Top Five Books
David Drake, Redliners
I was turned on to David Drake’s writing at the Armor Officer Basic Course. Drake considers Redliners the best thing he has ever written. I read it a lot after my second deployment as a campaign planner as I thought about what I could’ve done better.
Colin Gray, Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy
For those who are in a hurry to get a distilled set of forty of Colin Gray’s theorems on the practice of strategic art, you can’t go wrong with Fighting Talk.
A. A. Svechin, Strategy
The first rigorous treatment of operational art in Soviet military literature opened the door to the hazard of inappropriate tactical focus, and its basic topic eventually became the focal point of my dissertation.
Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character
A powerful study of the moral domain of warfare, stemming from Shay’s work with Vietnam veterans. (The other case study in what happens when things start to break in the moral domain of warfare that comes to mind is E. B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed.)
Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason
Any net assessment of the realm of the possible for an American strategist needs to include knowledge of the American zeitgeist.
The One That Shaped Me The Most
Sir Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
This book was my lodestar on the use of the military instrument of national power as I was drafting the Army Strategic Planning Guidance in 2013. It also framed how I looked at the strategy–policy interface in practice in Afghanistan last year.