"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Ret. Gen. David Petraeus – Officer Education

They need to be “pentathlete leaders”—individuals who, metaphorically speaking, are not just sprinters or shot putters but can do it all. We need officers comfortable not just with major combat operations but with operations conducted throughout the middle- and lower-ends of the spectrum of conflict, as well.

At the end of the day, however, few if any of the experiences we can provide within our military communities are as intellectually stimulating, challenging or mind-opening as a year or two at a civilian graduate school. One reason for that is simple enough: When an officer leaves a lecture or a seminar room within a military environment, he or she returns to the familiar cloister and grindstone. When that officer leaves a lecture or a seminar room in a civilian graduate school, he or she is living an experience beyond the cloister. Just as the best way by far to learn a foreign language is to live in the culture where the language is spoken, the best way to learn about other worldviews is to go to and live in another world.

When I first went to Iraq in 2003, my colleagues and I were repeatedly greeted by Iraqis—in the case at hand, in Mosul—who would say to us in the course of conversation: “We love democracy!…What is it?”

Basic concepts from Econ 101 helped me plenty. Had I not remembered, for example, that injecting more money into an economy without increasing the amount of goods in the marketplace does nothing more than produce inflation, our early effort to get Iraqi government salaries paid would have been for naught. We would not have re-opened the border for trade with Syria as soon we did.


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