This Profession of Arms: A Military Officer Breaking the Silence After War

On April 17, 2014, William S. Lind wrote that “the most curious thing about our four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps.” I suppose Mr Lind’s point was that the US military was being too complacent in its critique of itself as well as Washington’s management of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, I am not writing to debate the “defeat” of the US in 4GW but rather to break the silence that he says is prevalent in the US military. This is my humble contribution.

Recently I read an interview in which David Maxwell, a former USA Special Forces officer now at Georgetown University, offered his thoughts about writing and learning for junior officers in this profession of arms. Personally, I received this as a challenge as well as an exhortation to contribute. There are plenty of other military professionals that write and publish. I am now far enough removed from my deployments in the Long War that I felt that it is now my time to offer my thoughts to the discussion about the nature of war and its future.

This debate is pertinent to the future of the US military as well as to the future of our nation’s national security. Questions must be asked by those who put their lives on the line for their nation and each other, such as: Where have we come from? Where are we going? What have we learned? We must apply ourselves to understand the mistakes of the past as well as the successes. Likewise, officers and leaders should ponder these questions. They owe it to those men and women they lead in their organizations who also put their lives at risk.

For starters, why should a reader follow anything I write? I am an officer in the US Army. I was formerly of the Field Artillery branch but am now serving in another capacity. I have a masters degree in European Security Studies and I speak French. I have three operational deployments: two to Afghanistan and one to Iraq. I participated in both of the US “troop surges” to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Of note — during my last deployment, apart from battery command, I was responsible for the training of an Afghan National Army D-30 122mm artillery battery. This was by far the most interesting experience during my time in the Army. My experiences in the Long War in both theaters were at the tactical and operational levels. I remained distant yet intrigued by the strategic level of war.

Upon reflecting about my experiences in the military, I think it is important for those who follow this profession of arms to debate the nature of war because it is where our interests lie. If it is not one of us, then it will be someone you know grappling with problems on the ground. Problems that so many others have dealt with before and that could have been better understood before embarking on a deployment or as a nation in armed conflict.

But this is not just about experiences. It is about what they have taught us about what war is; what it does to people, countries, and cultures; and what should be considered before entering into war. These are the beginnings of my reflections on the Long War. To be honest, I am somewhat hesitant to pen any writings or articles but think that it is the right time to do so.

Have a response or an idea for your own article? Follow the logo below, and you too can contribute to The Bridge:

Enjoy what you just read? Please help spread the word to new readers by sharing it on social media.