Monday, July 16, 2012


"Sheridan once explained the reason of General Grant's victories by saying that 'while his opponents were kept fully employed wondering what he was going to do, HE was thinking most of what he was going to do himself.'"
-Gen William Sherman, as quoted in The Art of War

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sun Tzu

"As Tu Mu says, 'to plan secretly, to move surreptitiously, to foil the enemy's intentions and balk his schemes, so that at last the day may be won without shedding a drop of blood.'"
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Friday, July 13, 2012


'As Sterne says, "We don't love people so much for the good they have done us, as for the good we have done them."'
-Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Thursday, July 12, 2012


"No man is so wise but that he may learn some wisdom from his past errors, either of thought or action; and no society has made such advances as to be capable of no improvement from the retrospect of its past folly and credulity."
-Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


"Nations, like individuals, cannot become desperate gamblers with impunity.  Punishment is sure to overtake them sooner or later."
-Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds

Monday, July 9, 2012


"Research consistently finds that people who focus on status and materialism are more likely to be depressed, and those who focus on close relationships are happier."
-Jean M. Twenge, Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sun Tzu

"All warfare is based on deception."
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sun Tzu

"If pacific negotiations are in progress, warlike preparations should have been made beforehand."
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Thursday, July 5, 2012


"There is a demonstrated need to achieve better balance between the military and nonmilitary elements of U.S. national power, and to balance expensive, but rarely needed capabilities for conventional war-fighting with cheap but frequently needed capabilities for stabilization, reconstruction and unconventional warfare operations."
-David Kilcullen, "The Accidental Guerrilla"

Thursday, June 28, 2012


"Most of the adversaries Western powers have been fighting since 9/11 are in fact accidental guerrillas: people who fight us not because they hate the West and seek our overthrow, but because we have invaded their space to deal with a small extremist element that has manipulated and exploited local grievances to gain power in their societies."
-David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sun Tzu

"Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack."
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


"Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions."
-Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Sunday, June 24, 2012


"I rather take this quality to spring from a very common infirmity of human nature, inclining us to be most curious and conceited in matters where we have least concern, and for which we are least adapted by study or nature."
-Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

Saturday, June 23, 2012


"We have, in other words, signally failed to follow Frederick Hartmann's strategic principle of 'conservation of enemies,' which states that although enmity is a permanent feature in international relations, successful powers must avoid making, or simultaneously engaging, more enemies than absolutely necessary."
-David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


"Killing or capturing terrorists is a strictly secondary activity, because it is ultimately defensive (keeping today's terrorists at bay) rather than decisive (preventing future terrorism).  Conversely, programs that address the underlying conditions that terrorists exploit (thus preventing another crop of terrorists from simply replacing those we kill or capture today) are ultimately decisive.  Clearly, like any military or law enforcement strategy, countering AQ requires both the kill/capture of current terrorists and programs to counter their ideology and address the underlying conditions they exploit."
-David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Quincy Adams

"America...goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy...She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.  The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.  The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence, but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power.  She might become the dictatress of the world:  she would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit."
-John Quincy Adams, as Secretary of State, Address on the Anniversary of Independence (July 4th, 1821)

Sunday, June 17, 2012


"I had one quality possessed by neither of my teachers: a detachment from the business and the firm...It is extremely useful in a young career because it leaves you fearless.  I had the same advantage of recklessness as a driver in a traffic jam with a rent-a-car.  The worst anyone could do to my rent-a-career was take it away, and though I did not actively court that fate, the thought of losing my job didn't trouble me as much as it troubled lifers.  That is not to say I didn't care; I cared immensely.  I thrived on praise more than most and thus sought to please.  But I was willing to take greater risks than if I had felt deeply proprietary about my career.  I was, for instance, willing to disobey my superiors, and that caused them to sit up and take notice far more quickly than if I had been a good solider."
-Michael Lewis, Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street

Friday, June 15, 2012


"Naysayers are everywhere. They feel it's the safest position to be in. It's the easiest armor to wear...And they may be right in their negativity; reality may be on their side. But chances are very good that it's not. You can only use their naysaying as one line the spectrum of inputs to your decision. Listen to everyone you need to, and then go with your fearless instinct.

Each of us must work to become a hardheaded realist, or else we risk wasting our time and energy pursuing impossible dreams. Yet constant naysayers pursue no less impossible dreams. Their fear and cynicism move nothing forward. They kill progress. How many cynics built empires, great cities, or powerful corporations?"
-Colin Powell, It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership

Thursday, June 14, 2012


"To succeed, planning alone is insufficient.  One must improvise as well."
-Isaac Asimov, Foundation

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


"What do you mean?  What do you demand of your captain?  Are you, then, so easily turned from your design?  Did you not call this a glorious expedition?

"And wherefore was it glorious?  Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and terror, because at every new incident your fortitude was to be called forth and your courage exhibited, because danger and death surrounded it, and these you were to brave and overcome.  For this was it a glorious, for this was it an honorable undertaking.  You were hereafter to be hailed as the benefactors of your species, your names adored as belonging to brave men who encountered death for honour and the benefit of mankind.

"And now, behold, with the first imagination of danger, or, if you will, the first mighty and terrific trial of your courage, you shrink away and are content to be handed down as men who had not strength enough to endure cold and peril; and so, poor souls, they were chilly and returned to their warm firesides.

