Almost anyone you’ll meet these days will tell you that they’re “too busy to read” (this even applies to academics) and that they’ll wing it when they’re put on the spot. I for one think that this mentality is counter-productive and should be shot in the head.
And General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, USMC (ret.), agrees.
In this recent Business Insider article (very good website, you should check it out), Mattis describes the need for combat officers to read and learn from their warfighting predecessors, and this includes the likes of Rommel, Montgomery, and even Alexander the Great. Mattis supports his claim by citing his success in Kuwait “12 years ago” (according to the letter), having read Montgomery and Rommel before going in headfirst to the suck, which resulted in low casualties on his side (then again, Desert Storm I was a one-sided conflict). As for those claiming that the battlefield’s changed drastically now that we’ve entered the 4th generation of warfare, he had this to 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.”
I honestly think that this applies not only to warfare, but also to everyday life in general: true, we often wing it and BS our way through things, but we almost always end up consulting those who have been in our position before us and taking their counsel on the matter. While this strays from the title and the bulk of this post, the overall message is clear: always consult those who have experience on any matter, whether through word of mouth or through text, because you never know when it’s gonna come in handy.
So to sum this up, I think that officers and noncomissioned officers alike in any man’s army should be required to read up on the work of their predecessors for successful operations that could result in a significantly decreased loss of life on the smarter side. This doesn’t just apply to the U.S., but anywhere in general. Furthermore, learning from the experience of others could help more than you think, and this applies outside of the battlefield. James Mattis is a smart guy who knows what he’s talking about- we need people like him making more noise than do the clowns in congress or any parliament in the world.
Y’all take care now.