Archive for the ‘Academia and Education’ Category

The following ideas come verbatim from Tom Ricks (and available here).

* In a peacetime force, which is what the Army is about to become, you preserve your seedcorn by emphasizing professional military education. What do militaries do in peacetime? Train and educate. One reason our senior leaders were better in World War II than in World War I was that during the interwar period, the military education system was rigorous and respected.

* But a year in PME cannot be permitted to be the slacker sort-of sabbatical that it has become in many places. It should be intellectually rigorous, with an intense reading load and lots of writing (and re-writing until the paper is of acceptable quality. If you are not writing clearly, you are not thinking clearly). Admission should be competitive, and available only to perhaps the top half or top third of the cohort. Grading should be serious, with no “A”s for effort. There should be class rankings, released to the class perhaps weekly. At the end of the year, class rankings from top to bottom should be made public. There probably also should be a failure rate of at least 5 percent. And all these outcomes should have consequences for the remainder of an officer’s career.

* The education should be of such quality that graduates of staff and war colleges are sought after by senior commanders. They are not today, under the “no major left behind” program. Having attended CGSC strikes me as not something that commanders are demanding.

* Teaching in PME should be a sought-after prize, not an act of voluntary career curtailment. There is a reason that Omar Bradley spent the majority of the interwar period as either a teacher or student in the military education system. One thing I did like in the powerpoint was on slide 12: “Require teaching in PME as a prerequisite for LTC and Colonel command.” This is interesting, but it wouldn’t be necessary if the smart, ambitious officers knew that teaching was a reliable route to the top.

* The emphasis in PME should be not on training but on education, on developing officers capable of critical thinking. This is essential to prepare people for the unknown.

* If you want adaptiveness in people, reward it. Others then will emulate it. Distinguish between one-time failure and incompetence. Trying and failing on occasion is an inevitable result of risk-taking. Incompetence, by contrast, stems from persistent failure — and paralyzes risk-avoidance. What you want is prudent risk-taking. Performance, good and bad, should carry consequences. Accountability will incentivize adaptiveness. Bureaucratic rules won’t.

Something really worth considering, I propose to you.


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Sir John Keegan, author of what must surely be one of the “must-reads” in the entire body of literature on military history, his magisterial The Face of Battle, passed away on 2 August 2012. The Face of Battle was the first major work to try to depict the experience of battle, not from the perspective of the commanders, but from the people who actually waged it, the soldiers. I read it about 20 years ago, at a point in time when I had just started my career in military education. I remember being fundamentally moved by the book, to the point where I became fascinated more with the histories of soldiers, as opposed to the more standard history of the great commanders. Not that I will ever come anywhere close to what John Keegan achieved.
One of his later books, A History of War, may have performed what was for me a cardinal error in misunderstanding the Clausewitzian paradigm of war. That being said, if nothing else, his first book assured Keegan his place in the pantheon of great military historians.
The Telegraph obituary is reproduced verbatim below.

