I can’t say I agree with the politics and viewpoints of most of the people Donald Trump has proposed for his cabinet, but there is a bright spot concerning Marine General James Mattis, who is rumored to be Trump’s possible pick for the Secretary of Defense. Mattis is huge on the value of reading. He has a 6,000-book library that he brings wherever he is stationed, and in 2004 he wrote a letter about the importance of reading that became a popular viral email in the days before social media.
Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun. For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say… “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.
He listed authors and titles of a number of works that he credited with helping him save countless lives of soldiers under his command.
I do think it would be a good idea if our Secretary of Defense was someone with a good grasp of history, as well as a keen appreciation for the wisdom to be found in the writings of those who went before. At the least, if the rumors have anything behind them, Mattis’s appreciation of literature is a sign that not everyone in Trump’s government will necessarily be as ignorant as Trump appears to be.
It’s also worth noting that 6,000 ebooks would easily fit on a hard drive, and be a lot easier for a military man to truck around from place to place than the library of 6,000 physical volumes Mattis brings with him. Perhaps as Secretary of Defense, Mattis could see to it that officers get issued digital libraries of the most important historical and strategic reading, to make it easier for them to be well-read in the field?
Well, actually I expect he’ll have greater concerns than that to occupy his mind, should he be offered and accept the job, but still—there are much worse qualities for a leader than also to be a reader.
(Found via Business Insider.)