The Best Defense

A memoir of the National War College and its 'technical school' approach

Some people think I have it in for the War Colleges. Nope, I don't. I think they just need to justify their existences, or face closure as the defense budget implodes in the coming years. So by prodding them now I may be helping them tomorrow. (You're welcome, Air War College!) And if they cannot justify their costs, they should indeed be closed.

I mention this because the friendly mailman brings a book by Howard Wiarda, a professor of international relations at the University of Georgia who spent some time teaching at the National War College. BLUF: He was not impressed.

Here are some of his conclusions:

1. The War College was extremely authoritarian and top-down. It did not function like any college (lower case) that I'd ever seen. It was not a 'college' or 'university' at all but a military base run on a command system. It had not made the compromises necessary to be both a military institution and a serious teaching and educational institution.

2. The curriculum … was more like a manual in a technical school than a serious graduate curriculum.

3. … There was no room for new or original ideas …

8. I don't think the military brass who run NWC … have the foggiest notion of what a college or university is all about."     

(pp. 152-153)


The Best Defense

The Persian mistress at the breakfast table: Tales of the Bhutto childhood

This note from a genuine old AfPak hand arrived over the weekend. Yup, I've ordered the Rushdie novel :

You surely know that one of the most psychologically formative experiences for the young Benazir was growing up in a house where her father (Zulfikar) gave his Persian mistress pride of place in the home. Benazir would come to breakfast with her father and mistress at the table while her mother ate from a tray quietly and alone in her bedroom in another wing of the house. When one tries to understand how Benazir came to have her husband kill her brother, it helps to know what a strange childhood she had. Salman Rushdie's thinly-veiled roman a clef about the Bhuttos and Zia, Shame, captures some of this atmosphere quite well. 

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