Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Bob Kaplan: Ricks is flat wrong on academies

Just in case anyone doubted CNAS welcomes a diversity of views, here is a note from Robert Kaplan, the author and commentator, whose office adjoins mine. (Exum has the palatial office down the hall, partly to house his Voltronic library.) Kaplan writes: It’s great that you’ve shaken up the conventional thinking on military academies. But ...

586299_090429_Kaplan_Robert01__Jerry_BauerB2.jpg
586299_090429_Kaplan_Robert01__Jerry_BauerB2.jpg

Just in case anyone doubted CNAS welcomes a diversity of views, here is a note from Robert Kaplan, the author and commentator, whose office adjoins mine. (Exum has the palatial office down the hall, partly to house his Voltronic library.)

Kaplan writes:

It's great that you've shaken up the conventional thinking on military academies. But based on my 18 month experience of teaching at the U. S. Naval Academy -- a profound professional privilege -- I take issue with your comparison between service academies and community colleges. Half of the faculty in my department were civilians with PhDs. The other half were naval officers and marines without post-graduate degrees. Yet, these uniformed professors brought something noteworthy to the department and to their students that many community colleges cannot match. In addition to being professional role models, they brought their experiences of service in Iraq, Afghanistan, off the pirate coast of Somalia, and other far-flung locales, which provided a wealth of lessons that they imparted in the classroom. More crucially, their intense experience in war zones had caused them to mature into voracious readers of the classics of war: Thucydides, Clausewitz, Mahan, and the like. To listen to a war veteran react to the literature of the Peloponnesian War is not something necessarily common to community colleges. I think the combination of fine civilian academics and battle-hardened and well-read junior officers made for a stellar combination in the department where I taught.

Just in case anyone doubted CNAS welcomes a diversity of views, here is a note from Robert Kaplan, the author and commentator, whose office adjoins mine. (Exum has the palatial office down the hall, partly to house his Voltronic library.)

Kaplan writes:

It’s great that you’ve shaken up the conventional thinking on military academies. But based on my 18 month experience of teaching at the U. S. Naval Academy — a profound professional privilege — I take issue with your comparison between service academies and community colleges. Half of the faculty in my department were civilians with PhDs. The other half were naval officers and marines without post-graduate degrees. Yet, these uniformed professors brought something noteworthy to the department and to their students that many community colleges cannot match. In addition to being professional role models, they brought their experiences of service in Iraq, Afghanistan, off the pirate coast of Somalia, and other far-flung locales, which provided a wealth of lessons that they imparted in the classroom. More crucially, their intense experience in war zones had caused them to mature into voracious readers of the classics of war: Thucydides, Clausewitz, Mahan, and the like. To listen to a war veteran react to the literature of the Peloponnesian War is not something necessarily common to community colleges. I think the combination of fine civilian academics and battle-hardened and well-read junior officers made for a stellar combination in the department where I taught.

Data-free though it may be, this is about the best argument I have heard for the academies. Does it resonate with academy grads out there?

Jerry Bauer

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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