The Best Defense

Until our times, more often than not, maps and charts were state secrets

Earlier this year, one of youse recommended that I read Lloyd Brown's The Story of Maps. First, thank you! I enjoyed it.

One of the things that really struck me was how closely held maps were for most of human history. "They were much more than an aid to navigation," Brown writes. "They were, in effect, the key to empire, the way to wealth. As such, their development in the early stages was shrouded in mystery, for the way to wealth is seldom shared. There is no doubt that the complete disappearance of all charts from the earliest period is due to their secret nature and to their importance as political and economic weapons of the highest order."

Reading that made me wonder if military historians should consider the invention of reliable maps as a revolution in military affairs, akin to the invention of the stirrup and the weaponization of gunpowder. If so, which nations benefited? First, it appears from reading Brown, were the Phoenicians -- though, he says, none of their maps has survived.

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The Best Defense

Air Force nuclear missile officers: Bored, cranky, frustrated -- and court-martialed

Like I was saying: This may be a national problem that sneaks up on us.

A report done for the Air Force found that "court-martial rates in the nuclear missile force in 2011 and 2012 were more than twice as high as in the overall Air Force. Administrative punishments, such as written reprimands for rules violations and other misbehavior, also were higher in those years."

This line really struck me: "In his doctoral dissertation published in 2010 after he finished a tour with the 91st Missile Wing at Minot, Christopher J. Ewing said 71 of the 99 launch officers he surveyed there had not chosen that assignment." I have to wonder what that portends for the future of the leadership of the U.S. nuclear force. Is it really true that we just don't care just who is getting handed weapons of mass destruction?

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