In the recent past I have taught US History Survey courses at a community college on the banks of the Bosque. (I still teach for them online, but now only do a course on Christian History and Traditions).

And I think I left out something important. In a two-semester survey course, I covered politics, territorial and economic expansion, arguments over and expansions of the concept and practice of "liberty," foreign relations (especially in the second semester), some cultural history, and probably a few other things. But, I hardly ever lectured on military history. I did hit a few basics for each war, but let the assigned reading (with lists of required People, Places, and Things for each chapter) carry the load. And, I knew full well that most of my students would read the main textbook haphazardly, if at all. They soon figured out that attendance on and attention to the lectures could earn them a B, without reading the main narrative text (with a bit of lucky guesswork, they might even manage an A).

I think I was wrong. (more below)

The American electorate today is very impatient with war, and with its conduct. Part of the reason, I think, is a lack of historical context. For example, I am reading David Hackett Fischer's Washington's Crossing. Today while waiting for my wife in a doctor's office, I covered his account of the loss of New York City to the British forces and the subsequent retreat across New Jersey. Disaster, miscommunication, bad decisions, lack of training and cohesion. The Continental army with the militias did not aquit itself well. Officers were inexperienced and made bad decisions. Washington had earlier had a confrontation with his only good calvary unit over discipline, the result being that they went home. He therefore lacked good intelligence on enemy movements. Most colonial units bolted before the British Regulars, Scots, and Hessians most of the time. Officers blamed the privates, privates blamed the officers, and lots of people blamed Washington. A debacle.

But not at all unusual. War is perhaps the most complex human undertaking. Factors from decision making to training to weather to politics to manufacturing to character to terrain all factor in. And America's wars have not been very efficient, especially at the beginning of the conflict. The Revolution had lots of fodder for the popular press. The War of 1812 saw the burning of the new capitol city. The Civil War cost tens of thousands of lives through bad decisions and other factors. (Lee may have lost Gettysburg because his cavalry was negligently out of touch with him at a crucial time.) The Spanish-American War exposed weaknesses that prompted organizational changes after the war. And what would the NYT have done with its Battle of the Bulge coverage if the same folks working for the paper today had been working then. Or Operation Market Garden.

My point is that perhaps most Americans are too ignorant of military history for a healthy free society. And I may have been part of the problem, in my small way.

And don't get me started on jounalists. Journalism should never be a college major. It should be a minor with a major in an actual academic discipline. Journalists, I am convinced, don't have the necessary knowledge for proper context either. Plus, now that the WW2 generation is retired, very, very few reporters have actual military experience. They don't have a clue.