Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Army reading list: Good but a bit of a hole where Iraq and Afghanistan used to be

I think the new Army reading list is one of the best I’ve seen. It is more than the usual greatest hits collection. It has some of those (Stephen Ambrose and Once an Eagle, for example) but also Carlo D’Este‘s Eisenhower, H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty, and Jorg Muth‘s Command Culture. It even has a ...

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I think the new Army reading list is one of the best I've seen. It is more than the usual greatest hits collection. It has some of those (Stephen Ambrose and Once an Eagle, for example) but also Carlo D'Este's Eisenhower, H.R. McMaster's Dereliction of Duty, and Jorg Muth's Command Culture. It even has a couple of good books on the Korean War-Fehrenbach's This Kind of War and Appleman's East of Chosin.

It is a surprisingly balanced list -- the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the post-9/11 wars are all well represented. But I couldn't help but think that the Iraq section was a little weak. If nothing else, I would have included Jim Frederick's Black Hearts

It also is interesting to compare the chief of staff's list to that of the junior officers. There is some overlap, but the younger officers' list feels slightly more serious to me -- more Rommel and infantry, less Starfish and Spider (which may be a great book, for all I know -- I have not read it -- but to me it sounds like a song by Prince). Instead of pop culture bizness books, I'd recommend something about how expert leaders operate under stress, such as Gary Klein's Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions.   

I think the new Army reading list is one of the best I’ve seen. It is more than the usual greatest hits collection. It has some of those (Stephen Ambrose and Once an Eagle, for example) but also Carlo D’Este‘s Eisenhower, H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty, and Jorg Muth‘s Command Culture. It even has a couple of good books on the Korean War-Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War and Appleman’s East of Chosin.

It is a surprisingly balanced list — the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the post-9/11 wars are all well represented. But I couldn’t help but think that the Iraq section was a little weak. If nothing else, I would have included Jim Frederick’s Black Hearts

It also is interesting to compare the chief of staff’s list to that of the junior officers. There is some overlap, but the younger officers’ list feels slightly more serious to me — more Rommel and infantry, less Starfish and Spider (which may be a great book, for all I know — I have not read it — but to me it sounds like a song by Prince). Instead of pop culture bizness books, I’d recommend something about how expert leaders operate under stress, such as Gary Klein’s Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions.   

Also, given that we are on the edge of a large demobilization following a war, I think the list should nod to the issue of the vet returning to society, perhaps with Jonathan Shay’s Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming.

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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