the result of a perfect storm of rotten policies, all directed at making the Academy football team able to compete in Division I and win games generally. I wrote about this in a lengthy CRS report I did in 1997 on the service academies, but there are no indications that things have changed at all, except possibly to get worse. These policies, and a geographical factor, include:
The absence of one or two of these would probably tamp down these offenses, but there are so many negatives that it's hard to avoid incidents of this nature.
By Jim Gourley
Best Defense all-star guest columnist team
This week's revelations of improprieties committed by the West Point Rugby team catalyzed diverse and heated arguments. Passions reached their apex when propelled by references to how harshly the cadets were punished and the transparency of the institution's administration of justice.
Tom himself was challenged on the dual proposition that the cadets should have lost the privilege of graduating on time with their classmates and that not conferring this punishment indicated that West Point is somehow failing in the character-development component of its mission. In his words, there is perhaps a mentality of "boys will be boys" rather than "We turn boys into men, and insist that they be gentlemen." The most fundamental and vital principles of the discussion were subsequently lost in the hail of slings and arrows -- specifically, the development of character in a group of young men who are now serving as front-line leaders in an Army that is still very much at war.
The official West Point statement on the matter is as innocuous in its characterization of the offenses as it is sterile in its description of the punishment. On the surface, it's fodder for both conspiracy theorists and detractors of the service academies. But we too easily forget that official statements are supposed to be no more than a surface treatment. As people who have lived the service academy experience know, still waters run deep. Those depths conceal a current of shame that runs through the character development and disciplinary systems. By this I do not mean that the service academies hide something that they feel ashamed of, rather that shame itself is a force so potent and entrenched in the system that it may well qualify as the greatest unspoken tradition of these institutions. There is no greater exhibit of this than the iconic punishment of "walking tours," forcing cadets to march in dress uniform with their rifles in public.
What most people outside of the academies don't realize is that, for every case in which a cadet or midshipman is discovered to have broken with the institution's principles, there are several more in which no wrongdoing is found. Some investigations even find fault with the accusers for making specious allegations. "Revenge accusations" and witch hunts are not common occurrences, but they are not uncommon, either. The standards of conduct and the threshold of suspicion are so sensitive that one need not hold a civil engineering degree to make a mountain out of a molehill. Investigations are therefore necessarily thorough and extremely uncomfortable processes. Compounding matters is that the guarantees of confidentiality in these schools are constructed of wicker. To paraphrase Churchill, rumors are able to get from the barracks to the chow hall before the truth can put its dress greys on. In institutions where the scripture of character is written in such absolutist verse, the court of public opinion can be less forgiving than a firing squad. For a first classman preparing to graduate, it ruins what ought to be a rare celebratory period in a cadet's life. Much care is and absolutely should be taken in these investigations as a measure of damage control, because damage is an unavoidable consequence of the process.
Though not clearly present, these intangibles nevertheless represent a genuine danger to the mission of character development. The sense of dread that your graduation is threatened, the public humiliation of being investigated, the awkward phone call home to your parents warning them of the situation and their consequent disappointment and worry contribute to an overwhelming sense of shame. It becomes a dynamic unto itself in these cases, and consequently must be considered as carefully as the existential circumstances by those in authority. Much has been written about the principle of shame in military culture, but of recent notoriety and also exceptionally relevant to this discussion are Steven Pressfield and Nancy Sherman. They take dynamically opposing views of shame. Pressfield is a zealous advocate of shame's utility in successful military units as "the shadow version of honor." He believes it is the stick of a loss of face to be used when the carrot of esteem fails. Sherman also sees a relationship between the two, but characterizes shame more as honor seen through a glass darkly. The polarity of their views highlights the unifying idea of crucial relevance. Whether you believe shame is a force for good or ill, its power cannot be taken for granted. It is a punishment unto itself, and can lead to other forms of self-castigation.
This leads to a more constructive view of the punishment as described in the context of character development. The postponement of graduation was suggested without an explanation of what end it would serve. A punishment should necessarily be instructive and inform better future behavior. According to the press release, the guilty parties received thorough attention. Like "hell," an "intense respect rehabilitation program, involving self-assessments, reflective journals, and role-model interviews, supervised by a mentor" is just a phrase. The reality is much worse. To be sure, no weekends were spent outside the cadet area in the making of these boys into men. Adding a delayed graduation on top of that is excessive, and ensures the wound inflicted by shame never heals properly. It makes for bitter graduates. In effect, you punish their receiving units more than them.
The effect of shame undoubtedly went even further. The impression made upon them by their officer leaders and how they handled the punishment will be indelible. That may be the most important lesson they learn out of all of this, because they will assuredly face the burden of administering punishment to future subordinates who commit grave offenses. How will they balance punishing the act and improving the person, and how will they negotiate these dilemmas in environments where reputation is as vital as body armor and shame mows down formations as easily as a mortar round? That should be the greatest measure of the institution's success or failure in "making men out of boys," for what other purpose is there in making them into men if not to maintain good order and discipline in a fighting force through a considerate application of justice? For those who were admonished, this was a profound -- indeed, the penultimate -- moment in their character development. It was the last influence West Point had on how they were shaped into leaders. How they were shaped into men will greatly inform the methods by which they go about shaping the boys (and girls) given to them: America's sons and daughters.
Jim Gourley is a 2002 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy . He now works as a journalist and writer. His first book is due out in July.
Some food for thought as questions about the Rugby team continue to surface...
Interesting to note that BG Rich Clark, 74th commandant of cadets, West Point, has served and led almost exclusively in Ranger and infantry units -- all male units. While this is not unusual for comm's at this particular time, it is concerning given USMA is a mixed gender officer training program.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is a lethal, agile and flexible force, capable of conducting many complex, joint special operations missions. Today's Ranger Regiment is the Army's premier direct-action raid force. Each of the four geographically dispersed Ranger battalions is always combat ready, mentally and physically tough, and prepared to fight our country's adversaries.
The Rangers are somewhat of a self-selecting group. While physically and mentally tough, if there is a problem with a soldier in a unit, they typically get rid of the soldier. They are not about leadership and character development, but developing physical and mental strength and endurance.
Celebrated and extolled are his credentials...
Rich is a warrior-leader with rock-solid credentials for competence and with a heart for Soldiers," Huntoon said. "He will excel as the commandant for cadets."
Is there a correlation between Rugby and Rangers?
Heard the faculty strongly opposed the comm's decision and punishment saying it undermines the entire respect mentorship program. And how were the rugby players' mentors selected? They volunteered as a query was sent out.
I've been seeing a lot of blimpish comments about how today's younger officers need to pull up their socks and adjust. But a major difference is that wives 50 years ago typically didn't arrive at Camp Swampy with a huge law school debt.
I am a lawyer married to my high school sweetheart whose dream was always to join the military. I've known about his Army aspirations almost as long as I've known him and he has known about my dream to become a lawyer. I just never dreamed it would be this difficult to find any kind of work that requires a degree. I even was hired to work for JAG the summer between law school years as a GS 7. Now that I actually have a degree and a license, I cannot even get an interview for ANY federal job, let alone a legal one. I am not whining, because I chose this life when I chose my husband. But, it's a sad state of affairs for anyone who graduates with a law degree from a top school in the top 15 percent of her class to have to settle for an $8 an hour receptionist position. I wouldn't lose as much sleep over it if I wasn't over $200K in debt from law school.
I'm incredibly proud of my husband's career and accomplishments. He loves serving our country and I have loved supporting him through training and two deployments. But our future is uncertain, and everyday I pray that I find an opportunity that will give me a chance at a professional life of my own. I have sacrificed and invested in my own future as well and I just want to put my skills to use and earn a living.
It looks like that may be the case. But we don't know because he and the Army are stonewalling. They're hiding behind a statement that an allegation of an improper relationship was investigated and was unsubstantiated, and that he is retiring as planned.
But they aren't saying what was substantiated. The Washington Post found out through a FOIA request that the Defense Department inspector general did find some wrongdoing. So it appears to me that General Huntoon misled me when he told me in January that "there's no investigation here." Which leads to the question: Are cadets held to a higher standard of conduct than superintendents?
As of 10 am today, General Huntoon hasn't responded to the question I sent him last weekend asking him what is going on.
By Victor Glover
Best Defense guest columnist
The professional military education (PME) system may need fixing, but in the service we don't value graduate education and that needs to be fixed first.
The military is a microcosm of society and we suffer from the same anti-intellectualism (to borrow from Richard Hofstadter) that plagues modern society. The military does not have a critical thinking problem -- the whole country does. While I agree that we need to address the range of problems with critical thinking (specifically analysis and communication) I do not agree that the problem is undergraduate education and I take even greater exception to the notion that technical education is a part of the problem.
This problem does not begin in the field-grade military, college, or even high school. We've had a critical down-turn in junior-high/middle school compared to other developed nations. I specifically follow mathematics and science trends, however U.S. education generally trends the same. If you want to attack the worthwhile issue of accession quality, you are biting off the mother lode. The data suggest that we have to go back to around grade 5 to reach a steady-state solution. I do work at this task, not for the military's sake, but for the country's. However, this is not something we can directly address from inside the leaning military machine. So what then, are we studying the wrong things?
History, politics, anthropology, geography, and diplomacy are indeed pertinent disciplines for the officer of today. Breadth of education, to include scientific and technical education, is important for the officer of the future. The real problems in life don't come in boxes labeled "physics" or "sociology;" they demand the efforts of the broadly and deeply educated and trained. I will borrow from Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge by the polymathic Edward O. Wilson. I will not try and summarize the wonderfully complex tome, but please allow a long quotation:
Every college student should be able to answer the following question: What is the relation between science and the humanities, and how is it important for human welfare? Every public intellectual and political leader should be able to answer that question as well. Already half the legislation coming before the United States Congress contains important scientific and technological components. Most of the issues that vex humanity daily -- ethnic conflict, arms escalation, overpopulation, abortion, environment, endemic poverty, to cite several most persistently before us -- cannot be solved without integrating knowledge from the natural sciences with that of the social sciences and humanities. Only fluency across the boundaries will provide a clear view of the world as it really is, not as seen through the lens of ideologies and religious dogmas or commanded by myopic response to immediate need.