He had been on the teaching staff of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, for 25 years in 1986 when Max Hastings announced his recruitment to the paper the day he took over the editor’s chair. Keegan proved an unrivalled asset as the Soviet empire crumbled and collapsed, the government demanded a “peace dividend” in the form of cutbacks to the Armed Forces and a series of military actions flared up in the Middle East and the Balkans.
Whatever the subject before him, Keegan wrote with close knowledge of the military arts and a personal acquaintance with many senior serving officers who had been his pupils; above all, he demonstrated a deep awareness of the human aspects of warfare, which was cruel, confusing and frightening, if occasionally glorious.
It was always with surprise that new acquaintances discovered that Keegan was no battle-hardened veteran. He was a gentle civilian who was deeply imbued with his Roman Catholic faith and had been crippled with tuberculosis since childhood. While an unabashed supporter of the British alliance with the United States, he described himself as “95 per cent pacifist” and looked forward – though with increasing doubts in recent years — to a world which had abandoned war.
John Desmond Patrick Keegan was born on May 15 1934, and after the declaration of war was taken to the depths of rural England where his Irish father, a south London schools inspector who had been a gunner in the First World War, had responsibility for some 300 evacuated children. Well beyond the sound of enemy gunfire, John enjoyed an idyllic childhood, untouched by any personal experience of the tragedy of conflict.
Nevertheless, he maintained a close interest in every aspect of the fighting, following the news, learning to identify aircraft and meeting locally quartered troops from the Empire, Poland and elsewhere. Last to arrive were the Americans who, in the run-up to the invasion, seemed to fill every tiny road and market town until they vanished overnight in June 1944.
The family’s return to down-at-heel post-war London, where he was sent to the Jesuit-run Wimbledon College, was not a happy experience. In 1947 tuberculosis began to affect one hip. He was placed in an open-air ward of a hospital in Surrey, where the young patients had to wear pullovers and mittens in the worst winter of the century during the day, and were provided with the protection of flapping canvas screens lowered around them at night. He was allowed home after eight months.
The hip grew worse again, and he found himself taken back to hospital, encased in a plaster corset. This time he was not among children, but cheerful cockney veterans in a men’s ward of St Thomas’s, near Westminster Bridge. The Anglican chaplain taught him Greek; a polio victim coached him in French; and, thanks to a well-stocked library, Johnnie, as he was known there, was able to read much history and almost the entire works of Thomas Hardy.
On emerging from hospital two years later, his hip immobilised with a bone graft, Keegan won a place to read History at Oxford. But on going up to Balliol he developed TB again, and was away for another year while being treated with new drugs. He then returned, walking with a stick, to find himself among a highly talented intake, which included the future Lord Chief Justice Lord Bingham, Northern Ireland Secretaries Patrick Mayhew and Peter Brooke, historian Keith Thomas, the Benedictine monk Daniel Rees, and the Prince of Wales’s Australian schoolmaster Michael Collins Persse.
Keegan was tutored in the Middle Ages by Richard Southern and in the 17th century by the Marxist Christopher Hill. Although there was no chance of a military career, he observed the confidence of those who had done National Service and decided to take “Military History and the Theory of War” as a special subject.
After a long tour of the battlefields of the American Civil War with his future brother-in-law Maurice Keen, the medieval historian, he returned home to find work writing political reports for the American embassy in London for two years, then obtained a post as a lecturer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. It was Keegan’s first proper job.
The academy had some similarities with an Oxford college, including beautiful grounds and buildings as well as good company. But while Oxford encouraged debate, Keegan found himself, as a civilian, lecturing on Military History to motivate young men who were part of a chain of command, trained to accept orders.
The rebellious streak that lurked within him meant that he did not always find this easy; nevertheless, he discovered how liberal and open-minded the Army could be (as long as its core values were not undermined). It tolerated the Keegan family donkey, Emilia, which kept breaking into the student officers’ quiet room. But while writing half a dozen 40,000-word potboilers for “Ballantyne’s Illustrated History of the Violent Century”, he was constantly aware that neither he nor his charges had any personal experience of war.
As a result, his first major book, The Face of Battle (1976), asked: what is it like to be in a battle? Instead of adopting a commander’s perspective, seeing every conflict as an impersonal flow of causation, currents and tendencies in the way favoured by contemporary historians, Keegan concentrated on the experience of the common soldier.
After elegantly discussing why history is usually written by victors and the limitations of survivors’ accounts, he examined three battles: Agincourt in 1415, Waterloo in 1815 and the Somme in 1916. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, including priests’ eyewitness accounts of the first, a post-conflict questionnaire sent out by an officer after the second, and the flood of letters, diaries, poetry and official reports written during the last, he described what in the past had all too often been skated over: the deep fears, the lust for killing, the willingness to risk one’s life for a comrade — characteristics common to the soldiers of all three battles. He evoked the sights, sounds and smells of war, vividly bringing home the experience for both veterans and civilian readers.
The book was an immediate success, and has never been out of print. It marked out Keegan as the most sparkling writer among the talented lecturers of the Sandhurst war studies department. This led to some jealousy, but he was able to use the vital addition to his income to educate the two sons and two daughters born to him and his wife Susanne Everett, later the biographer of Alma Mahler and Oscar Kokoschka.
