- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having recently disparaged “brass buttons” trivia by some military historians, I was interested in the distinction drawn by the well-known West Point historian Eugenia Kiesling in the conclusion of her essay on doctrine in the interwar period in the Cambridge History of War, Vol. IV: War and the Modern World:
“The color of collar tabs on parade uniforms does not matter. Other seemingly trivial questions do. How much autonomy accompanied the red trouser stripes of the German general staff officer? How often did infantry units train with antiaircraft guns? Did generals join admirals for lunch? Arguably more than analyses that parse military theory, questions like these explain nations’ wartime performance.”