American military leaders—from George Washington, to Winfield Scott, to Alfred Thayer Mahan, to Dwight D. Eisenhower, to Matthew Ridgway, to Hamilton Howze, to Donn Starry, and to Frederick Franks—supplemented their formal learning through active reading, study, and reflection. In 1901, the father of the Army War College, Secretary of War Elihu Root, commented on “the great importance of a thorough and broad education for military officers,” due to the “rapid advance of military science; changes of tactics required by the changes in weapons; our own experience in the difficulty of working out problems of transportation, supply, and hygiene; the wide range of responsibilities which we have seen devolving upon officers charged with the civil government of occupied territory; the delicate relations which constantly arise between military and civil authority.” Thus, Root wrote, there was a “manifest necessity that the soldier, above all others, should be familiar with history.”
When McMasters speaks, smart people listen. They don’t have to always agree, but they know to listen.
Would that many more of our political class would heed his call to learn some history.