By David Barno and Nora Bensahel

As a rule, David Barno and Nora Bensahel’s regular War on the Rocks column is thoughtful, insightful, and well written. It provides well reasoned and informed opinions that hopefully help leaders — military and civilian alike — think through the complex issues surrounding the wide variety of topics they write about. Their book is no different. It is thoroughly researched, well written, and generally compelling to read. As an addition to the “military adaptation” literature — my favorites of which include Military Adaptation in War: With Fear of Change, and On Flexibility: Recovery from…


Moving every two years or so can be really painful — but it helps to reinforce some key life lessons

As I write this, my family and I are stuck in a hotel room at the midpoint of another permanent change of station (PCS) move. I have been in the military for my entire adult life — literally longer than I wasn’t, at this point. Since the age of 18 I have never lived in the same place for longer than two years. Since getting married my wife and I have moved 7 times; our kids (6 and 5) have…


Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution, by P. W. Singer and August Cole

This book is both entertaining fiction and thoughtful prediction. People who will most benefit from it are those who have not spent time deliberately thinking about the emerging future world. Those who have spent some time in that space already will not find the book earthshattering, but will probably still find much to enjoy and appreciate.

As an inveterate sci-fi geek, I was cautiously excited for the release of Burn-In. I enjoyed Singer and Cole’s Ghost Fleet, although I did not find it either as…


A Strategic Imperative for America in the 21st Century

A few years ago I read a book called The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century. It is quite good. The key discussion in the book is that America needs to define a new strategic imperative for the 21st Century; the authors determined that the best one-word descriptor for this strategic imperative is “sustainability.” Although sustainability is certainly a laudable goal and makes a lot of sense, it made a lot more sense when the book was published in 2016. Looking around in 2020, this no longer seems to be the best fit…


The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare, by Christian Brose

Worth adding to your reading list. If you’re someone who thinks and reads a lot about future war, you’ll be familiar with most of the content. If you’re a defense layperson, this book might surprise you and will potentially open your eyes to some serious problems.

If The Kill Chain had been published even five years ago, it probably would have been earthshattering (although it would have been equally likely to be ignored). Published in 2020, it instead captures the emerging zeitgeist within DoD and across…


So crazy, they just might work…

It is axiomatic that the institutional inertia of the “congressional-military-industrial complexstifles real innovation within DoD. Despite the fact that this is generally accepted and usually met with a “well, what can ya do” sort of shoulder shrug, it is an interesting thought experiment to consider “half baked ideas.” Pundit and author Jonah Goldberg and Congressman Mike Gallagher have done multiple podcast episodes on this theme — although the ideas don’t have a lot of intellectual rigor or even necessarily much deep thought put into them, it is nonetheless definitely worth considering these sort…


Amazingly, my personal discipline changed…well…none

Despite much of the crazy gnashing of teeth over haircuts that has been occurring around the Marine Corps (and Army, to a lesser degree) for the last month or so, where I’m stationed leadership has been fairly proactive with CoVID measures. This includes limiting haircuts to once a month. Thus, today I found myself in a an unusual position for the past month — I got my hair cut. I think this was the first time in my adult life that I made it an entire month without a haircut. Even in the most difficult…


If staff work doesn’t enable and/or drive specific commander’s actions, it is unnecessary bureaucratic paper-pushing. We should use this as an opportunity to slim down and deliberately reduce staffs.

Several years ago I was working directly under a service component headquarters. Due to a clerical error, that headquarters somehow managed to accidentally not renew any of its contractor positions and essentially lost half its staff overnight. Several weeks after this I had a conversation with the Director of Plans at that headquarters that went something like this:

DirPlans: “since all the contractors left we’ve really had to stop doing a…


Although much of the American government has become a gerontocracy, only the military system has it as an inherent structural component.

The US Military is a gerontocracy. This has been the case for essentially all of the post World War II era — indeed, in the modern US military age and rank are directly correlated. Because of the requirements of the DOPMA, there is essentially no way to create a young senior leader in the US military. Conversely, there are also no old junior members of the military. Thus, the US military is both by definition and by law a…


A few years ago I watched a company of Marines in a dug in position defense get chased from their fighting holes without anyone firing a shot or even an order given. The culprit? One of the ubiquitous brush fires that start in Camp Pendleton almost year round. That got me thinking — if a little brush fire might do that, what sort of return could we get if we were willing to push the envelope with the elements to create natural effects? The US military tends to focus on technology as the solution to all of our problems —…

T. Drake

Grunt, planner, etc. I use this forum to write and think about military stuff. Usually Marine Corps focused.

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