Thursday, July 19, 2018

From the Archive: Haiku for Military Pros

In January 2017, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tom Ricks, who was then writing the "Best Defense" blog for Foreign Policy magazine, conducted a micro-essay contest (150-word maximum) on the theme: "What should a military professional profess?"

(Ricks has since moved his military affairs blog to the website Task & Purpose. There, it's now called "The Long March.")

"It isn’t as easy as it sounds," he wrote, describing the purpose of his informal contest. "It can’t be just 'patriotic,' because it should have application to the militaries of other countries. […] I’m asking this now because I suspect we will see some tests of military professionalism in the coming weeks and months."

Read the full pitch for the original feature here.

Inspired by Ricks' challenge of brevity, poet Randy Brown ("Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire") memorably responded with seven pithy insights in haiku form. The result was published at the "Best Defense" blog Jan. 24, 2017. Given that world events seem to increasingly support Ricks' premise—that our military leaders must navigate an ever-shifting professional terrain—we thought to revisit the haiku here:
A practice of war

involves daily sacrifice.

The job is a trade.

This we will defend:

Constitution, people, land.

(The order matters.)

Any rag-bag Joe

who ever raised their right hand?

Now also, my kin.

The only glory

one should seek is the respect
of one’s own soldiers.

“Secret” means secret.

Loose lips sink ships, lives, careers.

Keep your big trap shut.

Your moral compass

should be red-light readable

for work in the dark.

Share knowledge freely.

A lesson-learned is like cheap


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