Monday, March 25, 2013

Don't Panic: Semester Transition Point

Hi, folks. I haven't posted very much lately. March has been crazy busy, and it all sort of culminated in this week.

On Wednesday, CN Slapshot and I presented on Persian Gulf security for GSI. I handled the GCC/PSF, while CN Slapshot addressed Iraq's role as an oil producer and provided a comprehensive review of the lengthy history of the Iranian nuclear program. We encountered a few challenges, and had very different ideas of what information to present, and that lack of coordination cost us a couple of points; but, we still did pretty well. I'm taking it as motivation to work that much harder studying for the exam in a few weeks.

The other big item for this week has been the 4-5,000 word essay for SND. I had hoped to write on the potential for Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons should Iran become a nuclear weapon state; but, after consulting with Critical Mass, I elected to go with one of the following topic: "Assess the value of tactical nuclear weapons in NATO’s deterrent strategy since the end of the Cold War." After several days of hard writing and a couple more days of hard editing to get it under the maximum word count, I submitted my essay twenty-four hours early, with 147 citations (compared to the 25 for my Strategic Intelligence essay from last semester), and just over one hundred words under the word count ceiling - a great accomplishment, given that I didn't cut any actual content and was still somehow able to cut it from the original finished length of 6300+ words. I'll probably post it, maybe in pieces, over the next few weeks.

So, where does that leave me? Simple: Easter Break. For those of you who are uninitiated with the Scottish system, they take three weeks off for Easter, as opposed to the single week that we take off for Spring Break in the States - well, that I always got off. I think some places in the States take two weeks, and which week(s) varies from place to place. Anyway, during the next three weeks, I hope to travel a bit, first up to Shetland, and we'll see where else I find myself wandering off to. I'll also need to spend some of that time studying for exams, since we apparently don't get the same block of time between the end of classes and the beginning of exam week that we did at the end of the last semester. I'll probably wind up spending some serious quality time with my buddies Lawrence Freedman, Colin Gray, Albert Wohlstetter, Bernard Brodie, and Laurence Martin. I'm not quite as sure how I'll study for GSI, but I'm also more confident in my knowledge of global security issues than I am with my understanding of strategic nuclear doctrine.

I wanted to come to Aberdeen for a lot of different reasons, though I'll admit that location was probably higher on the list than the actual program - not that the program was low on the list, because it was still pretty high. Anyway, strategy has interested me for a long time. It's long been said that America teaches its officers tactics, not strategy - that's to say, we teach our officers how to win battles, but not how to win wars. One of the things I've been learning about this semester is what the Director calls "operational strategy", which is a sort of middle point between the art of stitching a lot of battles together to get a specific effect, and the art of stitching those effects together to get a specific end state. I've spent some time studying how America in particular has tried to fine tune its "operational strategy" over the last twenty years, and what that has meant for the way America, its allies, and its enemies have conducted warfare. I've found it particularly fascinating not only because it's relevant to the course material, but also because it's influenced my professional life in a big way.

Anyway, now that I'm not worried about editing memoranda about the Gulf down to a particular word count, or writing about NATO's doctrine concerning tactical nuclear weapons, I hope to blog a bit more. And if I can put a few day or overnight trips under my belt, I shoul dhave some interesting stuff to blog about, too. So, for those of you who are still reading since last Summer, or whom are new, thanks for sticking with me.

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