“Monday Musings” are designed to get quick, insightful thoughts based around three questions from those interested in strategy, from the most experienced and lauded, to our newest thinkers/writers.
1 — Who had the greatest impact on you intellectually (whether through writing, mentorship, etc.)?
As a young second lieutenant nearing the end of the Armor Officer Basic Course, then housed at Fort Knox, I served under a senior trainer helping run the final “ten day war” capstone exercise. Major Jefferson Figuerres clearly knew his craft, teaching us daily the basics of armor warfare at the platoon and company levels. Yet more importantly for me, Figuerres assembled a group of us young subalterns every evening for study sessions picking apart Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. (He had us buy the book before we “deployed” and I still have my Kentucky clay stained copy.) Gathered around a space heater in a large, dimly lit olive-drab tent, we listened to this cerebral field grade officer explain the importance of tactical acumen supporting a coherent strategy. The former always had to serve the latter, the major insisted. Figuerres taught us the significance of reading tomes on military strategy, even the classics, with a critical eye and of always thinking about the larger context of war even as we concentrated on the fundamental skills required of young armor officers. I was hooked and have been studying military history ever since. In the backwoods of Kentucky, Figuerres taught me, early on, how personal mentorship could spark a lifelong passion for reading and for learning.
2 — What book (fiction, history, or academic) do you think best explains strategy?
The classics — Thucydides, Sun Tzu , Clausewitz — are classics for manifest reasons and should be explored by any professional seeking insights into why strategy matters and why, too often, policymakers don’t get it right. But strategy seems more than just an operative term used and studied by military professionals. Perhaps it is just as important to consider why war itself matters and, for me, Chris Hedges does that better than most. Hedges’s War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning obliges you, with powerfully direct language, to confront the yawning gap between the myths and reality of war. If Hedges is correct, that war helps to erode moral and social responsibilities while simultaneously filling a “spiritual void,” then should not strategists consider first the essential relationships between war and society? Strategy certainly entails decision-making on resources, political objectives, and national willpower. But, placing strategy within the larger context of war, not just the myths surrounding war, might be the best place to start for anyone seeking to better explain the problems of strategy.
3 — What do you want your legacy to be?
To be remembered as having led a good and valuable life — as a father, son, husband, friend, teacher, historian, officer…and martini maker.
Gregory A. Daddis is an associate professor of history and director of the new interdisciplinary Master of Arts program in War and Society at Chapman University. A Vietnam War historian, he is author of Westmoreland’s War: Reassessing American Strategy in Vietnam and No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War.
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