To Study Modern War, There is No Substitute for Going

*Note: This essay was published at War on the Rocks on July 27, 2016. It can also be found online here (or PDF). 

West Point is going to war.

There was a time when West Pointers regularly marched the globe, outside American combat, to learn from world military affairs as reconnaissance for our own future fights. In 1919, cadets surveyed World War I’s battlefields and soaked up important lessons from still-warm fighting fronts. In 1875, General William T. Sherman reassigned Civil War hero Emory Upton from his post as commandant at West Point to tour the armies of Japan, China, India, Persia, Italy, Russia, Austria, Germany, France, and England. Upton later penned an influential paper on his observations. And Richard Delafield, in 1855, led a team to observe the Crimean War’s Siege of Sevastopol and returned to write his report of the battle while serving as superintendent at West Point. One historian found that the American military went abroad on such trips over 150 times in the antebellum period alone.

Following this tradition, this week, a detachment of cadets and faculty with the Modern War Institute(MWI) at West Point are in Sri Lanka, amidst spent shell casings and raw emotions, getting as close to combat experience as an educational institution can allow, to understand the island’s three-decade civil war that ended in 2009.

Read the rest at War on the Rocks.

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