In my Marine Corps War College office in Quantico, a two-foot pile of articles lamenting or defending the state of professional military education gathers dust on a bookshelf while I’m on my sabbatical. Three recent War on the Rocks articles make some good points. I would put one of these, written by Paula Thornhill, in the “professional military education sucks” (and should be totally rethought or gotten rid of) pile. The other two belong on the “professional military education is awesome” (but might need some work) stack. These articles — one penned by enterprising marines Austin Duncan and Adam Yang, and the other written by David Morgan-Owen — also hold some truth. I’ve added to these stacks over the years, intending to produce a thoughtful meta-analysis of both sides that reaches startling conclusions and revolutionizes professional military education.
This is, of course, an important debate, but one often laden with hubris. After a decade teaching at the Marine Corps War College, the debate’s predictability is an ironic microcosm of the very contours of the argument itself. In this fight, it seems best to pick a side and be confident in one’s righteousness rather than get run over in the middle.