Specifically relating to the Treaty (or Peace) of Westphalia, the impact of this series of treaties on the relations of sovereign nations is indelible and important for the public servant. Likewise are the technical and contractual details of the multibillion (tax-payer) dollar F-35 Lighting II aircraft program, their impact on the perceived success of the effort, and the larger logistical and tactical impact of a single-point strike-fighter solution on our common defense. PME is not just about history. It is all things operational and strategic to equip the field grade and above.
We in the military can address and affect this strategic and operational deficit and the larger PME system. First, we have to understand the problem by discussing the nature of the issue (as we are). Then we can manipulate our recruitment, retention, and advancement systems more effectively.
One of the reasons we do not have the critical or strategic thinking en masse is that it is not always required. When it is required, we are trying to hone it from professionals grown in an active warfighting organization, not always conducive to critical and strategic development. We also live in a "do" oriented country and are therefore in a "do" oriented military. What we have to figure out is how to do while finding time to dialogue, debate, philosophize, analyze, study, think, and sit still. Hopefully the end of this era of war will encourage us to consider this.
The core of this issue however, is not education or the availability thereof. The large animals in the room are personnel management and advancement. To inculcate critical thinking across the department will require adjustments to our evaluation and promotion systems. We in the warfighting profession do not make up a monolithic bureaucracy. There are many facets to military service, but we promote as if everyone is striving for the same goal.
We do not highlight the junior personnel content with middle management as their highest aspiration while mastering that realm. We also do not reward the disciplined specialist in the operational force as we all have to be generalists. In contrast to my earlier statement about the broadly educated and trained, we focus too much on the broadly trained and experienced and not enough on the broadly and deeply educated. Somewhere there is balance we are failing to strike.
In the Navy F/A-18 community we refer to our training as being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I do not believe the promotion system is wrong or improper for our mission, just that it is too rigid. Yes we have to cull the field, yet all enlisted personnel do not want to be the senior enlisted advisor to the chief, nor all officers the chief. Integrating career flexibility and educational priority into our personnel system would have a profound impact and I believe we are trying. If we change the system to value critical analysis and communication abilities, where then do we attain these?
We are fed from and posses institutions that can educate broadly and deeply, cultivating critical thinkers. In my experience, Cal Poly, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Air Command and Staff College are among these institutions possessing great educators. Professors like Dan Walsh, Jim LoCascio, Gary Langford, Mark Rhoades, and Jonathan Zartman understand the mission, the pupil, and the material, and mush them together until they get the learning outcome they want. Put the Peace of Westphalia where it is not, in the context of the learner, and you will undoubtedly root it in the minds of your students. A facet of the solution lies in the hands, heads, and hearts of the academe. Once the services reward rigorous graduate education, we will also see the professorship, military and civilian, evolve for the better. We will also see the opportunities to attend the nations elite institutions grow and expand, also for the better. In today's fiscally constraining environment, civilian graduate institutions may serve as a bulwark in maintaining a professional and educated officer corps.
Another facet of the solution lies with the individual service member. I am a carrier-based aviator and test pilot serving as a fellow in the legislative branch of government. After this stint in the staff world I hope to return to the operational flying world. I cannot rightly blame the Navy for the difficulty in training and educating me to think and communicate effectively. What are they to train me for next? At each juncture in my career I didn't know where I would be next until I got the call to pick up and leave. However, I have always been given what was required to do my job whether landing on a carrier, evaluating weapon systems, or supporting the legislative process.
An important part of a servicemember's critical development is his or her personal and professional duty. We are most useful when equipped to deal with a range of problems even before we are required to. I want to give my best in service, so I ought to grasp the opportunities to get better with both hands. My career has given me a context to appreciate subjects that I did not appreciate when I was a full-time student. Context has helped me grow concern for the way these subjects affect my life and service. I would love to go back and be an undergraduate again but I cannot, so I take every opportunity to learn while I can. Does our professional military education system need righting? Not as much as our understanding of the importance of education within the military.
Lieutenant Commander Victor Glover (@VicGlover ) is a graduate of Cal Poly, Officer Candidate School (with distinction), Air Command and Staff College (with distinction), Air Force Test Pilot School, and the Naval Postgraduate School. He recently completed a tour as a department head in a strike-fighter squadron and is currently a legislative fellow in the United States Senate. The views expressed are his own.
By Nicholas Murray
Best Defense department of restoring standards to PME
The Army has a critical thinking problem. To fix it, most focus on the need to change the culture of the organization and the curricula of the staff schools and higher. Fixing this will help, but only from the mid-career point onward. If we really want to change the way the officer corps thinks, we need to start from the ground up. That is, if we are truly going to fix Professional Military Education, we must begin with a potential officer's undergraduate education.
Having recently written an article for the Small Wars Journal examining Professional Military Education through the lens of history, I was struck by the number of other articles dealing with the general subject area. Almost all of them, however, including mine, were focused on the staff officer schools or higher. This got me thinking.
Perhaps the problem starts much earlier in our system of commissioning. Here at the CGSC I see a number of perfectly capable and bright officers who lack fairly basic knowledge of their own history. Additionally, I've noticed that many of them have never heard of the Treaty of Westphalia, and some have only the vaguest awareness of international politics. Lacking such a foundation means that they often flounder in classes where such issues are discussed, and I have read many complaints about how this affects their ability to understand the broader context of their role around the world. Additionally, the lack of educational breadth means it is more difficult for them to grasp how things fit together. Both Max Boot's and Harun Dogo's recent guest posts address some of these issues and look at some of the consequent problems; they also gave me food for thought.
What, then, can we do to address some of these issues before officers reach the middle stage of their career? An email from a cadet at the USMA pushed me further in contemplating an answer (in it he reminded me of a guest post he wrote for Best Defense outlining some thoughts on his experience). I thus came to the question: Why not do something more radical than simply tweak what we do at the staff schools and above? Why not start from the ground up? If all officers in the U.S. Army had to take courses in U.S. history as a requirement of their being commissioned -- along with one or two classes in Western civilization (or indeed world civilization), geography, and international relations -- we might go some way to providing the background of knowledge that many will need for much of their career. Being an immigrant myself, I think it is a good idea, especially when considering the number of serving soldiers who were born overseas. These classes would also facilitate the broadening of knowledge that is so essential to effective critical thinking. Of course, to become an officer a candidate needs to have completed a four-year college degree. That surely solves the problem, right? Well, maybe not, but it does suggest a solution.
With that in mind I looked at the ROTC and OCS websites for guidance as to which of the above classes are required as a part of the program. Disappointingly, these courses were nowhere mentioned, at least, not that I could find. Furthermore, simply requiring a four-year degree does not guarantee that an incoming officer has taken even one of these classes let alone all of them -- it really depends upon which school they attended and what that particular school's academic requirements for a degree were. This is important because a solid base in these subjects would provide much needed context for classes discussing strategy -- which they will need later in their careers. It would also provide a greater number of people who know something about the next piece of ground over which we have to fight. That would be no bad thing. In its defense, the Army does require that potential officers take a course in American military history, but that is largely driven by the learning of facts (no bad thing) without the broader analysis and context of what those facts mean (not a good thing). Thus, it does not really address the central issue.
We need to change the way we educate officers before they start their careers. This is a solution to the Army's critical thinking problem. Additionally, fixing it this way would at least mean that when officers show up for their education at the staff schools and above they already have the grounding necessary for them to focus on the essential. That is, preparing themselves intellectually for the next ten years. That is, after all, our mission.
Dr. Nicholas Murray is an associate professor in the Department of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College. His book The Rocky Road to the Great War (Potomac Books) is due out this year, along with an edited book titled Pacification: The Lesser Known French Campaigns (CSI). He recently published "Officer Education: What Lessons Does the French Defeat in 1871 Have for the US Army Today?" in the Small Wars Journal. His views are his own. They are not yours.
Here it is. Time to get going!:
Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. New York: Crown, 2012. 529pp. (HB74 .P65A28 2012)
Acemoglu and Robinson, scholars from MIT and Harvard University, strive to solve the reason why some nations thrive and others fail. Supported by years of original research, the authors draw from historical examples spanning the globe to support their theory of political economy as the foundation of a nation's success.
Allison, William Thomas. My Lai: An American Atrocity in the Vietnam War. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. 170pp. (DS557.8 M9A44 2012)
"On March 16, 1968, American soldiers killed as many as five hundred Vietnamese men, women, and children in a village near the South China Sea. In My Lai, William Thomas Allison explores and evaluates the significance of this horrific event. How could such a thing have happened? Who (or what) should be held accountable? How do we remember this atrocity and try to apply its lessons, if any?" -- Publisher description.
Bacevich, Andrew J. Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010. 286pp. (UA23 .B334 2010)
Bacevich examines the Washington consensus on national security and why long held assumptions must change.
Barfield, Thomas J. Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. 389pp. (DS357.5 .B37 2010)
Leading anthropologist Thomas Barfield traces the historic struggles of the region, weaving the complex threads of culture, politics, economics, and geography.
Bergen, Peter L. The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaeda. New York: Free Press, 2011. 473pp. (HV6432 .B47 2011)
CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of the war with al Qaeda; from the strategies devised in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, to the fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond. The Longest War provides the perspectives of both the United States and al Qaeda and its allies.
