From Princesses to Generals: Leia and the Evolution of Women at War

*Note: This essay, co-written with Erica Iverson, was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

“She wasn’t looking for a knight, she was looking for a sword,” wrote the poet Atticus, who might have been thinking of Star Wars’ Leia Organa. Over the forty years of the Star Wars franchise, Leia went from princess to general at the same time American military women were looking to wield their own weapons.

It wasn’t easy, but both found their swords. And they’re not done fighting. Continue reading “From Princesses to Generals: Leia and the Evolution of Women at War”

Abundant Vulnerability: Why Military Millennials Might Be America’s Achilles’ Heel

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

“Be strong enough to know when you are weak,” Gen. Douglas MacArthur once advised. But what matters more is to know how and where you’re vulnerable.

During the Cold War, the director of the US Office of Net Assessment, Andrew Marshall, found America had a “distinct and meaningful advantage” in that the “bulk of the Soviet forces were composed of conscripts” who were “poorly trained and lacking technical know-how.” Marshall’s insight was to use the Soviet soldiers’ relative deprivation against them. In a military based on a thoroughly mechanized, road-mobile doctrine, the fact that the average Soviet recruit didn’t grow up with cars provided a weakness to be exploited.

Today, America’s military suffers the inverse vulnerability—abundance. The average American recruit, typically of the millennial generation, has always had access to an overflow of information and resources; ubiquitous smartphones, plentiful cars and computers. In the age of information warfare, when the enemy threatens to hit the kill switch, this is America’s Achilles’ heel. Continue reading “Abundant Vulnerability: Why Military Millennials Might Be America’s Achilles’ Heel”

For Memorial Day: How Kiwis Remember

Image of the Wellington (New Zealand) Cenotaph, courtesy of Wikipedia

**Note: what follows is a written reflection (with a few minor modifications) from my experience at an ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day Dawn Service at the Wellington (New Zealand) Cenotaph on April 24, 2011.  As we pay our respects on Memorial Day, it seemed appropriate to consider how our friends and allies commemorate the fallen.**

I have just returned from the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at the Wellington Cenotaph with good friends from the NZ Defence Force. It was a touching ceremony, lasting about a half an hour, starting about 5:45am. The time, in and of itself, is striking…the American equivalent for veteran remembrance is, of course, Veteran’s (and/or Memorial) Day. Veteran’s Day celebrates the armistice reached for World War I, famously at the 11th hour (11:00am) on the 11th day of the 11th month (November 11th). ANZAC Day is a day of remembrance of those that gave their lives in the unsuccessful landings at Gallipoli. Continue reading “For Memorial Day: How Kiwis Remember”