Reading is a Shortcut to Wisdom

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.


Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun. For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say… “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.

We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession. As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don’t know a hell of a lot more than just the TTPs? What happens when you’re on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher HQ can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy’s adaptation? (Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance — in the information age things can change rather abruptly and at warp speed, especially the moral high ground which our regimented thinkers cede far too quickly in our recent fights.) And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don’t know what the warning signs are — that your unit’s preps are not sufficient for the specifics of a tasking that you have not anticipated?


Without reading, all we have is experience to give us wisdom, but that experience in war comes at too high a price. Through reading we can gain the wisdom without having to sacrifice the soldiers.

Folksonomies: wisdom reading experience

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/society/unrest and war (0.483439)
/business and industrial (0.334246)

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Iraq:Country (0.697618 (negative:-0.497807)), Alex:Person (0.684110 (negative:-0.256910)), Darwin:OperatingSystem (0.662593 (neutral:0.000000)), 5000 years:Quantity (0.662593 (neutral:0.000000))

 With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Mattis, James (May 7, 2013), With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading, Retrieved on 2013-05-09
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: inspiration reading