How the US ‘Goliath’ can win against it ‘David’ adversaries

*Note: This essay was published in the Los Angeles Times print edition on January 30, 2018. It can also be found online here.

Fifty years ago, the stunning Tet Offensive shattered the American war effort in Vietnam. But its impact wasn’t limited to Vietnam — it created a shadow that has darkened American military strategy ever since.

On Jan. 31, 1968, 84,000 North Vietnamese troops attacked 100 cities across U.S.-backed South Vietnam, including the key targets of Hue, Da Nang and Saigon. They aimed to spark a widespread uprising, which didn’t happen. Continue reading “How the US ‘Goliath’ can win against it ‘David’ adversaries”

Libraries are our community’s greatest investment

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on January 22, 2018. It can also be found online here.

I’ve always liked libraries, but never knew how vital they are to society. They’re our community’s memories and dreams, and where our collective past, present, and futures collide.

It started in the summertime. Mom used to take us to the library, where I’d lay on a beanbag chair for hours, gobbling up kid versions of classic literature like “Treasure Island” and “Robinson Crusoe.”

Today, I use them for research, whether it’s my dissertation or to dig into the story of Marine Corps Pvt. George Eber Duclo, the first boy from Manitou Springs to die in World War I. I also bring my daughters to our local Manitou Springs library – they love the endless rows of children’s books, the puzzles, and the kid-friendly touchscreen computers they use for digital drawings.

But that’s just our family. What about others? What’s a library good for? Continue reading “Libraries are our community’s greatest investment”

Giving blood contributes to community

Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on January 16, 2018. It can also be found online here.

Two seconds. One, two. Every second second.

That’s how often blood is needed each day in the United States, according to the American Red Cross.

One car accident victim can require as much as 100 pints, and the American Cancer Society tells us that of the nearly 1.7 million people who’ll receive a cancer diagnosis this year, many will need blood, even daily, during chemotherapy.

But while roughly 40 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at a given time, less than 10 percent do every year. And since blood can’t be manufactured or created in a lab, it’d be good if we better understood what gets people to give. Continue reading “Giving blood contributes to community”

On Talks with North Korea: The Parable of the Mountain Rabbit

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

I think a lot about the Korean peninsula. When news emerges from there, I take note. Like recently, when both the commandant of the Marine Corps and the secretary of defense made ominous statements that signal the serious likelihood of another Korean war—these made me a little uncomfortable.

Or, when North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un decided, as he did last week, to make a public address opening the door to diplomacy, words that have been accepted and furthered by the South Korean prime minister. Today’s talks in Panmunjom (the village that straddles the DMZ between the two countries) are the first between the countries in two years and have a long-shot potential to forestall war. Continue reading “On Talks with North Korea: The Parable of the Mountain Rabbit”

In 2018, let’s throw out the surface labels in the Pikes Peak region

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on December 31, 2017. It can also be found online here.

I don’t always do it. But I scrolled through the comments in response to a recent opinion column of mine on the giant blue frame in the Garden of the Gods (may it rest in peace). I read them all.

This time, there were a couple that pierced my armor. One called me a “military carpetbagger,” and another said I “haven’t lived here long enough to have a stake in this issue.”

Both are worth a moment of thought. Just how long does it take a resident to gain “a stake” in local decisions? When does a “carpetbagger” become a “local?” And what is the right balance between the wishes of long-term residents and ideas of relative newcomers in a city? Continue reading “In 2018, let’s throw out the surface labels in the Pikes Peak region”

36 Black Swans, Gray Swans, and Pink Flamingoes to Watch in 2018

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

While driving along the shore of Lake Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island in September 2011, I saw them for the first time.

Black Swans.

My wife and I pulled over, jumped out, and spent a half hour with the darkly elegant cousins of the waterfowl we were accustomed to in North America. Black swans, of course, were at one time presumed not to exist (so much so there was a Latin phrase coined to cement their perceived non-existence)—until later eras, when travel to Australia and New Zealand (where they are commonly found) revealed their earthly presence.

Since then, a famous book has popularized “black swans” as a commonly used metaphor for the disproportionate effects of previously unobserved, high-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare events (in Rumsfeldian parlance, “unknown unknowns”). Continue reading “36 Black Swans, Gray Swans, and Pink Flamingoes to Watch in 2018”

Four Moments of Warrior Wisdom from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

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

It’s here. Unless you’ve been slumming it on Dagobah or hanging around some empty desert planet, you probably noticed Star Wars: The Last Jedi consumed all of Earth’s attention this past weekend. Even the early returns indicate the movie will make a ton of money, and critics already love the show.

But for those responsible for real wars, there’s more to this picture than 153 minutes of eye candy. There are four moments, four lines, four quotations—embedded in the script—that would speak wisdom for those warriors willing to listen. What follows (don’t worry, no spoilers) is a brief recounting of these pockets of profound knowledge. Continue reading “Four Moments of Warrior Wisdom from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi””