What Cadets Should Study – and Why Military History is Not Enough
Note: We’re revisiting some of our most popular material from the past 10 months for our newer readers; this was originally posted June 4, 2014. Enjoy!
By Major Matt Cavanaugh
My last essay – on a representative list of questions West Point does not emphasize – generated some strong feedback. In the spirit of discussion, I feel obligated to address some of these criticisms. For example, via email I received a message with this question:
“Is the reason why war fighting and academic education are stove piped, is because the Army doesn’t want officers to have to ‘think’ during combat operations?”
There are clearly times when officers must respond reflexively and times where they ought to pause and consider the strategic effect of their tactical actions. This is akin to the two systems of thinking Daniel Kahneman describes in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Officers should always be thinking – the type of thinking will differ according to the military situation they find themselves in.
The argument I advance is a simple one: West Point does not currently offer any regular study of modern war that is relevant to the needs of soon-to-be junior Army officers. It should. In fact, as I’ll describe at the end of this essay, and as the picture above depicts, this is an old idea that ought to return to cadet education. To develop this idea, what will follow is a list of my responses to the comments (which can be viewed here) from the original essay.Read More