Betros, Lance. Carved from Granite: West Point Since 1902. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2012. 458pp. (U410 .L1B48 2012)
In Carved from Granite, author Lance Betros, provost of the U.S. Army War College, addresses a range of historical and contemporary issues concerning the United States Military Academy. An Academy graduate and later faculty member, Betros draws from his own experience, oral histories, and archival sources to devote chapters to West Point's history, governance, admissions, academics, military training, and leader development. This authoritative history examines the challenges faced by the Academy, and offers subjective and interpretive insight for its future.
Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power. New York: Basic Books, 2012. 208pp. (JZ1313 .B79 2012)
Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Carter, draws from decades of experience to reflect on the changing distribution of global power and why America's global standing is waning. Forecasting some of the possible geopolitical consequences of America's decline, Brzezinski argues we must create a long-term strategic vision for the future.
Chandrasekaran, Rajiv. Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan. New York: Knopf, 2012. 368pp. (DS371.412 .C53 2012)
Chandrasekaran, Washington Post senior correspondent and associate editor, follows his 2006 award-winning book on Iraq, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, with this critical examination of the 2009 Afghanistan surge and the Obama administration.
Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin Press, 2010. 904pp. (E312 .C54 2010)
In Washington: A Life, noted biographer Ron Chernow provides a detailed portrait of an iconic leader and the father of our nation, while exploring the history of America's founding. 2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Biography.
Chun, Clayton K. S. Gothic Serpent: Black Hawk Down, Mogadishu 1993. New York: Osprey, 2012. 80pp. (DT407.42 C58 2012)
Containing detailed maps and declassified information, Gothic Serpent recounts Task Force Ranger's attempt to capture the lieutenants of a Somali warlord during the 1993 U.N. humanitarian relief mission and their ensuing fight for survival. U.S. Black Hawk helicopters, struck by rocket-propelled grenades crashed, stranding the crew in Mogadishu where they waged a brutal battle against hostile gunmen until their rescue by a combined U.N. and U.S. relief force. Winner of the 2012 Colonel John J. Madigan, III U.S. Army War College Staff and Faculty Published Writing Competition.
Collins, James C., and Morten T. Hansen. Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck -- Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. New York: HarperCollins, 2011. 304pp. (HF5386 .C652 2011)
"Ten years after the worldwide bestseller Good to Great, Jim Collins returns with another groundbreaking work, this time to ask: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Based on nine years of research, buttressed by rigorous analysis and in-fused with engaging stories, Collins and his colleague, Morten Hansen, enumerate the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times." -- Publisher description.
Crist, David. The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran. New York: Penguin Press, 2012. 638pp. (E183.8 .I55C75 2012)
Crist, a government historian and advisor to the United States Central Command, spent a decade researching the conflict between the United States and Iran. Drawing from the documents of several U.S. administrations and numerous interviews, The Twilight War offers new insight on this intricate history.
Donnelly, Thomas, and Frederick W. Kagan, eds. Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields. Washington, DC: AEI Press, 2010. 169pp. (UA23 .L47 2010)
Donnelly and Kagan lead a group of U.S. military officials and national security experts in analyzing the American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan thus far and mapping a way forward -- not only for the military, but also for diplomats, elected officials, and the American public. Though written in 2007 and 2008, these essays remain relevant to the current administration.
Friedman, Thomas L., and Michael Mandelbaum. That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. 380pp. (JK275 .F75 2011)
Friedman and Mandelbaum analyze the four challenges that face the United States: globalization, revolution in information technology, the nation's chronic deficits, and the pattern of excessive energy consumption. That Used to Be Us concludes with suggestions for how to sustain the American dream and preserve American power.
Gaddis, John Lewis. George F. Kennan: An American Life. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. 784pp. (E748 .K374G34 2011)
"This is the authorized, definitive biography of one of the most fascinating but troubled figures of the twentieth century by the nation's leading Cold War historian. In the late 1940s, George F. Kennan wrote the ‘long telegram' and the ‘X' article. These two documents laid out United States' strategy for ‘containing' the Soviet Union. Based on exclusive access to Kennan and his archives, this landmark history illuminates a life that both mirrored and shaped the century it spanned." -- Publisher description. 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Biography.
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. New York: Norton, 2011. 356pp. (PA6484 .G74 2011)
"One of the world's most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it." -- Publisher description. 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winner for General Nonfiction.
Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway Books, 2010. 305pp. (BF637 .C4H43 2010)
Drawing upon a multitude of behavioral studies, business case studies, and hypothetical examples to illustrate their principles, Chip and Dan Heath weave together decades of research to shed new light on how to effect transformative change.
Hill, Charles. Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. 368pp. (PN56 .D55H55 2010)
Through lucid and compelling discussions of classic literary works from Homer to Rushdie, Grand Strategies represents a merger of literature and international relations, inspired by the conviction that "a grand strategist... needs to be immersed in classic texts from Sun Tzu to Thucydides to George Kennan, to gain real-world experience through internships in the realms of statecraft, and to bring this learning and experience to bear on contemporary issues." -- Publisher description.
Junger, Sebastian. War. New York: Twelve, 2010. 287pp. (DS371.4123 .K67J86 2010)
"Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, turns his eye to the reality of combat in this on-the-ground account that follows a single platoon through a 15-month tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley." -- Publisher description.
Kagan, Robert. The World America Made. New York: Knopf, 2012. 149pp. (JZ1313 .K34 2012)
"What would the world look like if America were to reduce its role as a global leader in order to focus all its energies on solving its problems at home? And is America really in decline? The author paints a vivid, alarming picture of what the world might look like if the United States were truly to let its influence wane." -- Publisher description.
Kan, Paul Rexton, with a foreword by Barry R. McCaffrey. Cartels at War: Mexico's Drug-Fueled Violence and the Threat to U.S. National Security. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2012. 193pp. (HV5840 .M4K36 2012)
Cartels at War examines how Mexico's ongoing conflict has spilled over into the United States, affecting policy issues ranging from immigration to gun control. Drawing on fieldwork along the border, and interviews with U.S. government officials and Mexican military officers, Paul Rexton Kan contends that careful policy consideration is necessary to prevent further cartel violence, reduce the incentives of drug smuggling, and to stop the erosion of Mexico.
Kaplan, Robert D. Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. New York: Random House, 2010. 366pp. (DS341.3 .U6K37 2010)
"In Monsoon, a pivotal examination of the Indian Ocean region and countries known as ‘Monsoon Asia,' Robert D. Kaplan shows how crucial this dynamic area has become to American power in the twenty-first century. With Kaplan's mix of policy analysis, travel reportage, sharp historical perspective, and fluid writing, Monsoon offers an exploration of the Indian Ocean as a strategic and demographic hub and an in-depth look at issues most pressing for American interests." -- Publisher description.
Kaplan, Robert D. The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate. New York: Random House, 2012. 403pp. (JC319 .K37 2012)
Kaplan, bestselling author of Monsoon, builds on the insights and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers, examining the critical turning points in history -- to better understand what might lie ahead.
Kilcullen, David. Counterinsurgency. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 251pp. (U241 .K55 2010)
Counterinsurgency brings together Kilcullen's most prominent writings on this vitally important topic. This book includes a previously unpublished essay entitled "Measuring Progress in Afghanistan," written for Gen. Stanley McChrystal during his field work in Afghanistan.
Kissinger, Henry. On China. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. 586pp. (JZ1480 .B49 2012)
Drawing from notable records and his own forty year history with China, Kissinger examines how this country has approached strategy, diplomacy, and negotiations throughout its history. On China provides insightful perspective on the evolution of U.S.-China relations that can be applied to present day.
Kupchan, Charles A. How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. 442pp. (JZ5538 .K87 2010)
How Enemies Become Friends provides an innovative account of how nations escape geopolitical competition and replace hostility with friendship. Through compelling analysis and historical examples, Kupchan explores how adversaries can transform enmity into amity.
Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan: A Hard Country. New York: Public Affairs, 2011. 566pp. (DS389 .L54 2011)
"Anatol Lieven's book is a magisterial investigation of this highly complex and often poorly understood country: its regions, ethnicities, competing religious traditions, varied social landscapes, deep political tensions, and historical patterns of violence; but also its surprising underlying stability, rooted in kinship, patronage, and the power of entrenched local elites." -- Publisher description.
Luvaas, Jay, Harold W. Nelson, and Leonard J. Fullenkamp, eds. Guide to the Battle of Gettysburg, 2nd ed., rev. and expanded. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012. 346pp. (E475.53 .U333 2012)
"The long-anticipated revised edition of one of the most respected and popular guides to the Gettysburg National Military Park. The authors have made significant changes to the guide, addressing alterations to the park during the past fifteen years and adding new information and improved maps that enrich park visitors' understanding of one of the bloodiest and most momentous battles in American history." -- Publisher description.
Maddow, Rachel. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. New York: Crown, 2012. 275pp. (UA23 .M33 2012)
Rachel Maddow's Drift contends that America as a nation has drifted away from its original ideals and become at peace with war. Spanning the Vietnam War to today's war in Afghanistan, Maddow explores the political debate of how, when, and where to apply America's military power -- and who gets to make those decisions.
Manwaring, Max G., with a foreword by John T. Fishel and afterword by Edwin G. Corr. The Complexity of Modern Asymmetric Warfare. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. 208pp. (U163 .M2687 2012)
"Today more than one hundred small, asymmetric, and revolutionary wars are being waged around the world. This book provides invaluable tools for fighting such wars by taking enemy perspectives into consideration. Using case studies, Manwaring outlines vital survival lessons for leaders and organizations concerned with national security in our contemporary world." -- Publisher description.
Marlantes, Karl. What It Is Like to Go to War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011. 256pp. (DS559.5 .M375 2011)
Marlantes, author of the award winning novel Matterhorn, takes a deeply personal and candid look at the experience and ordeal of combat, drawing on his own time in Vietnam. He critically examines how we might better prepare young soldiers for the psychological and spiritual stresses of war, and what it means to truly return home.
