26 August 2009

The more things change...

Last week, Dave Dilegge, Robert Haddick and the crew over at Small Wars Journal provided extensive coverage of the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command's recent conference in Gettysburg. General Martin Dempsey and TRADOC's senior leaders checked the Small Wars Journal posting board regularly, answering questions and asking for feedback from the SWJ crowd.

It was a great opportunity to interact with TRADOC's senior leaders, and I also saw some great discussions. One such discussion allowed SWJ readers to recommend military-related books for General Dempsey and his staff as they walked the fields of Gettysburg. I recommended a book about the proper reading (and mis-reading) of military history entitled "Re-thinking Military History" by Jeremy Black. However, one reader offered another book which featured a collection of essays from military experts which provides some great analysis of the proper lessons which can be taken from military history, as well as some of the usual mistakes military historans make.

Available in Kindle format, it's called "The Past as Prologue", and it features essays from military experts such as Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, the man who was infamous for beating the US military in an exercise known as Millennium Challenge 2002 by using many of the same tactics that insurgents currently use in Iraq.

One essay, written by the British historian John P. Kiszely discusses the prevalence of sports among the British officer corps, and noted that the worst insult to a British officer was to call him "bookish". Indeed, the emphasis on sports over any sort of intellectual pursuit is a theme that resounds throughout Janowitz's "The Professional Soldier", and "On the Psychology of Military Incompetence" by Norman F. Dixon.

Indeed, I find that in many ways, little sometimes changes in our professional military courses. I need to state, emphatically, that I feel that all Soldiers should be expected to maintain a high degree of physical stamina, and that a little competitive spirit is good for the alpha male (or female). However, I would know nothing of counterinsurgency, 4GW or maneuver conflict if it weren't for reading on my own. I find it sad that, after doing a rough tally of the hours spent in class in my captains' career course, I spent far more hours listening to the tactics and strategy for winning Ultimate Frisbee than I did listening to a speaker discuss the strategy and tactics of counterinsurgency, 4GW, or maneuver conflict.

This is why I rely on SWJ for much of my professional development needs.

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