New Book Criticizes Old War College

Howard Wiarda's book on the National War College is based on his experiences from 1991 to 1996.

Tom Ricks points to a newish book by Howard J. Wiarda titled Military Brass vs. Civilian Academics at the National War College: A Clash of Cultures and cites these conclusions:

1. The War College was extremely authoritarian and top-down. It did not function like any college (lower case) that I’d ever seen. It was not a ‘college’ or ‘university’ at all but a military base run on a command system. It had not made the compromises necessary to be both a military institution and a serious teaching and educational institution.

2. The curriculum … was more like a manual in a technical school than a serious graduate curriculum.

3. … There was no room for new or original ideas …

8. I don’t think the military brass who run NWC … have the foggiest notion of what a college or university is all about.”

There’s just a wee problem with all this: The book is apparently a “memoir” based on his time on the faculty there. Checking the CV posted on Wiarda’s website, I find that his stint at National War College took place from 1991 to 1996! That means he started there two decades ago and left fifteen years ago.

Now, Wiarda has been busy with various fellowships, running a department, speaking engagements, and cranking out voluminous amounts of publications. So, I can see why a book tangentially related to his scholarship wasn’t on the front burner. But it’s not at all inconceivable that the National War College has changed a mite in the intervening period.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JKB says:

    He also seems to take a narrow view of what a college is and how it should operate. And for some reason feels the War College should operate like the institutions that are increasingly failing to provide value to their students education. Two and three are problematic if substantiated in the preceding discussion that led to these conclusions.