Matheny, Michael R. Carrying the War to the Enemy: American Operational Art to 1945. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011. 334pp. (U153 .M38 2011)
Carrying the War to the Enemy draws on archival materials from military educational institutions, planning documents, and operational records of World War II campaigns to provide a clearer understanding of the development of American operational art.
Morris, Ian. Why the West Rules -- For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal about the Future. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 750pp. (CB251 .M67 2010)
"Why has the West dominated the globe for the past two hundred years, and will its power last? Describing the patterns of human history, the archaeologist and historian Ian Morris offers surprising new answers to both questions." -- Publisher description.
Moten, Matthew, ed., with a foreword by Martin E. Dempsey. Between War and Peace: How America Ends Its Wars. New York: Free Press, 2011. 371pp. (E181 .B48 2011)
America's leading historians examine the path of America's wars, from the Revolution to the first Gulf War: their initial aims (often very different from their conclusions), their principal strategies, their final campaigns, and the future ramifications of the wars' ends for the nation.
Neiberg, Michael S. Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. 292pp. (D511 .N45 2011)
Neiberg's Dance of the Furies contributes to the understanding of the World War I's origins and nature. Drawing on letters, diaries, and memoirs of citizens across Europe, Neiberg shows that the peoples of Europe did not expect, or desire, war in 1914.
Nye, Joseph S., Jr. The Future of Power. New York: PublicAffairs, 2011. 300pp. (JC330 .N94 2011)
Nye, a leading international relations scholar, adds to his previous work on power (Soft Power, 2004) by examining the role of the state in the context of shifting power in the 21st century.
Ricks, Thomas E. The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today. New York: Penguin Press, 2012. 558pp. (E745 .R43 2012)
"From the bestselling author of Fiasco and The Gamble, [The Generals is] an epic history of the decline of American military leadership from World War II to Iraq. Ricks has made a close study of America's military leaders for three decades, and in his hands this story resounds with larger meaning: about the transmission of values, about strategic thinking, and about the difference between an organization that learns and one that fails." -- Publisher description.
Rose, Gideon. How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. 413pp. (E181 .R67 2010)
Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs, recreates the choices that presidents and their advisers have con-fronted during the final stages of each major conflict from World War I through Iraq.
Silver, Nate. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail -- But Some Don't. New York: Penguin Press, 2012. 534pp. (CB158 .S54 2012)
Silver, one of America's most influential political forecasters, explores the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data.
Snow, Donald M., and Dennis M. Drew. From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond: War and Politics in the American Experience, 3rd ed. Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 2010. 335pp. (UA23 .S66 2010)
This book, by a political scientist and a career military officer and historian, has been updated and revised with new chapters on the Afghan and Iraq wars. For each conflict, the authors review underlying issues and events; political objectives; military objectives and strategy; political considerations; military technology and technique; military conduct and the ultimate disposition of the original political goals.
Terrill, W. Andrew, with a foreword by Anthony H. Cordesman. Global Security Watch: Jordan. Santa Barbara: Praeger Security International, 2010. 187pp. (DS154.13 .T47 2010)
Middle East specialist Andrew Terrill examines Jordan's role in Middle Eastern politics and regional security, and provides an overview of the country's history, economy, military system, and relations with other Arab states. Library also has online in Praeger Security International.
Thomas, Evan. The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898. New York: Little, Brown, 2010. 471pp. (E721 .T46 2010)
Newsweek editor Evan Thomas leads readers through the Spanish-American War of 1898, revealing insights into the minds of the major leaders of the time: advocates of the war; Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst -- and two opponents; Speaker of the House Thomas Reed, and philosopher William James.
West, Francis J. The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. New York: Random House, 2011. 307pp. (DS371.412 .W47 2011)
"From one of America's most renowned war correspondents comes the definitive account of the Afghanistan war, a damning policy assessment, and a compelling and controversial way forward." -- Publisher description.
Woodward, Bob. Obama's Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. 441pp. (E908.3 .W66 2010)
Obama's Wars tells the inside story of President Obama's critical decisions regarding the Afghanistan War, the secret campaign in Pakistan, and the worldwide fight against terrorism. Library also has sound recording.
Woodward, Bob. The Price of Politics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. 428pp. (HC106.84 .W67 2012)
Woodward's latest book is a detailed assessment of how President Obama and Republican and Democratic leaders in the United States Congress endeavored to restore the American economy and improve the government's fiscal situation between 2009 and 2012.
Yergin, Daniel. The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. 804pp. (HD9502 .A2Y47 2011)
Energy authority Daniel Yergin resumes the account of global energy he first began in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2009 book, The Prize. The Quest details inside stories and historic accounts, examining energy as an overarching global quest at the heart of geopolitical and economic change.
By Harun Dogo
Best Defense guest columnist
1. Why do we send field grade officers to two or three separate, year-long schools over the course of a decade? In fact, why do we send so many of them for a year of schooling a few years before they retire?
2. If the Army can teach the staff college core at their satellite campuses in 15 weeks, what do we get from the in-resident students for the other eight months of residence that makes the added cost worth it?
3. The objective of both SAMS/SAASS and the War College is to teach strategy. In fact there is much overlap in their reading material. If we really need a number of "Jedi" strategist majors running around, why not just send them to War College early?
4. The Air Force in particular has long had a bit of schizophrenia about whether its officers are required to have a master's degree completed before they meet their major's board. As a result, many of those officers pick up an online master's degree somewhere along the way -- oftentimes those degrees are in a subject area very similar to PME -- see some of AMU's offerings or even the AU's own online programs. With the staff and war colleges both conferring the master's degree too -- is it really necessary for officers to pursue up to three master's degrees in the same subject area over the course of a decade?
5. With the sole exception of the Eisenhower School at the National Defense University (the former Industrial College of the Armed Forces -- ICAF), PME core curricula do not seem to include serious instruction in resource management, economics or statistics. Can strategy that does not consider resource implications still be called a "strategy"? Particularly since DOD might be a tad more resource constrained in the future than it has been in the past...
6. Why does everyone have to study the same thing? Social psychology literature tells us that a greater diversity of experiences and backgrounds makes us better at innovating and avoiding groupthink, despite a greater proclivity for clashing opinions. Why not allow officers to pursue a diversity of graduate opportunities instead -- MBAs, MPPs, master's degrees in social science, engineering or (gasp!) basic science? DOD's corporate universities (NPS and AFIT) could pick up some of it, while still enabling students to complete the core staff/war college courses. For those going out to a civilian university, they can take their indoctrination at a distance or spend the summer re-militarizing their thinking...
7. If the goal of war college is to ensure we have senior military leaders who are familiar with strategic thought, rather than trying to identify those with flag potential among PME students when they are majors, why not wait until they are selected for flag rank and then have them attend whatever strategy education we deem to be necessary? Between the four services there are approximately 100 new flag officers per year, and all of those officers already have to attend the CAPSTONE course. Making war college only a general's course or making it six months like the NATO course in Rome might be a more efficient way of making senior officers more strategic...
8. Why not let promising officers attend PME earlier? George Marshall attended staff college six years into his military career. He seemed to do OK in the long run...
9. We already send a fraction of eligible officers to detail with other government departments, non-profit organizations, or businesses in lieu of attending PME. If those experiences are just as valuable as in-residence education, then why not make them more pervasive at the intermediate level? It might help with that pesky retention problem, or serve as a bridge to that sabbatical idea folks want to see...
10. All that said, it appears that attendance of in-residence PME is (at least in certain services) a signaling device for promotion and a reward for top performers. It can also be seen as an opportunity for a frequently deployed force to rest and recuperate and spend some uninterrupted family time. But the current PME framework has been around since the 19th century -- the world and the military have both changed a bit since then -- is this still the best system we can come up with?
Harun Dogo is a doctoral fellow at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and is currently based in Washington DC. He also hangs with his homeys in the CNAS Next Generation National Security Leaders 2012-2013 cohort.
I've been critical on occasion of the Army's Military Review, so I want to point out that the new issue has several provocative articles. The best, I think, is one on critical thinking by Col. Thomas Williams. He argues that Army PME "needs work." He thinks the Army needs to focus "less on knowledge and content and more on the ability to question and argue." He also calls on the Army to develop what he calls heretics -- "leaders capable of challenging convention to create imaginative solutions regardless of the operational environment." Like Roseanne Cash, Colonel Williams knows that the beginning of wisdom is not to walk into a situation thinking you know the answers, but figuring out the right questions.
I eagerly dug into another article, "Meritocracy in the Profession of Arms," and wanted to like it, but put it down disappointed. The author clearly has something on his mind -- basically, re-emphasizing competence. I am all for that. But the article seems to be kind of a rant about the "muddy boots" mindset. He uses the phrase six times in the article, but never defines it, which would be the first step in explaining why he finds it so pernicious. (And to quibble, I don't think the author was well-served by his proofreader: You'd think the Army's premier magazine could spell General Westmoreland's name correctly on page 20. Also, to be even pickier, at the bottom of page 49, the current month is given as "Janaury.")
By Chris Taylor
Best Defense guest columnist
After eleven years of combat that ultimately will culminate with a troop withdrawal in 2014, Afghanistan is neither settled nor solved. Long-term success in the region demands more nuanced approaches and gives cause to reimagine not a legacy, but a new engagement with smart investment in other levers of influence.
Eminent Harvard professor Joe Nye, who coined the phrase "soft power," recently said, "soft power is the ability to get outcomes through attraction rather than through force or payment, and education has always been an important resource to achieve that."
Education has already proven to be a powerful attraction in Kabul. Enrollment at the American University of Afghanistan rose from 56 students in 2006 to 1,800 in 2012, and continues to grow. Founded in 2004 by Afghan business and civic leaders, and modeled after the successful American Universities of Beirut and Cairo, the AUAF is a non-sectarian, co-educational institution with undergraduate, graduate, and professional development curricula.