His next venture, an attempt to produce a military version of the annual Jane’s Fighting Ships, called World Armies (1978), lasted for only two editions. But Six Armies in Normandy (1982) opened with a moving prologue which was his finest prose passage, and was to be much anthologised. This outlined his assured, child like perceptions of a rural society in which the horse was still the main engine of farm work and Britain enjoyed the assured support of a vast empire before being severely buffeted by the onrush of uncomfortable reality in the 1950s and after. In it he recounted the story of the invasion of Europe from D-Day to the liberation of Paris to show how selected experiences of the Americans, Canadians, British, Germans, Poles and French reflected both the diverse natures of their societies and the particular factors that characterise all armies amid the chance of war.
When the Falklands conflict broke out in the same year, Keegan was at a conference in Israel. Confronted by a television reporter he was at first pessimistic about the chances of the Task Force. But on returning home he started to write under the pseudonym Patrick Desmond in The Spectator. This work was not only authoritative; it also did much to counter calls in the early weeks from other writers for the operation to be abandoned.
Two years later he at last obtained the chance to see war in close-up when The Daily Telegraph sent him (as Patrick Desmond again) to write about the escalating Lebanese civil war. The experience, he recorded, taught him “how physically disgusting battlefields are… like being in a municipal garbage dump” and what it was like to be frightened.
There were two co-operative works, Zones of Conflict: an Atlas of Future Wars, with Andrew Wheatcroft, and Soldiers: a History of Men in Battle, a companion to a BBC television series written with John Gau and his Sandhurst colleague Richard Holmes.
In 1986 the chance came to make the final break with the academic world that had been increasingly chafing him. According to Hastings’s memoir, Editor, Keegan rang for a chat, and on discovering that his friend was to edit The Telegraph, burst out: “Can I be your defence correspondent?” An immediate assurance was given, though it soon left Keegan wondering uneasily if he was fitted for the rigours of daily newspaper journalism.
But he quickly settled in at the paper’s Fleet Street office . In addition to taking some plodding first steps in news reporting, he produced three or four elegant leaders a week as well as longer, signed comment pieces. There was also the chance to write book reviews and a fine account of Waterloo .
With his ability to touch souls and stir consciences, Keegan found himself being offered large publishing contracts for writing on ever grander themes . The Mask of Command (1987) concerned the ability of leaders such as Alexander the Great, Wellington, Ulysses Grant and Hitler to weave a spell over their troops with a combination of energy, tenacity and ruthlessness. The Price of Admiralty (1988) took him into less familiar waters with an account of the evolution of naval warfare from Trafalgar to the Battle of the Atlantic in the Second World War.
Critics responded favourably to A History of Warfare (1993) — which was awarded the Duff Cooper Prize — in particular admiring the vastness of the book’s scope (it ranged from Genghis Khan, the Romans and the Japanese samurai to the soldiers of the 19th century). But his attacks on Clausewitz’s claim that war is a continuation of policy by other means – the military historians’ equivalent of the debate about the number of angels to be found on the head of a pin – bemused general readers and did not satisfy all professional colleagues.
All this time Keegan was also busy producing lively copy for The Telegraph where, even if he was not fully aware of it, he enjoyed a unique position in which he could reflect on the experience of a fast fading generation. As the passing years fed an increasing appetite for detail and explanation, he offered his own interpretations of the two great 20th-century conflicts in The Second World War (1989) and The First World War (1998), which was awarded the Westminster Medal.
He also brought his unrivalled grasp of the reality of military engagements to the frequent flare-ups which succeeded the fall of communism. He was proved entirely justified in dismissing the doubts expressed by Left-wing journalists about the abilities of the Allied coalition during the Gulf War of 1990, and treated himself to a crow of triumph afterwards. This was recognised by an OBE in 1991, though Hastings made no headway when he suggested that perhaps a journalistic award, too, might be in order.
Keegan did not always find friends elsewhere. Some fellow historians carped about the number of small mistakes, and complained that his later books — on the Iraq war and the use of intelligence in war — were not written with the authority of his earlier works. The RAF long resented what it saw as his failure to give it credit, and did not fail to note his error in stating that the air campaign in the Balkans could never bring President Milosevic of Serbia to defeat. He handsomely owned up to the error.
John Keegan was knighted in 2000, and among the professional honours heaped on him, he was made a visiting fellow at Princeton and a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He was invited to give the Lees Knowles lectures at Cambridge and the Reith Lectures for the BBC, which were published in 1998 as War and Our World. Perhaps the most remarkable recognition came during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Normandy campaign, when he was invited to brief President Bill Clinton at the White House.
He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Historical Society.
A man of unfailing good nature and tolerance, Keegan settled at a 17th-century manor house in Wiltshire, where he produced a column in the Telegraph Magazine recording life at the village of Kilmington. He wrote of its farmers and modern craftsmen, the changing seasons and the discovery of a bomb in a field. Most popular with readers were his stories of Edgar, the Keegan family’s self-assured Maine Coon cat, who pursued pheasants and rabbits with untroubled ruthlessness.
In 2009 Keegan published The American Civil War, a combination of narrative and critique which emphasised, above all, the importance of the continent’s geography in the conflict.
In his last years John Keegan was confined to a wheelchair after a bone clicked in his back while he was taking part in a parish pilgrimage. Even though he had to have a leg amputated, he continued for some time to be driven up to the Telegraph’s office on Wednesdays, to write leaders and other articles, to answer his post and take part in the leader-writers’ afternoon conference.

