Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

My simple plan for reviving PME

Recently, in a note to a reader, I summarized my views of how to reform professional military education. It occurred to me that I might share them here: Make admission competitive. Make the education as academically rigorous as it was during the interwar period. (And don’t train them. Educate them to think critically.) Make everybody ...

Wikimedia
Wikimedia
Wikimedia

Recently, in a note to a reader, I summarized my views of how to reform professional military education. It occurred to me that I might share them here:

Make admission competitive. Make the education as academically rigorous as it was during the interwar period. (And don't train them. Educate them to think critically.) Make everybody write a lot and get graded on their work. As Orwell said, if you aren't writing clearly, you probably aren't thinking clearly. Post class rankings weekly. Fail at least 5 percent of the class, and dismiss from the service anyone caught plagiarizing or otherwise cheating. Upon graduation, publicly list graduates in order, and give the top 10 or 25 percent preference in subsequent posts.

Recently, in a note to a reader, I summarized my views of how to reform professional military education. It occurred to me that I might share them here:

  • Make admission competitive.
  • Make the education as academically rigorous as it was during the interwar period. (And don’t train them. Educate them to think critically.)
  • Make everybody write a lot and get graded on their work. As Orwell said, if you aren’t writing clearly, you probably aren’t thinking clearly.
  • Post class rankings weekly.
  • Fail at least 5 percent of the class, and dismiss from the service anyone caught plagiarizing or otherwise cheating.
  • Upon graduation, publicly list graduates in order, and give the top 10 or 25 percent preference in subsequent posts.
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

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.