In May 2011, the AUAF graduated its first class of 32; nine women and 23 men with two Fulbright Scholarships awarded. In 2012, 52 graduated with six more Fulbright Scholars named.
The university attracts Pashtuns, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Nuristanis, Turkmen, Aimaks, and many others. In doing so, it creates an intercultural environment where young Afghan minds interact, leveraging many tribal narratives into one sense of Afghan unity and progress.
But by far, the fastest growing demographic at AUAF is women. With an average enrollment of 25 percent in undergraduate and professional development curricula (11 percent in the newly minted MBA curriculum), Afghan women are defying archaic norms and risking their lives to educate themselves so they can lead in their communities, in business, and in the national government. These are the same women who have been disfigured by acid attacks and mutilation, raped by relatives, married against their will, and received death threats from the Taliban -- yet they still come to the AUAF because they believe they can change their future, and that of their nation.
AUAF graduate Wasima Muhammadi said, "I want to be a deputy in the Ministry of Finance, because currently I do not see enough women participation in the government. I think that a mixture of both male and female leaders in this country would have a positive impact on the progress of Afghanistan."
In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, testified that, "Throughout history, insurgencies have seldom been defeated by foreign forces, instead, they have been ultimately beaten by indigenous forces."
The case, then, is made: an educated citizenry can redefine its country's narrative, drive change from within, and break free from tyranny.
While education is a strong soft power tool, it affects national security, too. Afghanistan's low literacy rate poses significant challenges to strategic training programs for its army, police forces, and government agencies, potentially impairing its ability to fully take responsibility for its own security in 2014.
Initially funded by a grant from USAID with support from first lady Laura Bush, AUAF has grown substantially beyond that support. The university has an aggressive campaign to raise $80 million over five years -- a fraction of the $108 billion budgeted for operations in Afghanistan in 2012.
It seems education is quite the deal these days.
Contractors have made substantial profits in Afghanistan. The Federal Procurement Data System lists over $50 billion in contracts for companies who have supported combat and stabilization operations. Imputing an estimated profit of 10 percent leaves $5 billion -- a small amount of which CEOs should invest in the education of some of the tens of thousands of Afghans they employ. As the CEO of my former company, I instituted an AUAF scholarship program for top performing Afghan employees, or children of Afghan employees killed while serving the company and the military. Today, six bright students, three of whom are women, are studying accounting and finance, public administration, and information technology on these funds.
The wealthy Afghan diaspora should be first in line to support the AUAF's mission. Many have benefited from Western education, and sharing their experiences and financial assistance would give others still trapped by war and extremism a view to a better future.
As the United States now weighs its strategic options, investing in the American University of Afghanistan makes sense. The extremist narrative lures disenchanted youth every day, but that's because there is not a stronger, positive message for them to embrace. Without funding for education, young Afghans will flee the country in search of other opportunities; most never to return -- or worse, stay home and simply endure whatever may come. That need not be so.
A commitment to the American University of Afghanistan brings with it a new generation of Afghan leaders who will catapult forward fresh ideas that counter extremism, reject corruption, and embrace equality for women, all while creating necessary long-term regional relationships and giving voice to young Afghans who are the future of their country and dedicated to a moderate and free society.
We should make that commitment today.
Chris Taylor is a member of the Board of Trustees at the American University of Afghanistan and the Chairman and CEO of Novitas Group. He is a former enlisted infantryman and Force Recon Marine. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council, he holds an MBA from the College of William & Mary and an MPA in political economy and international security from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he co-authored, "Transforming the National Security Culture" for the Defense Leadership Project at Harvard's Center for Public Leadership.
American University of Afghanistan
By Joan Johnson-Freese
Best Defense office of saving PME
My recent book on Professional Military Education (PME), Educating America's Military, advocates including experienced career academics in administrative positions at the nation's war colleges, which, currently, rarely occurs. But the October 2012 Navy Inspector General (IG) report that resulted in the firing of the president and provost at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) largely faulted civilian academic administrators for the myriad issues they found there. Though these recommendations may seem to contradict each other, I would contend otherwise. Rather, I contend they point out unaddressed difficulties PME institutions face while attempting to commingle two very different cultures as they aim for ambiguous goals, thus setting up circumstances that consistently lead towards extremes, rather than getting it "just right."
There are important differences between war colleges and the NPS. Admiral James Stavridis stated his view on war college goals in his 2011 convocation speech at the National War College. "I knew what I was good at...but also sensed what I did not know or understand well: global politics and grand strategy; the importance of the ‘logistics nation'; how the interagency community worked; what the levers of power and practice were in the world -- in essence how everything fits together." The goal of the war colleges should be to educate students in the areas beyond their comfort zones, to broaden their horizons from largely technical and operational backgrounds. The NPS, on the other hand, offers graduate technical degrees in areas such as engineering and oceanography. According to the IG report, more than 42 percent of entering students have a background in liberal arts. Faculty composition is an important ramification of this difference. Whereas war college faculties can be and are significantly populated by individuals, including active duty and retired military officers, with little or no academic background in areas they teach, it is more difficult to bluff your way through teaching an engineering course than it is a history or economics course. To accomplish their mission, the NPS inherently needs and is therefore dominated by, a higher percentage of civilian academics.
But what are their missions?
Here is where similarities between problems found by the IG and problems I cover in my book converge. The number one recommendation in the IG report is: "That SECNAV determine the mission, function and task of NPS." Likewise, on page two of my book, I question if: "War College goals are clear, and whether articulated goals are then supported by practices and processes at those institutions." The military wants a highly technical-educated officer corps; Congress, through the Goldwater-Nichols Act, requires that officers be educated for "intellectual agility." All schools must constantly demonstrate "relevance" or risk being seen as low-hanging fruit in budget battles -- which means they are constantly expanding their missions and programs -- and all education programs are to be executed at breakneck speeds to get valuable officers back into operational billets, with no failures. The IG report references education as being seen as "a pump and not a filter" part of the NPS's mission. Throughput drives all PME institutions, as the graduation rates at the war colleges are near 100 percent, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported a similar rate of 98 percent at the NPS.
A shift in the NPS 2008 Strategic Plan, toward research, and an apparent coup of civilian academics over pushed-aside military officers was determined to be at the heart of the NPS's issues. The IG report documents flagrant violations of regulations in the use of government funds, and states the NPS prioritized research over teaching. But who are these "civilians"? The president was a retired Navy vice admiral. Civilians come in many different varieties, including retired military, practitioners with no academic experience, and academics with administrative experience and those without administrative experience. A civilian academic is not simply someone not in uniform, or with a doctorate, and broad-brush blame seems to serve little constructive purpose.
While career academics are notoriously bad administrative managers -- preferring to focus on their disciplines -- their expertise is critical in providing students a valuable educational program. I argue that just as pilots are certainly included in designing and executing pilot training programs, and doctors in military medical programs, experienced, career academics similarly ought to be included in PME academic administration, including curriculum design and delivery, as well as hiring and promotions. But academics are product oriented, frustrating the military which is process oriented. Nevertheless, the two cultures must work together. If they don't, it can result in -- as suggested in both my book and the IG report, quoted here -- an organization operating "neither as a Navy command nor the universities it strives to model itself after."
Apparently the NPS president was isolated from those who could advise him on process violations by layers of administrative bureaucracy, created by the ham-fisted civilians to push aside the hapless military officers. (That the military officers would allow that to occur seems curious and raises other questions.) While I have no basis for comment on the intent of the administrators running interference between the president and his staff (the IG, the JAG), I have no doubt about its existence. Administrative bloat is an issue that needs attention at all PME institutions. Too often, these positions are created as rewards for those considered "team players" by PME power holders, of whatever variety.
The IG report succinctly points out the tensions that exist between military and academic cultures, and it's about time. A war college civilian colleague recently conveyed an exemplary story. He had used the word "tension" to describe relations between civilian and military (retired, in this case) faculty in a meeting and was pulled aside afterward, and censured for such. It doesn't exist, according to "team players." Tension, however, can be useful if managed correctly. In fact, this military-civilian tension is the innate advantage any war college possesses to fulfill the likes of legacies such as Luce, Mahan, Spruance, and Turner.
Faculty at PME institutions must live by DOD and service rules. Most individuals I know fully understand that, but problems arise when policies are ambiguous, with rules arbitrarily imposed depending on leadership desires and the legal officer in place at any given time. I was once told by a legal officer that legal officers take one of two positions: that it is their job to find legal ways for individuals to accomplish their mission, or that it is their job to say "no" to any question or request as a default position, to protect the organization. The person telling me that readily (and proudly) admitted she took the latter approach. Having worked at three PME institutions I have experienced the same rules interpreted different ways within and between institutions -- with one legal officer telling me that something for which I had written approval to do in a different PME institution he considered illegal, and threatened legal action.
The irony of the IG report is that it assumes a cut-back in research emphasis will result in more attention to teaching. But the need to graduate officers quickly and easily -- the "pump, not filter" issue -- is not entirely or even primarily a function of research being prioritized over teaching. In PME, the issue is largely one of students being "too big to fail."
Also noted in the IG report is that many NPS faculty are tenured, with the implication that job security gave them the ability to ride roughshod over the military. It is certainly true that faculty without tenure at other PME institutions would be unlikely to challenge policies. In fact, faculty, typically on three- or four-year contracts, become too cowered to challenge anything, including the pressure to be a pump, not a filter. Tenure policies can vary dramatically between and even within PME institutions. The Air War College had tenure, dropped it, reinstated it, and then dropped it again, giving those on tenure-track contracts the draconian choice of foregoing tenure or receiving a one-year contract. Rules can change quickly, often, and opaquely.
