Adding to Odierno’s Reading List

January 14, 2014

Recently, General Raymond Odierno, the Chief of Staff of the Army, released his updated reading list. While the list has some excellent books, I thought it could use more than one on strategy, some books on civil-military relations, and some more recent scholarship on the Vietnam War. In order to support the Chief’s desire to expand the Army’s professionalism, these books are respectfully offered as discussion points:

Strategy:  An institution thinking about the future and getting out of a tactical mindset could use more than just one book on strategy.  These will help.

Civil-Military Relations: Given claims that Americans and their military are growing apart or that decision making in both surges was challenged by tensions in civil-military discourse, I was surprised that no material on civil-military relations was included unless one counts Andrew Bacevich’s screed. Eliot Cohen and H.R. McMaster have been mainstays for most PME lists, and are absent.  I recommend this be rectified with:

Critical Analysis and the Global Context: The Chief’s list was strong on regional studies, but given the importance of the Asia-Pacific region in American defense policy, I think there are some missing items.  Additionally, there was nothing to force the strategy community to envision “dark futures” and 7 Deadly Scenarios is an antidote to wishful thinking and complacency.

Vietnam: The CSA list has a single book on Vietnam, Palmer’s Summons of the Trumpet, which is a bit dated although accessible.  It could be augmented with one of these two, the second of which is just out but which will be well received:

Contemporary Conflict:  One of these three belongs on the list to bring out the enduring character of war, human domain, and combat leadership.

The Use of History: The study of history and the proper use of history are central to our profession, and this book will facilitate a deeper understanding of history to students of military art and science.


Frank Hoffman is a Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Strategic Research at National Defense University (NDU).  These comments are his own personal views and not that of NDU or the Department of Defense. 


Photo: ginnerobot, Flickr