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The attached article (accessible here) makes the point that academic rigour and professional military education are not mutually exclusive entities. Its suggestion that an academically rigorous PME syllabus allied to an advanced degree programme for those candidates with the necessary inclination and skill-sets mirrors that which my colleagues at the SAF-NTU Academy have attempted to set up.

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Dear readers,

Following on from the last post, I have pasted the CFR reading list below. What has this list missed out? What would you include in this reading list? militarystudies@rsis welcomes your suggestions.


Daniel Ellsberg, “The Theory and Practice of Blackmail,” Lecture at Lowell Institute, March 10, 1959.

Thomas Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1960).

Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1966).

Robert J. Art, “To What Ends Military Power?” International Security 4(4) 1980: pp. 3–35.

Ward Thomas, The Ethics of Destruction: Norms and Force in International Relations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001).

Daniel Byman and Matthew Waxman, The Dynamics of Coercion: American Foreign Policy and the Limits of Military Might (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

James David Meernik, The Political Use of Military Force in U.S. Foreign Policy (Aldershot, UK: Asghate Publishing, 2004).

Martha Finnemore, The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs about the Use of Force (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004).

General Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (New York, NY Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House, Inc. 2005).

Risa Brooks, Shaping Strategy: The Civil-Military Politics of Strategic Assessment (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008).

Robert J. Art and Kenneth Waltz (eds.), The Use of Force: Military Power and International Politics (Rowman + Littlefield, 2009).

Richard K. Betts, American Force: Dangers, Delusions, and Dilemmas in National Security (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2011).

Compellence/Coercive Diplomacy

Alexander L. George, David K. Hall, and William R. Simons, The Limits of Coercive Diplomacy: Laos, Cuba, Vietnam (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1971).

James T. Tedeschi et al., “A Paradigm for the Study of Coercive Power,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 15, No. 2 (June, 1971).

Barry M. Blechman and Stephen S. Kaplan, Force Without War: U.S. Armed Forces as a Political Instrument (Washington, D.C. The Brookings Institution, 1978).

Richard K. Betts, Nuclear Blackmail and Nuclear Balance (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1987).

Alexander L. George, Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War (Washington, D.C. United States Institute of Peace Press, 1991).

Kenneth Schultz, Democracy and Coercive Diplomacy (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

Robert J. Art, “Coercive Diplomacy—What Do We Know?” The United States and Coercive Diplomacy (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2003), pp. 359-420.

Todd S. Sechser, Winning Without a Fight: Power, Reputation and Compellent Threats in International Crises (Stanford University, 2007).

Kyle Beardsley and Victor Asal, “Winning With the Bomb,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 53(2) 2009: pp. 278–301.


Thomas W. Milburn, “What Constitutes Effective Deterrence?” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 3, No. 2, (June, 1959).

Richard A. Brody, “Deterrence Strategies: An Annotated Bibliography,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 4, No.4, (December, 1960) .

Glenn H. Snyder, “Deterrence and Power,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 4, No. 2 (June, 1960).

“Force, Order and Justice,” Report of panel discussion at International Studies Association annual meeting, Kenneth Waltz, chair, April 1967, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 3 (September, 1968).

R. Harrison Wagner, “Deterrence and Bargaining,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 36, No. 2 (June 1982).

John J. Mearshimer, Conventional Deterrence (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983).

Paul Huth, Extended Deterrence and the Prevention of War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 1988).

Barry Nalebuff, “Rational Deterrence in an Imperfect World” World Politics 43(3) 1991: pp. 313–335.

Patrick Morgan, Deterrence Now (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Gary Schaub, “Deterrence, Compellence, and Prospect Theory,” Political Psychology 25(3) 2004: pp. 389–411.

Amir Lupovici, “The Emerging Fourth Wave of Deterrence Theory—Toward a New Research Agenda,” International Studies Quarterly, 54 (3) 2010, pp. 705-732.

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Courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations, a useful blog, and an amazing reading list, accessed here.