The IG report raises important issues. Some can be fixed by organizational process changes. I fear, however, that rather than comprehensively addressing the institutional problems, a knee-jerk reaction will follow to demonstrate activity in addressing the multitude of recommendations made, likely to include some activity with counterproductive results. Already, I'm told, consideration has been given to requiring each and every faculty presentation or potential publication to go through a substantive review process -- one that goes beyond checking for security violations, which is within regulatory purview but irregularly required -- though there is no office at the NPS capable of doing so in a timely manner. That will present a very real chill on the faculty's ability to act as a faculty.
Overreaction has already set in. Ostensibly in reaction to some small number of groups/organizations holding or paying for conferences at what the Navy considered exorbitant rates, Naval War College faculty wishing to attend any conference or workshop must now get approval external to the institution. Inattentiveness or lack of personnel to process these requests for approval has already resulted in faculty, including myself, having professional trips cancelled. In my case it was a trip to attend a meeting of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, funded by that organization. I took vacation time to attend. Another chill on a faculty regularly acclaimed as "world class." This seems inconsistent with General Dempsey's white paper on education to "attract and maintain civilian and military faculty members who are among the very best and brightest of their contemporaries." Creating pre-publication review processes and erecting hurdles to academic conference participation guarantees to undermine the chairman's goal.
The tensions inherent in trying to kluge together two very different cultures can be managed, but requires acknowledgement of legitimate perspectives on both sides and a clearly stated mission. Denial and quick fixes help no one, not the students who attend these institutions, nor the nation that pays for their extended scholarships.
Joan Johnson-Freese is a professor and former department chair at the Naval War College. She is the author of Educating America's Military (Rutledge, 2013). The views expressed here are strictly her own.
By Luke Hutchison
Best Defense department of military education reformation
When West Point was founded over 200 years ago, it was created to fix a key problem in the Army, the lack of officers with engineering skills. Without officers who knew how to build roads, construct forts and fire artillery accurately -- the Army would be completely ineffective. With no engineering programs at other American universities and a problem that required more than basic training, Colonel Thayer set out to make a rigorous academic program based on an engineering curriculum. Today, West Point needs to assess just like Colonel Thayer did over 200 years ago, what is required of its graduates so that they will best contribute to the common defense.
Today education in Strategic Studies -- understanding how to develop and execute strategy in complex and protracted conflicts that go far beyond just tactical symbols -- is seriously lacking. The U.S. Army in Iraq had to pull a complete 180 degree turn in strategy, scrapping up a "victory" by the skin of its teeth -- losing many more lives in the process and fixing American combat power in Iraq while the insurgency in Afghanistan regrouped. Today in Afghanistan, as over one hundred thousand ISAF soldiers fight on in their 11th year in that country, they find themselves in a much harder and far longer fight than anyone anticipated. How was a better trained, better equipped, and more numerous army ensnared twice in a decade and nearly defeated by poorly trained and equipped insurgents? A lack of Strategic Studies education at West Point certainly may be a place to start. Just as Colonel Thayer identified engineering as the key area of study graduates needed 200 years ago to provide for the common defense, today it is Strategic Studies that needs to be focused on.
West Point's faculty have done a tremendous job adding relevant Strategic Studies related courses such as: Advanced International Relations, Counterinsurgency Operations, Terrorism and Counter Terrorism, Information Warfare, Winning the Peace, and Negotiation for Leaders. Yet outdated policies bar the vast majority of cadets from taking courses such as Counterinsurgency Operations, which has space for less than 10 percent of cadets. In particular, West Point still requires all cadets who are not engineering majors to take an additional three course Engineering Sequence, adding an additional 120 class hours. Cadets complete this watered-down engineering minor with no additional credentials, except being more "aware" of engineering. I am hardly the first to question this Engineering Sequence. West Point's dean from 2000-2005 attempted to remove the Engineering Sequence, but was only successful in trimming it from five courses to the three it is today.
Replacing the Engineering Sequence with three required courses in Strategic Studies could have real tangible benefits to mission success. Had more cadets taken Counterinsurgency Operations, perhaps the chaos in Iraq could have been avoided. Instead of requiring an insurgency of officers within the Army to make an about-face in strategy, the counterinsurgency concepts would have already been broadly understood. Advanced International Relations would allow graduates to better explain to our allies why the United States is "tilting" to one region of the world instead of another and critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of such a shift. The Conflict Resolution, Analysis, and Negotiation course would help officers understand that the conflict in Afghanistan is probably driven much more by regional forces than by internal ones. Negotiation for Leaders would have made an effective Key Leader Engagement second nature, instead of being awkward and counterproductive. Or a platoon leaders' first time visiting a mosque wouldn't have been in Iraq, but in Winning the Peace, where they would have already visited a mosque and learned about the intricacies of other world religions.
Organizations outside of West Point have already embraced West Point's robust Strategic Studies courses. The FBI, NYPD, and members of Congress rely on the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point for some of their education on terrorism. Navy SEAL teams and Special Forces groups fly teams from the West Point Negotiation Project across the country to teach them how to improve their negotiation ability. How is West Point missing this great opportunity right under its nose?
The world has changed a lot in 200 years, and so has what is required of Army officers -- it is time that West Point catches up. Removing the Engineering Sequence requirement, and replacing it with courses on Strategic Studies, seems like a good place to start.
Luke Hutchison is a cadet in the class of 2013 at West Point. The opinions expressed herein are his alone and do not represent the official position of the Department of Defense, United States Army, or the United States Military Academy.
Engineering Sequence requirement
Counterinsurgency Operations course #s
Dean from 2000-2005 attempting to remove requirement.
No other engineering programs at West Point founding.
Existing Courses at West Point.
Winning the Peace course visiting a mosque.
FBI and intelligence community using Combating Terrorism Center.
Navy Seals and Special Forces using West Point Negotiation Project.
By Lt. Gen. David Deptula (USAF, ret.)
Best Defense department of airborne victory
--Winged Defense: The Development and Possibilities of Modern Air Power Economic and Military, William Mitchell, 1925
-- The Air Campaign: Planning for Combat, John Warden, 1988
--The Transformation of American Air Power, Benjamin S. Lambeth, 2000
--The Influence of Air Power upon History, Walter J. Boyne, 2003
--Airpower Advantage: Planning the Gulf War Air Campaign, 1989-1991, Diane T. Putney, 2004
--The Art of Airpower: Sun Tzu Revisited, Sanu Kainikara, 2009
--Learning Large Lessons: The Evolving Roles of Ground Power and Air Power in the Post-Cold War Era, David E. Johnson, 2007
--The Foundations of US Air Doctrine: The Problem of Friction in War, Barry D. Watts, 1984.
--A History of Air Warfare, John Olsen, 2010
--Global Air Power, John Olsen, 2011
--Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine: Basic Thinking in the United States Air Force, Frank Futrell, 1989
--The Icarus Syndrome, Carl Builder, 1993.
I would replace Douhet on the USMA History Department's top 10 classics with "Winged Defense."
By John Fox
Best Defense guest columnist
I was interested to re-read your re-posting of thoughts on Army War College papers. You noted the lack of papers on wars and battles that didn't involve the United States. You certainly have a point -- for example, as a professor at the AWC discussing Yorktown, I used to ask students how many of them had heard of the Battle of the Capes, the French-British naval battle that prevented the Royal Navy from rescuing the British force at Yorktown, and thus ensuring Washington's and Rochambeau's victory. None (repeat none), including the Navy students, had ever heard of it.
On the other hand, in the elective I taught, "Winning the Battles, Losing the War," students often chose non-U.S. wars to analyze from the point of view of political aims and military strategy. Especially popular ones (apart from Thucydides and Xenophon, which they had to study whether they wanted to or not) were Operation Peace for Galilee (1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon) and the Third Punic War. One (American) student analyzed the American Revolutionary War from the British point of view.
But the overall orientation of students toward American wars does speak of a certain insularity. I believe the problem is even more acute, as I often found that students' conceptual world did not extend beyond the Geographical Combatant Command. A frequent question (and topic for papers) was "Why don't other agencies just establish regional headquarters at GCCs in order to make it easier for the GCCs to coordinate with them?" Those students with experience at OSD or on the Joint Staff had a broader point of view and a better understanding that DoD is more than just a collection of GCCs, but these students were very few.
By Col. Chuck Bowes
Best Defense guest respondent
I challenge your premise that low-cost high school graduate conscription is a better way of staffing our military services.
Today's high school graduates suffer from systemically deficient abilities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) that poses considerable challenges to our increasingly technological military force. Research findings reported by the United States Mission to the Organization for Economic and Co-operation Development (OECD) reveals that U.S. middle school and high school students are habitually under-performing their international peers in STEM achievement measures.
President Obama, Secretary of Education Duncan, and Bill Gates also express concern that too few young people are acquiring the knowledge they need to use technology in creative and innovative ways. As U.S. student STEM achievement continues to race to the bottom of all industrialized competitors, adding non-volunteer recruits worsens the problem.
Today's graduates may quickly master the user-interface on commercial technologies, but if one of those competitors becomes a future adversary then our military recruits must be competent in the underlying STEM areas in order to adapt specialized military technologies to gain a competitive edge in cross-dimensional domains. A competitive edge is increasingly dependent on America's innovative edge. Absent another "Sputnik moment" that generates self-inspired reform for STEM achievement, the U.S. requires new concepts, new organizations, and new long-term strategies to develop agile young minds in order to retain our dominant military position.
For the U.S. to maintain
its competitive edge it must carefully develop children with high IQs to
achieve high levels of creative productivity. Intellectually gifted (IQs above
130) people have an above average innate ability to learn significantly faster
than their cohorts. The National Science Board also recognizes that gifted
students will form the next generation of STEM innovators.
Instead of reinstating a draft, I propose that our Defense Department train all of its officer candidates in ROTC programs and transform its military academies to become prep-schools that offer 3,000 intellectually gifted old youth a no-cost in-residence opportunity to specialize in STEM subjects during their early education. Further, we could provide many more free non-resident academies at public universities across the U.S. for just the cost of President Obama's $1.35 billion Race to the Top campaign.
