The Watch and The Pen: The Strategist’s Two Tools

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

It was surreal to watch. Here I was, sitting near someone at a conference I’d admired from afar as a strategist, a titan in the academic and policy worlds—and there he was, plugged into every conceivable Apple product on the market: first, the laptop for emails; next, the iPad for news; third, the iPhone for immediate engagement with social media’s ceaseless drumbeat of dings. Continue reading “The Watch and The Pen: The Strategist’s Two Tools”

Clausewitz in Space: The Trinity for Trekkies

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

Author’s Note: If you don’t know Star Trek, click straight to iTunes and rent Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and/or Star Trek (2009)—immediately. Then come back and read this.


If you’re anything like me, you forget things. Car keys, Mom’s birthday—the forgetful frustration that comes from approaching airport security after failing (again) to sign up for TSA “Precheck” has become routine. The important thing is to find a mental model, some image to aid your memory’s ability to hold onto information for recall when needed. This matters the most with the most important knowledge. Continue reading “Clausewitz in Space: The Trinity for Trekkies”

Winter is Coming: Sociology and the Next Great War

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

Winter is coming.

At least, it seems that conflict is more likely these days if you listen to Professor Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, as I did this week at the Modern War Institute’s inaugural War Studies Conference. His remarks were strident, striking, and, interestingly, sociological. Continue reading “Winter is Coming: Sociology and the Next Great War”

What is Strategy?

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

Ever get the sense something isn’t quite right? A feeling, an inkling, a tremor. Mothers get them from distant children; animals get them from inbound weather; and, apparently, I get them from reading definitions of “strategy.”

Confusingly, there are a lot of these definitions to sort through. The text I used to teach at West Point, Strategy in the Contemporary World (Fourth Edition), is chock-full of varying versions of “strategy.” Continue reading “What is Strategy?”

Why Officers Shouldn’t Vote

*Note: This essay was published in the New York Times print edition on October 19, 2016 and is available online here (and PDF).

Tonight, like millions of Americans, I will be glued to my television, watching the third and last presidential debate. But unlike them, and millions of others, whatever I hear tonight, I won’t be taking it with me into the ballot booth. I am a major in the United States Army, and I believe it is my professional duty — and that of my fellow officers, in all branches — not to vote.

To be clear, I strongly believe that officers, like all citizens, should have the right to vote. But because military officers have a special responsibility to prevent politics from dividing our troops and separating us from society, it is all the more important for us to choose not to exercise that right (this is my belief, of course, and not necessarily that of the Department of Defense or the American government).

Read the rest at the New York Times.

Military Victory is Dead

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

A few weeks back, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Harvard Professor Steven Pinker triumphantly announced the peace deal between the government of Columbia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). While positive, this declaration rings hollow as the exception that proves the rule – a tentative treaty, however, at the end, roughly 7,000 guerrillas held a country of 50 million hostage over 50 years at a cost of some 220,000 lives. Churchill would be aghast: Never in the history of human conflict were so many so threatened by so few. Continue reading “Military Victory is Dead”

Who Should We Save? On Perilous Judgments and Military Moral Thought

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

Who should we save?

That’s the question a Johns Hopkins doctor has been asking, and who was recently profiled in a thought provoking New York Times article. More specifically, “When a surge of patients – from a disaster, disease outbreak, or terrorist attack – overwhelms hospitals, how should you ration care? Whose lives should be saved first?” Continue reading “Who Should We Save? On Perilous Judgments and Military Moral Thought”