Monday, December 31, 2012
New Year, New Direction
This isn't all, of course. I've also been keeping the journal side of the Small Wars Journal rolling, lightly editing, selecting, and posting all the great essays submitted by the community, keeping those coming out Monday through Friday. I've also been editing my own work, finishing the edits for my book War, Welfare & Democracy: Rethinking America's Quest for the End of History (available for pre-order now for a late-January release at Potomac Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or other booksellers online).
I've also been planning for a change of directions. I've spent over 15 years of my life as an itinerant in the Marine Corps. My kids are coming into high school and some sort of biological calendar has turned over for my wife and I and we realize that it is time to settle down. We cherish the memories and adventures of the last decade and a half, but feel very clearly that it is time to embark on a new journey. We are headed back to Cleveland in the hope that I will be able to put my experiences and qualifications to work as a strategic thinker and planner in business development, human resources, or management in the private sector.
This, as you would imagine, has been a momentous decision. I have received a great deal of very good feedback from family, friends, and mentors. Some think I am crazy, but many more understand. Some are even envious. I just finished the first draft of a novel that, in ways, may someday more fully explain my rationale for choosing my own way rather than following the expected path. There are many reasons, but in brief life is too short and uncertain to wait on someone else's milestones or follow someone else's path when you feel very clearly that the time has come to re-evaluate your priorities and shift gears.
I am very excited for this new opportunity. I feel very much the same way I did when I entered the Marine Corps. I feel excited and alive, with only that tinge of apprehension that we need to keep ourselves honest--to avoid those fatal mistakes of complacency. And in keeping with this new direction for my life, I've vowed to take a new direction in how I think and what I comment on. We shall see if I can keep true to that. I plan to take a step back from the world of national security and military affairs. My aim is to avoid the negativity and non-constructive criticism--the destructive commentary--that seems to almost wholly surround those affairs today. War doesn't create anything, a friend once said. It only consumes and destroys. The culture that surrounds national security seems to me to be similarly destructive, and growing more so day by day. I will continue to edit the SWJ, but my intent will be to stay away from the commentary there, on Twitter, on Facebook, etc, that all too often descends into criticism of everything and production of nothing. When I do write about national security, I plan to take lessons about strategic planning, decision-making, culture, and organizational design and to apply them more generally to problems of creation and competition in the world more broadly.
I do believe that I will eventually re-enter the national security world in some capacity, hopefully though not until my kids are out of the house and I've had a good period to get some other experiences and gain some perspective on mine to date. Until then, I (perhaps lamely) will follow a charter of seeking to create and not destroy/tear down that came to me a few days ago. The feeling has been with me for far longer, but a little over a week ago, I had a dream that took me back to what must have been the woods of Quantico and a patrol I did in training there once, thought the feeling was far more real than that. I could just make out the outlines of a rifle barrel and a scope in the green undergrowth, aimed down the axis of the patrol. At that instant, I woke up. I got ready for work. And on the drive in, a procession of 1960s songs shuffled through my iPhone, giving rise to the image of Rhah, in the final scenes of Platoon--a movie I last saw probably two decades ago with my father, a Marine officer and Vietnam vet.
When I got to work, I searched for the quote from that final scene where Chris Taylor is flown out of the jungle. It resonated with me and what I want to do. "I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves. And the enemy was in us. ... But, be that as it may, those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again, to teach to others what we know, and to try with what's left of our lives to find a goodness and a meaning to this life."
I bid the world of national insecurity farewell. I am looking forward to building and finding goodness and meaning.