At the Commonwealth Club of California with Max Brooks – on Strategy Strikes Back

On Monday, June 25, 2018, I had a great time in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club of California with my friend & co-editor Max Brooks talking about our book Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict.

Here are the links to the audio podcast and the video from the event.

Star Wars and American Strategic Myths

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

Over the weekend, millions of Americans partook in a powerful strategic myth by heading to see the next offering from the Star Wars franchise: Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Considering its generational range and cultural reach, Star Wars may be the most important story about war since Thucydides wrote The Peloponnesian War. And it’s influence on the military has been profound: from forward-stationed soldiers calling their counter-mortar protection “R2-D2” to former four-star generals letting phrases like “disturbance in the Force” slip into their interviews; a recent, $10 billion Pentagon contract had been nicknamed “JEDI,” while, most notably, the Strategic Defense Initiative, a Reagan-era space-based missile defense program, quickly earned a catchier nickname: “Star Wars.”

While some will inevitably dismiss the films as fairy tales or space operas, their immense grip on the American imagination means that understanding them, and other myths, is important to unlocking American attitudes toward war and strategy. Continue reading “Star Wars and American Strategic Myths”

What Han Solo tells us about American heroes

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on May 27, 2018. It can also be found online here.

Han Solo is an American hero. Across Colorado, the country and the world, millions will flock this Memorial Day weekend to see “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and the young Alden Ehrenreich take on the character Harrison Ford made into a legend over the past four decades. Each ticket sold cements the reckless-rogue-turned-reluctant-rebel’s status as the quintessential (accidental) American hero. Continue reading “What Han Solo tells us about American heroes”

The Universal War

*Note: This essay was published at From the Green Notebook on May 1, 2018. It can also be found online here.

Whether I was with cadets or Koreans, I had a problem.

As a military officer assigned to teach military strategy at West Point, and then on a staff alongside officers from the Republic of Korea, I kept bumping into the same challenge. Whenever I wanted to talk strategy, I could never get my point across.

We were just never on the same page. You see, for two people to talk strategy, both must be familiar with the case in question, whether it’s in business, politics, or war. To discuss even something as studied as strategy in the American Civil War requires both parties to be deeply knowledgeable about the conflict. This necessary baseline quickly creates communication problems, particularly across national divides. Continue reading “The Universal War”

Strategy Strikes Back: Remarks at the Hinckley Institute, University of Utah

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 11.32.02 AM.png

On Wednesday, March 28, 2018, I spoke at the Hinckley Institute (University of Utah) for the first book talk on Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict.

To view the talk, click here!

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””