Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

One of the best military reading lists ever: Direct to you from the Australian army

Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on April 11, 2014. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a reading list this good, and so comprehensive. An education itself. One thing I especially like about it is that it doesn’t just list books, it tells you why you might want to read each ...

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Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on April 11, 2014.

It's been awhile since I've seen a reading list this good, and so comprehensive. An education itself. One thing I especially like about it is that it doesn't just list books, it tells you why you might want to read each one.

It also has some very helpful introductory essays. For example, there is this comment on how to read an official history:

Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on April 11, 2014.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a reading list this good, and so comprehensive. An education itself. One thing I especially like about it is that it doesn’t just list books, it tells you why you might want to read each one.

It also has some very helpful introductory essays. For example, there is this comment on how to read an official history:

Learn to read between the lines, particularly the lines of the official histories. Official historians expect their professional readers to be able to read between the lines. For example in speaking of Singapore, the War Office history says, ‘Many stragglers were collected in the town and sent back to their units.’

What does this statement suggest? In an advance stragglers are to be expected. Men become detached from their units for quite legitimate reasons. We provide for them by establishing stragglers’ posts to collect them and direct them back towards their units. But when we get large numbers of stragglers behind a defensive position, and a long way back at that, it suggests that units have been broken up or that there has been a breakdown of discipline somewhere. And that in turn suggests that the general situation had reached the stage when a lot of people had lost confidence, when morale was at least beginning to break down.

Also, General Paul Van Riper’s essay on his own professional education is worth an evening all by itself.

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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