An operating budget of
$1.35 billion equates to $11,000 per pupil yearly, which is 9 percent less than the
2010 national high school average of $12,018 per pupil, and 59 percent less than the
District of Columbia school system spends per pupil. These opportunities
should be specifically reserved for the students with the highest cognitive
potential, just as varsity teams are reserved for athletes with the highest
This proposal would provide the opportunity for the estimated 120,000 highly gifted students to participate in a highly challenging ability-based curriculum that accelerates their learning commensurate with their higher intellectual aptitude. Similar to the National Security Education Program and the CIA's Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholarship, graduates merit a "priority placement" hiring status and are excepted from competitive service under law as an incentive for long-term employment in the armed services and military industrial complex.
Since this proposal is an additive intervention, not a voucher system, it relieves pressures to provide special accommodations for gifted students without stripping money from public schools. Accordingly, the more gifted students in attendance, the more that public schools can fully focus their resources on educating the ‘vulnerable' students whom they commendably target now. Most colleges eagerly accept gifted students and leveraging their existing underutilized infrastructure benefits the college and offers a shrewd dividend to taxpayers created by decades of investments from many federal sources.
Colonel Chuck Bowes is an Air National Guard aviator and graduate of the U.S. Army War College. He is currently serving on active duty at Headquarters 18th Air Force, Scott AFB.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on April 20, 2009.
Dunno why, but I've managed to pick fights with parts of the Navy and the Army at the same time. On the ground, I recommended in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post that West Point and the other service academies be closed. Here is what I wrote:
Why We Should Get Rid of West Point
By Thomas E. Ricks
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Want to trim the federal budget and improve the military at the same time? Shut down West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy, and use some of the savings to expand ROTC scholarships.
After covering the U.S. military for nearly two decades, I've concluded that graduates of the service academies don't stand out compared to other officers. Yet producing them is more than twice as expensive as taking in graduates of civilian schools ($300,000 per West Point product vs. $130,000 for ROTC student). On top of the economic advantage, I've been told by some commanders that they prefer officers who come out of ROTC programs, because they tend to be better educated and less cynical about the military.
This is no knock on the academies' graduates. They are crackerjack smart and dedicated to national service. They remind me of the best of the Ivy League, but too often they're getting community-college educations. Although West Point's history and social science departments provided much intellectual firepower in rethinking the U.S. approach to Iraq, most of West Point's faculty lacks doctorates. Why not send young people to more rigorous institutions on full scholarships, and then, upon graduation, give them a military education at a short-term military school? Not only do ROTC graduates make fine officers -- three of the last six chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reached the military that way -- they also would be educated alongside future doctors, judges, teachers, executives, mayors and members of Congress. That would be good for both the military and the society it protects.
We should also consider closing the services' war colleges, where colonels supposedly learn strategic thinking. These institutions strike me as second-rate. If we want to open the minds of rising officers and prepare them for top command, we should send them to civilian schools where their assumptions will be challenged, and where they will interact with diplomats and executives, not to a service institution where they can reinforce their biases while getting in afternoon golf games. Just ask David Petraeus, a Princeton PhD.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 20, 2009.
In the year 2000, the PLA [People's Liberation Army] had more students in America's graduate schools than the U.S. military, giving the Chinese a growing understanding of America and its military."
(p. 27, 2008 Joint Operating Environment, a study by the U.S. Joint Forces Command)
PETER PARKS/Getty Images
Just to make sure you don't get bored over the summer, here are some other military history reading lists for you:
Rep. Ike Skelton's overview list.
A Pentagon reading list.
A reading list from Guantanamo Bay detainees.
A pre-deployment list for platoon leaders going to Afghanistan.
My list for a friend deploying to Afghanistan:
The 101st Airborne's list for Afghanistan.
And the 10 best post-deployment books.
Here's my list of what to read if you are a civilian going to work at the Pentagon.
But if you really want to have a fun summer, here is a reading list on terrorism:
Here's one on COIN:
One on intelligence.
Here's D'Este's besties on WWII:
A "gun nut's" list.
A unusual Vietnam War list.
Adm. Stavridis' list of fiction (20 novels).
This guy also has some better suggestions near the end of his interview.
For real obscurity, a Tory's reading list.
To top it off, here are some roundups I did of reading lists:
And yet another one.
And a study of the solder's load!
For a change, here is a list of books I never finished:
And a list of books about Iraq to avoid.
Finally, once you get tired of reading, here is a list of terrific war movies.
By “A. Puzzled Prof”
Best Defense guest columnist
I read your piece on the resignation of Hans Binnendijk, the head research guru of the National Defense University and one of America's leading strategic thinkers. It comes amidst much turmoil imposed on the university from the top. It isn't pretty, and it will surely not serve the national interest. I am not directly involved in it, but this is what I have been told by many who are.
The new uniformed leadership of the Armed Forces, i.e., General Dempsey and his staff, apparently intend to prune NDU back to where it was a few decades ago. There will be some modest resource savings, but since the entire university budget doesn't amount to the cost of a single joint strike fighter, one has to wonder what is motivating all of what is happening here. In the cuts that have been discussed, Dempsey's deputy, Marine Lt. Gen. George J. Flynn has wielded the meat axe, often with the aid of micromanaging action officers. No one here in the rank-and-file is sure if the urbane chairman is on board with the details of all of this. (Ironically, both the chairman and J-7 are NDU graduates with advanced degrees.)
This set of changes took place in stages. First, while very few general or flag officer slots were cut in the armed forces, the three-star president of the university slot was downgraded to two, and the school commandants, downgraded from two to one star. No big deal, one might say, but one would be wrong, very wrong. A three star in Washington can go head-to-head with a principal on the joint staff or a senior OSD bureaucrat to protect the university. To compound the problem, the last three star president was retired in the spring and the university was left for a few months under the command of a senior foreign service officer, a former ambassador, a woman of great diplomatic talent and experience with no clout in the Pentagon. The new commandant --- a highly regarded Army two-star --- will not report until deep into June, when all or most of the cuts have been set in concrete. (Interesting question: can an employee of the State Department legally or even virtually assume command of a DoD organization?)
Second, the university was moved from a direct report to the chairman of the joint chiefs to reporting through the J-7, Lt Gen Flynn, whose staff section is nearly as big as the rest of the joint staff. This move violated the old SOP of commanders reporting to commanders, not staff officers. It also made the J-7 the ersatz president of the university during a period of severe resource reductions.
A new "charter" was subsequently published by the Chairman. It focused the university on joint professional military education and training, which in itself, is a good thing. Immediately, however, the research and outreach activities of the university, often more focused on national strategy than military affairs, came under intense scrutiny. These outfits had grown way beyond their original charters and had become effective and highly regarded servants of a wider interagency community. Much of their work was not done for the joint staff but for OSD Policy, and some of that in conjunction with civilian think-tanks. The research arm of the university was productive, even if not always useful in a practical way to the joint staff. It also was helpful to the colleges in a much more proximate and direct fashion than other think tanks, like RAND.
Third, a series of this-year and next-year budget cuts were announced. The J-7, armed with the new charter, pushed the university to take most of the cuts in the research, gaming, and publications sections, all of which had grown significantly in the last two decades. The mantra became, in effect, that if this or that did not directly support the war colleges, it was wrong and needed to be eliminated or cut way back. No one, of course, spoke to the need for out of the box thinking on future national security subjects. Fundamental research -- which has to operate miles and years ahead of war college coursework -- had no powerful friends in the leadership of the operating forces.
The research, gaming, and publications arms of the university -- a major part of the big-think, future concepts and policy business here -- will be cut to somewhere between half and a third of their original sizes. To make things worse, many of the specific cuts appear to have been crafted in the Pentagon, and nasty emails have come down from on high, about how the university is bankrupt and going into receivership, which was never the judgment of the military and civilian accrediting officials, who inspect us regularly and have generally given the university high marks.
All of this represents the systematic destruction of well respected institutions, three decades in the making, all in the name of very small savings and right-sizing. The position of the senior vice president for research and related things will be eliminated. The future-oriented, big picture research program will shrivel, the number of academic books coming through the NDU Press will be cut to a small fraction of this year's production, and gaming will be severely restricted. The university will no longer support the popular, interagency-oriented journal, PRISM. The Information Resources Management College and other non-war or staff college schools are in jeopardy of being zeroed out. Sadly, OSD policy has not come to the rescue of any of these institutions which have labored hard on its behalf and that of the interagency community.
Worse than functional changes, many government employees, especially senior professionals hired under yearly contracts, so-called Title X professionals, will lose their jobs. Firing them by not renewing their contracts is much easier than firing tenured civil servants. This takes some financial pressure off of the colleges, but not much. All of the savings will go to meet predetermined cuts, conceived ahead of time on the Joint Staff or passed on to them by the departmental comptroller.
One has to wonder why this is going on here. Sequestration is not upon us. No one is forcing the joint staff to dismember a significant part of this institution. There are no great dollar savings to be had here. Certainly, no academic or management expert would think that dismantling the research, publications, and gaming arms of a policy-oriented university is progress.
In times of great stress and famine, a roach will eat itself, starting with its hind legs. Without such stress or famine, the leadership of the joint staff has decided to consume part of the lobes of its brain. This is an organizational tragedy that will not help us adapt to a challenging future.
So, that's what's going on over here, and I wonder why civil experts aren't writing more about it, and why Congress -- long the guardian angel of the university -- isn't getting involved."A.P. Prof" is just that.
