Thinking Like an Officer

As some of you know, I’m currently writing another book with the working title, “How to Think Like an Officer.”  In this post, I’ll write about the origins of this project and its current status.  Comments welcome, even more than usual!

In my years working at the Merchant Marine Academy, I sometimes thought of my job as getting the midshipmen to think like officers. I’d even say that. “I have a year (or 4 years, or six months, however much time remained until graduation) to get you to think like an officer.”  I once, exasperated with a colleague (and good friend) told her that she needed to start thinking like an officer.  What did I mean by that? In the case of the midshipmen,I often meant that they needed to think beyond the technical requirements for a maritime officer that occupied most of the Kings Point curriculum, to think of themselves as leaders and potential warfighters (since the merchant marine is a strategic as well as an economic resource, and the midshipmen who didn’t go active duty are required to take a reserve commission), and to start developing the versatility that those roles require.  In the case of my friend the English professor, I wanted her to think as a member of an organization who balanced independence with loyalty.

These rather pompous pronouncements of mine eventually led me to question what it was to “think like an officer” in a more general and comprehensive way.  The subject of officer cognition was also brought up in my work on Soldiers and Civilization.  Having made the argument that military professionals had made a broad contribution to civilization, I now turned my own thoughts to the question of what kind of thought-processes enabled them to do so.

With about 40,000 words of draft, the complexity of this project is dawning on me. The overall structure of the book, a fairly simple matter in the case of SAC, is going to be a challenge.  I’ll paste below my current outline. In future posts I’ll flesh out some of the details and make amendments.

Enjoy the weekend.  Raining like mad in NY.


I. Introduction

II. Preliminaries

  1. On Thinking
  2. Learning to Think
  3. Character and Leadership
  4. Obstacles to Thought

III. The Intellectual Virtues

  1. Science
  2. Art
  3. Intuition
  4. Moral Prudence
  5.  Wisdom

IV.  Thought and Action

1. The Organizer

2. The Warfighter

The Visionary, Reflection: Thinking About the Past; Imagining: Thinking About the Future; Thinking to Greatness; The Officer as Philosopher


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s