No Man's Land: Preparing for War and Peace in Post-9/11 America

How does one prepare the future leaders of the U.S. Army when the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are winding down and their "BOG:Dwell ratios" ("boots on the ground" vs. home station time) will lean more toward garrison than combat deployment? What skills will they need to lead soldiers facing the challenges of home-front assimilation instead of the dangers of war-zone battle? These questions led West Point English professor Elizabeth D. Samet (Soldier's Heart) to shift her focus from The Iliad's battle-hardened Achilles to The Odyssey's long-suffering returning hero, Odysseus. After a decade teaching plebes a war-centric syllabus of poetry, fiction and history, Samet assessed the future military landscape and revised her course selections to prepare her students for a "scenario in which they will end up fighting different wars in new places or in no place at all." She likens this future to World War I's "no man's land"--that stretch of emptiness between the combatants' front-line trenches. It is a place of neither war nor peace, yet one that neither side can ignore. The victor is the one who can prevail in no man's land.

Using personal insight and communications with her former students (both while stationed in war zones and when back in the U.S.), in No Man's Land Samet provides a thoughtful, work-in-progress look at the practice of presenting the broad wisdom of the humanities to technology-driven, mission-focused soldiers. No Man's Land is a sensitive, thoughtful look at the education of America's future military leaders by a savvy, invested professor. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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