Thursday, January 19, 2017

Things I Missed in Graduate School

In the three years since I finished grad school, I've discovered a veritable treasure trove of resources that would have been extremely valuable during grad school. Their absence obviously didn't handicap me, as I graduated with the highest possible honors. However, as I continue in various strategic efforts, many of them will be valuable. So, what have I found?

I really haven't found anything that would have been significantly valuable in Strategic Theory, save perhaps for a few podcasts that might have offered some quotes or concepts. (Notably, Professor Lawrence Freedman's 2014 lecture On Strategy and Strategists. Mostly, I wish that I'd spent a bit more time reading - specifically, Strategy in the Contemporary World, On War, and The History of the Peloponnesian War. C'est la vie.

I've discovered several items that would have been helpful for my course in Strategic Intelligence, though the most useful tool for that course really would have been a ten or fifteen minute discussion of how E wanted term papers formatted. Did you know that the CIA has a FOIA release website? That would have been useful knowledge. Did you know that the British National Archives has released a series of annual podcasts discussing releases from both the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6)? Not that I'm ever bereft of podcasts, but those could have been pretty valuable. I had no shortage of books, but it would have been nice to have known earlier than late 2013 that Intelligence Power in Peace and War was available as a PDF!

For Strategic Nuclear Doctrine, Critical Mass did a fantastic job of assigning readings that were publicly available as PDFs, and I've linked to the bulk of those. The one item that would have been really useful was Michael Quinlan's slim volume on nuclear strategy, which was extremely useful and extremely succinct (as compared to Professor Freedman's tome on nuclear strategy, which is one of the most difficult books I've ever read). Quinlan's monograph is available from RUSI as a PDF. When CN Sister was working on her SND term paper, she attempted (too late, as it turned out) to check Quinlan's book out from the Hideous Glass Cube, but the HGC - a library - didn't keep all of its books there, so she was out of luck. This PDF would have been a great asset, but fortunately, I'd read it earlier. Global Security Issues dealt largely with the news and current events. I'd also read several relevant books from The Director's prescribed reading list. I haven't really found anything that I didn't have at the time that I wish I had.

Which brings us to...

The Dissertation! Several valuable resources about the Dhofar Rebellion have been released since my dissertation was submitted, but I've discovered many sources since August 2013. As with the rest of the course, the proposition that these stray items would have improved my final grade is a non-starter - I scored a coveted 19, which means that I literally couldn't have done any better. I'm still curious, though, about how my dissertation might have been different had I known about some of these resources. The Defense Technical Information Center has a handful of papers that discuss Dhofar either in passing or in depth. I also discovered the National Security Archive and their cache of more than four hundred relevant diplomatic cables, which I've written about elsewhere. While researching a single data point - Cuban troops advising the adoo in South Yemen - I also discovered three documents from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum: a memorandum, a letter, and a Q&A about a 1975 meeting between Sultan Qaboos and President Ford. I absolutely would have included more information about the various foreign alliances if I'd had that information. Three other resources that I would have used for either my dissertation, Strategic Theory, or both were the digital copies of The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan, The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War, and Insurgent Tactics in Southern Afghanistan 2005-2008. Finally, I found a pretty decent op-ed in The Guardian, published just a few months before my arrival in Aberdeen, entitled Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation; it could have been helpful for calming some of my nerves, though I think that the record shows that I was pretty confident throughout the process.

It's tempting to think of how I could have improved my experience, if not the bulk of my scores, had I possessed these resources prior to 2016/'17. Ultimately, though, I'm not sure that I would have changed much about how that adventure played out.

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