By LTC Jason Dempsey, USA
Best Defense department of PME reform
The Scales and Kuehn discussion on PME has piqued a long-running interest of mine in the failures of professional military education (PME). While obviously I am more with Scales in my overall assessment of the system, I think Kuehn's piece helps frame the debate because it highlights some of the confusion over the purpose of PME. Specifically, it seems our colleges cannot decide whether they are in the business of training or educating. This confusion has led to a muddied curriculum and a faculty that is required to cover both educating and training, and which as a result fails to do either one very well. This was briefly mentioned in the panel comments, but I think deserves further elucidation as the root source of the failure of PME (and I'll limit my focus here to CGSC).
For starters, let's look at the faculty. These are typically officers on the verge of retirement who have been out of the operational force for several years and are interested in academia, but have not yet completed advanced degrees or had any classroom experience outside of the military system. This places them on the fringes of both the operational force and academia. Yet we ask them to cover both the 'core curriculum' and electives, essentially guaranteeing mediocrity in both areas. Kuehn's call for a renewed emphasis on the split between the core and electives portion of CGSC is refreshing, but doesn't go far enough.
The 'core curriculum' at our service colleges should be restructured with a singular focus on training officers for the command and/or staff responsibilities they are about to assume. This is largely the case now, but the focus should be similar to what occurs at the pre-command courses, where senior leaders rotate in to provide insights, mentorship, and current operational perspectives. At CGSC this would mean that commanders and their staffs at the brigade and battalion levels would be the ones rotating in to instruct and to facilitate scenario-driven staff exercises. This would ensure that students received the most relevant training available while reinforcing to the officer corps the importance of taking the time and effort to properly train the next generation.
As for the elective portion of PME, at least at CGSC, the list of offerings should be considered an outright embarrassment. Again, because of not understanding the difference between training and education, valuable time -- that could be spent broadening -- is instead spent on 'courses' that are mere recitations of doctrinal manuals or job descriptions and are about as far as you can get from anything broadening or academically rigorous ('Logistics for the Battalion XO', etc.). This is not to say that there are not great instructors and courses out there (the history departments are indeed strong, and I'd be remiss not to tip my hat to Don Connelly for carrying the torch for the study of civil-military relations). But, as Kuehn notes, these few good courses are drowned out in a curriculum that could only charitably be described as vo-tech for field grades. So long as we aren't kidding ourselves that this is a broadening experience or equivalent to education, fine, but if we are serious about the need to get officers to think critically and out of their comfort zone than it is this portion of PME that needs the most restructuring.
Personally, I'd be for replacing the elective periods with sending officers off to get one year graduate degrees -- let the experts in education educate, while the Army focuses on training. But in the end, no significant reforms will take place until we recognize the differences between training and education, and decide which our PME system should focus on.
Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey is a career infantry officer and a graduate of a couple levels of PME, including the infantry officers basic course, the amphibious warfare school at Quantico, and CGSC. He also holds a PhD from Columbia University and is the author of Our Army: Soldiers, Politics and American Civil-Military Relations.
By Robert Goldich
Best Defense department of military education
I'd suggest that letter grading is inappropriate for institutions like the war colleges, but that more systematic evaluation is not.
Letter grades were not given at the interwar Command and General Staff School, but class rankings based on percentages were, and I think something like that might be more appropriate. I do know that there was a distinct but very visible minority of students, military and civilian, at the National War College when I was a student who just skated by, including contributing nothing to group projects and letting others take up the slack. Some sort of more rigorous evaluation seems to me to be indicated.
One thing I think that any war college evaluation system needs to be very careful about is the application of civilian academic standards and concepts to military students. There is a fundamental and decisive difference between mid-career military officers in a military institution and civilian graduate students. While I am a big proponent of more civilian graduate education for military officers, there are also a fair number of officers who might not excel in a formal educational milieu who are nonetheless consummate military professionals.
As Bob Killebrew has pointed out numerous times, military knowledge is a distinct and separate component of human disciplines of study, and should be able to stand on its own. We should not shoehorn military officers into civilian shoes which do not fit.
SCHOOL LIST OF REVOKED CHAPTERS
ALLIED AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
ARGOSY UNIVERSITY-SAN BERNARDINO
ART INSTITUTE OF CALIFORNIA-ORANGE COUNTY
ART INSTITUTE OF CALIFORNIA-SACRAMENTO
ART INSTITUTE OF MICHIGAN
ART INSTITUTE OF NEW YORK CITY
ART INSTITUTE OF PITTSBURGH
ART INSTITUTE OF PITTSBURGH-ONLINE
ART INSTITUTE OF WASHINGTON
ART INSTITUTES INTERNATIONAL-KANSAS CITY
BROWN MACKIE COLLEGE-AKRON
DEVRY UNIVERSITY-ORLANDO SOUTH
ECPI COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY-INNSBROOK
ECPI COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY-RALEIGH
ECPI COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY-RICHMOND
EX'PRESSION COLLEGE FOR DIGITAL ARTS
FASHION INSTITUTE OF DESIGN & MERCHANDISING
ITT TECHNICAL INSTITUTE-SOUTH BEND
ITT TECHNICAL INSTITUTE-SPRINGFIELD
ITT TECHNICAL INSTITUTE-STRONGSVILLE
MEDICAL CAREERS INSTITUTE
Col. Paul Yingling, who has written for this blog, and also critiqued the performance of our generals in our recent wars, explained his decision in Sunday's Washington Post: "Especially in a democracy, we ought to respect most those who foster the character traits that make self-government attainable -- parents and teachers, coaches and ministers, poets and protesters. When I hear the Army motto, "This We'll Defend," it's them I have in mind."
He will be missed.
ChildYouth and School Services/U.S. Army/CHILD, YOUTH AND SCHOOL SERVICES/U.S. ARMY
PME schools cannot overhaul the military retirement system, but they can limit the number of [military] retirees hired onto war college faculties. One possibility would be to limit such hires to a percentage of the total faculty. This would force consideration of hiring retired officers for specialized talents and future potential, and not just for routine tasks with a nod to past rank taken as immediate qualification for the post.
(HT to D "House" M)
This must be my week to be judged too positive in my assessments.
Jim Schneider is one of the grand old men of American strategic education, one of the early faculty members of the Army's School for Advanced Military Studies, which pulled Army professional education out of a tactical slough.
Schneider also is the author of a terrific book on the strategy of Lawrence of Arabia that will come out later this year.
Here he alleges that the teaching of strategy in the military is even worse than I think:
By James Schneider
Best Defense department of advanced military studies
Your graphic, I think, captures two issues:
First, the fact that much of strategy is "tacticized," whereby strategy becomes expressed as smaller arrows on increasingly bigger maps. There are few genuine strategic thinkers in or out of the military -- Jim Dubik remains an exception. The inverted nature of professional military advancement militates against a higher understanding of strategy, where the default mode of thinking is tactical and technological and where we see more concerns about headgear than heuristics, etc.
Second, much of strategy as it is taught today has the numbing sound of dogmatic incantations voiced loudly by the anointed high priests of doctrine. Doctrinization in teaching strategy naturally leads to a fossilization in thinking about strategy. These issues can be attributed to a number of inextricable factors.
First, the failure to teach military theory adequately as a fundamental component in officer education ensures that strategy is intellectually inaccessible. Strategy is a higher level of abstraction that must be grasped conceptually through theory. Theory allows us to visualize what we cannot see. Theories are like maps that allow us to visualize the terrain that we cannot see. We cannot "see" abstracted strategy, we can only visualize it theoretically. Since we can still see tactical actions quite readily, this becomes the natural default mode as we struggle with strategic abstraction.
Second, where theory is taught, it is expressed in the brilliant but sadly outmoded concepts of Clausewitz. Concepts are like the basic symbols on a map; without proper symbology the map is useless; without a reliable conceptual frame, theories are meaningless. The higher elevations of strategy are absent from Clausewitz's pre-industrial map of tactical valleys and low-lands.
Third, the teaching of strategy is taught primarily by civilian academics using essentially the same eighteenth century methods of instruction designed for clerics. The university system, especially as it relates to the humanities, has totally overlooked the clinical method of instruction that revolutionized medicine in the nineteenth century with the invention of the teaching hospital.
Fourth, the very idea of strategy is little understood. Strategy is the art of creating a generating logic that rationalizes violent or competitive behavior. Strategy is about creating the rules of the game, not about playing the game. Lines and arrows, Xs and Os are the tactical expression of strategy, mediated through operational art. Think of James Naismith and his invention of basketball. His set of rules -- the generating logic -- rationalized the competitive behavior of players to create a viable sport -- a strategy. The coaches (the "operational artists") mediate the play by enforcing -- coaching -- the rules played by the players -- tacticians. Strategy creates the rules for the games nations play. The strategist seeks to impose new logic -- new rules -- in a competitive, often violent environment, while disrupting the logic of his opponent. Lincoln, the first really modern strategist, changed the "game" of the American Civil War by introducing the "rule" of Emancipation.
James Schneider taught strategy and military theory at the Army's School of Advanced Military Studies from 1984 to 2008, and is the author of a forthcoming book on the strategic thinking of Lawrence of Arabia.
I don't know what to make of these accusations. Part of me wishes that all this journalistic energy had been directed instead to ferret out abuses by politicians who allocate government resources to campaign donors rather than to the neediest among us, but that's not a real answer. The critics have raised serious questions that deserve better answers: we need to hold school-builders accountable as well as fat cats.
This reads to me like, "Hey, quit picking on my friends, especially one who blurbed my book, go pick on my enemies." I am amazed that Kristof could write such a thing after reading the Krakauer article.
He worries that scandals such as this will make people cynical. So it would be better to let the scam go on? I actually think someone who uses little Afghan children to live large is morally worse than an investment banker who never pretended to be doing good while living well.
Another point for Kristof to ponder: Kalsoom Lakhani wrote, "We should also use this opportunity to look inwards at ourselves, at our ability to get carried away by a charismatic personality and digestible narrative, in which Mortenson was the John Smith in the Pakistani version of Pocahontas."
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.