Strategic and Tactical 'Paper Pushing'

By Collins, John M. | Army, February 2009 | Go to article overview

Strategic and Tactical 'Paper Pushing'


Collins, John M., Army


"The pen is mightier than the sword."

-Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The U.S. Army puts such a high premium on command that few commissioned officers who have not previously commanded at company, battalion and brigade levels ever wear stars, whereas most professional staff officers who make superlative performance possible cap carrers with eagles on their shoulders if they are lucky. General officers, as a general rule, are consequently grand tacticians and practitioners of operational art who win battles and campaigns but seldom excel at grand strategy, which wins wars. That sorry state will persist as long as most U.S. Army officers yearn for command and scorn "paper pushing."

My eccentric experiences suggest that diversified strategic, operational and tactical staff assignments can enhance U.S. national security by providing commanders with sharp intellectual tools and can also simultaneously improve subsequent prospects for civilian careers.

Strategic Intelligence

My only penance in the Pentagon was between November 1950 and January 1953, as a captain and the Army G-2's Arab-Israeli desk officer, assigned solely because I had earned a graduate degree in geography on the GI Bill. Extensive tutelage was immediately required, since I lacked intelligence experience at any level and knew next to nothing about the Middle East.

Step one was to attend a three-week course at the Strategic Intelligence School on Constitution Avenue near what is now the Vietnam Memorial. That institution has long since disappeared, but I still lean heavily on lessons learned in its classrooms. The value of unclassified materials, for example, became crystal clear when I combed newspapers and periodicals to develop an open-source order of battle for U.S. armed forces and, within a brief period, located all newly installed Nike Ajax surface-to-air missile sites around Washington, D.C., and learned the number of launchers per battery and the names of some battery commanders. Maps drawn to scale showed the best access and escape routes. Intelligence-gathering techniques acquired at that institution helped a lot when members of Congress asked me to prepare unclassified U.S.- Soviet military balance assessments from 1975 until the U.S.S.R. collapsed.

Strategic Intelligence School and subsequent attendance at several of DoD's academic institutions confirmed that progressive education facilitates professional staff work. Many observers viewed my matriculation at two staff colleges and two senior service colleges as overkill, but every course served as a unique building block. Other paper pushers should formally or informally enhance their knowledge bases at every opportunity.

Introductions to the Middle East, for example, were real eye-openers. My civilian supervisor had -to tell me that Mordecai was a Jewish name. I discovered that U.S. military attachés moved about less freely in Israel, a U.S. ally, than they did in the Soviet Union, an enemy of the United States. The best qualified Arab and Iranian officers often spurned attendance at U.S. military schools because lengthy absences would remove them from baksheesh (graft) chains that lined their pockets.

Updating card files that summarized the idiosyncrasies and aspirations of key officials in countries I surveyed consumed considerable time but Was worth it because personal histories illuminated pecking orders, probable lines of succession and other politico-military relationships.

I attended a summer seminar that the American University of Beirut (AUB) conducted for the State Department in 1952. Our Navy declined its invitation, but the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and CIA participated. Arab professors presided over graduate-level courses that covered regional geography, cultures, history, influences of Islam and contemporary problems. All three Army attendees were chauffeured throughout Lebanon, Jordan and a good deal of Syria, which soon was closed to outsiders. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Strategic and Tactical 'Paper Pushing'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.