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A contribution from a reader, June Olsen. Many thanks to June for this.

Transitioning back to living a civilian lifestyle is just one of many challenges veterans face upon returning from active service. Many veterans enter the military when they are young, with dreams of serving their country, but likely also without having thought out a rewarding career path beyond their military service. The Montgomery GI Bill and post 9/11 GI Bill taken together represent a tremendous incentive for veterans to explore academic subjects and career instruction that were not available to them while on their active duty station, or alternately to pursue careers which take advantage of the aptitudes they discovered while serving, so they can seek out civilian analogs to their military careers.

It is possible that to meet their educational needs and the demands of the civilian labor market they will have to look farther afield than their local public schools to get the best value from their benefit.

The Montgomery GI Bill and the 9/11 GI Bill both presented different solutions to the problem of veteran education, with the primary difference being how (and to whom) payment goes to. The Montgomery GI Bill paid a set monthly rate that varied in value according to the type of training or education and how much time is dedicated to it each month (i.e. full time, half time) up to a set maximum yearly benefit amount. The sum was paid directly to the veteran. The 9/11 GI Bill, however, will instead pay the full amount of tuition/fees for all in-state students of public schools. Veterans who choose to attend private schools have their benefits capped at $17,500 per year under the 9/11 GI Bill and whatever education provider is chosen, public or private, all benefits are paid directly to the school the veteran is attending.

The problem with the 9/11 GI Bill is that it provides no housing benefit for distance learners, it also may not cover the full cost of tuition for private online schools that have the most desirable, cutting edge class offerings and training that employers want to see on the resumes of potential employees. Many private online universities have recognized this problem and pledged their support to the Yellow Ribbon Program, an initiative that removes the veteran’s obligation for tuition/fees in excess of the $17,500 yearly benefit cap by “splitting the difference” between the accredited online educator and the Veterans Administration.

Online education made possible by the Yellow Ribbon Program presents a unique opportunity for veterans to further their education or career training while readjusting to civilian life in the comfort and familiar surroundings they know best. A veteran returning to civilian life may feel that, if he or she is no longer of typical college age, that they no longer “fit” in with campus life. They may also prefer to study online so they can work full time while maintaining open lines of communication with a supportive community, especially one composed of fellow veterans who may be returning to their homes in other states.

According to Accredited Online Colleges, the Yellow Ribbon Program presents a unique opportunity for veterans to further their education or career training while readjusting to civilian life in the comfort and familiar surroundings they know best. A veteran returning to civilian life may feel that, if he or she is no longer of typical college age, that they no longer “fit” in with campus life. They may also prefer to study online so they can work full time while maintaining open lines of communication with a supportive community, especially one composed of fellow veterans who may be returning to their homes in other states.

The purpose of the two GI Bills was to not only reward veterans but to also tie them together in the crucial time following their discharge when many veterans lament the loss of a collective purpose and the camaraderie born of their shared mission of national defense. A veteran’s education can approximate the same pride of mission they had while serving, and encourage them to carry that with them as they move on with their lives and careers.

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An interesting, if in my opinion flawed piece, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the Australian city of Darwin.

The article, which can be accessed here, uses the analogy of Pearl Harbour in the case of the Japanese attack on Darwin. But the parallels between Pearl and Darwin are in my opinion tenuous at best.

One can argue about the extent to which US intelligence had picked up signals of an impending Japanese attack on Pearl, but much of the arguments really lie in the realm of conspiracy theory (enough said!). Available reliable evidence makes it clear that elements within the entire US intelligence network had bits and pieces of evidence about the impending attack; what was needed was the centralisation of these intelligence outfits and the breaking down of stove-pipes between them. This was the argument for the creation of the CIA. But clearly, at the time of the attack, inasmuch as there was no such centralised intelligence outfit that could piece together disparate intelligence into a holistic picture, then one must accept that the US was indeed surprised by the Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl.

The image of Pearl Harbour therefore, transplanted onto the Darwin episode, is therefore almost totally different. Australia could not claim ignorance of Japanese hostilities – after all, it was only 4 days after the fall of Singapore, and several months since Australian forces stationed throughout British colonies in Asia had been fighting the war against Japan. Inasmuch as the shock of the Darwin attack to Australians was therefore parallel to the shock of Pearl Harbour to the Americans, all I can say is that such shock, if it was indeed true, betrayed a gob-smacking complacency. There was no doubt that Australia was already at war with Japan, after all!

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