Ten Questions West Point Does Not Ask Cadets - But Should

Image courtesy of Flikr user United States Marine Corps.

Image courtesy of Flikr user United States Marine Corps.

Friday's Last Word - Pull Pin, Throw Grenade, Run Away: A provocative thought to kick off the weekend...

By Major Matt Cavanaugh

At West Point, we often address cadets as "scholar warriors" or "warrior scholars."  This phrasing suggests that our objective is to avoid a "broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man."  However, in practice we develop these two characteristics entirely separate.  Rigid stovepipes individually serve military training ends and those related to academic education.  

What follows is a series of questions, representing critical issues, all related to the use of force in the modern world.  They are at the seam between military and academic thought.  In my opinion, these go unaddressed in any comprehensive, sustained, and/or meaningful way during a cadet's four years at West Point:

  1. What is the difference between a terrorist and an insurgent?
  2. How do unmanned systems impact modern battlefields?
  3. Where are the human cognitive, psychological, physical limits with respect to combat?
  4. How does information (Big Data and You Tube) affect the conduct of war?
  5. How should we measure tactical effectiveness in counterinsurgency operations?
  6. How does seapower and airpower contribute to landpower?
  7. In what ways does strategic culture influence military operations?
  8. How does logistics impact military operations in expeditionary campaigns?
  9. What is the proper role for civilians in military operations?
  10. What does "victory" look like in modern war?

These result from the rift between the academic and military program, which misses an opportunity.  This should be West Point's comparative advantage relative to other commissioning sources: the unique faculty and staff is primed to leverage academic rigor for military purposes. The primary goal ought to be to help cadets understand today's strategic context.  Until we figure this out, I'm afraid West Point will perpetuate an unacceptable gap in the space between the "scholar" and the "warrior."