#Monday Musings: Kevin Benson

"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.)?

This is a toss-up for me.  Then Lieutenant Colonel Jim Dubik was my  monograph director while I attended the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). I served with the now-retired Lieutenant General Dubik over the course of my career.  Dubik made me think then and continues to make me think. I read everything he writes. The other person is Brigadier General (Retired) Huba Wass de Czege. I met Wass de Czege while I was a student at SAMS. At the time there was a course run by the Combined Arms Center commander for newly designated division commanders and assistant division commanders.  SAMS students could volunteer to serve as the “staff” for a division commanding general and an assistant division commander for this week-long course.  I had the good fortune to work for Major General Steven Arnold and Brigadier General Wass de Czege. I wrote a commander’s intent for Arnold. Wass de Czege rewrote my paragraph-long draft intent into three sentences, and gave an impromptu class on his intent for SAMS, how to work for general officers, and more. I read everything Wass de Czege writes as well. These two men had a profound intellectual influence on me and I am honored to know them.

2. What book (fiction, history, or academic) do you think best explains strategy?

For me Eliot Cohen’s Supreme Command answers this question. I read this book when I was the Chief, Strategic Plans and Policy (J5) for the Land Component Command at the start of the Iraq war. I wanted to get a view on how the policy makers might view the use of war as an extension of policy. Evidently, I formed a different view than the policy makers who, allegedly, also read Cohen’s book. To me, Cohen made the case for a clear link between policy, strategy, operational art,and tactics. It reinforced, in my mind, the moral obligation of the strategist for a republic to ensure tactical success is directly linked to attaining strategic and policy objectives. While not a strategist at the time, I did serve at the operational level of war and rather keenly felt the obligation to ensure a sound linkage. Later, when I was director of SAMS I had the great privilege of speaking with Cohen about his work. Cohen makes me think, and I am grateful for this gift.

3. What do you want your legacy to be?

Old soldiers never die, they just fade away, as the song goes. When people recall me and my service, I want them to think, “Kevin Benson, he was a good man.”

Kevin Benson is a retired U.S. Army officer and currently a seminar leader at the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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