"Why, that requires not this preparation; ye need not have come this far and dragged your captain to the shame of a defeat merely to prove yourselves cowards.

"Oh! Be men, or be more than men.  Be steady to your purposes and firm as a rock.  This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you if you say that it shall not.

"Do not return to your families with the stigma of disgrace marked on your bros.  Return as heroes who have fought and conquered and who know not what it is to turn their backs on the foe."

-Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


"You can't control the efforts that others are putting in.  The important thing is that the people around you see that you are doing everything that you can.  So be as good as you can be.  Remember, talk is cheap, so don't tell them -- show them."
-William J. White, CEO Advice to Launce an Extraordinary Career

Monday, June 11, 2012


"To the extent that you focus on making a contribution rather than getting ahead, you will rise naturally in a company.  Your success will be seen as based on merit and worth.  Your company and colleagues will all benefit from your rise, and they will be eager to help someone they perceive as helpful to others."
-William J White, "From Day One:  CEO Advice to Launce an Extraordinary Career"

Sunday, June 10, 2012


"The factors of numbers, climate and communications favoured us in Mesopotamia more than in Syria; and our higher command was, after the beginning, no less efficient and experienced.  But their casualty lists compared with Allenby's, their wood-chopping tactics compared with his rapier-play, showed how formidably an adverse political situation was able to cramp a purely military operation."
-T.E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


"However, as this was not the way of the directing parties there, I returned at once to Egypt; and till the end of the war of the British in Mesopotamia remained substantially an alien force invading enemy territory, with the local people passively neutral or sullenly against them, and in consequence had not the freedom of movement and elasticity of Allenby in Syria, who entered the country as a friends, with the local people actively on his side."
-T.E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


"Yet with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury
Do I take part:
The rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance:"
-William Shakespeare

Monday, June 4, 2012


"You don't have to explain something you haven't said."
-"Silent" Calvin Coolidge

Sunday, June 3, 2012


"The seeker is never so popular as the sought.  People want what they can't get."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Saturday, June 2, 2012


"A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least 4 questions:
  1. What am I trying to say, and why?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or ideas will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
And he will probably ask himself two more:
  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?"
-George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"

Friday, June 1, 2012


"But how do you go about handing in your resignation to God? be obliged to admit to yourself that infallibility is not infallible, that there may be error in dogma, that the code does not always have the last word, society is not perfect, authority is ambiguous and can vacillate, the immutable can crack, the law can be mistaken, the court can be wrong!"
-Victor Hugo, "Les Mis"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


"To sacrifice duty, that all encompassing obligation, to personal motives, and to feel in those personal motives something that was also all encompassing, and perhaps, superior; to betray society in order to remain true to your conscience -- that all these things should happen and should come and heap themselves upon him, absolutely floored him."
-Victory Hugo, Les Mis

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


"Then again, oddly enough, the first symptom of true love in a young man is timidity, in a young woman, daring.  This never ceases to amaze people, and yet nothing could be simpler.  It is just the two sexes coming together, and each taking on the characteristics of the other."
-Victory Hugo, Les Mis

Friday, May 25, 2012


"There was a mysteriousness in meeting them and wondering what kind of human resided inside the cocoon, and rarely have I been as aware of women, or as fascinated by them, as I was in Afghanistan, where I saw none."
-James Michener, Caravans


"Knowing she was beautiful, she felt thoroughly, if indistinctly, that she had a weapon.  Women play on their beauty as children play with knives, and they hurt themselves on it too."
-Victor Hugo, Les Mis

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


"He had never really thought about what the beauty of a woman was, but he instinctively understood that it was devastating."
-Victor Hugo, Les Mis 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


"Theodule was, I think we said, the favorite of dear old aunt Gillenormand, who preferred him because she never saw him.  Not seeing people allows you to think of them as perfect in all kinds of ways."
-Victor Hugo, Les Mis

Monday, May 21, 2012


"It is not given to princes, statesmen and captains to pierce the mysteries of the future, and even the most penetrating gaze reaches only conclusions which, however seemingly vindicated at a given moment, are inexorably effaced by time."
-Winston Churchill

Sunday, May 20, 2012


"You know, in war, you don't have to be nice.  You only have to be right."
-Winston Churchill

Saturday, May 19, 2012


"Military organizations may be understood not simply as professional organizations, but as political communities that struggle internally over fundamental issues.  They determine who will live and die, and how; who will be honored and who will sit on the sidelines when war occurs."
-Stephen Rosen, as quoted by Eliot Cohen in Supreme Command

Friday, May 18, 2012


"Historical judgement of war is subject to an inflexible law, either very imperfectly understood or very constantly lost sight of.  Military writers love to fight over the campaigns of history exclusively by the rules of the professional chess board, always subordinating, often totally ignoring, the element of politics.  This is a radical error.  Every war is begun, dominated, and ended by political considerations.  Without a nation, without a government, without money or credit, without popular enthusiasm which furnishes volunteers, or public support which endures conscription, there could be no Army and no war...War and politics, campaign and statecraft, are Siamese Twins, inseparable and interdependent; and to talk of military operations without the direction and interference of an administration is as absurd as to plan a campaign without recruits, pay or rations."
-Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History

Thursday, May 17, 2012


"The peculiar thing about prudery is that the less the fortress is under siege, the more it puts sentries around."
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


"The greatest of the Chosen Ones misread things in this way.  Our Joys are shadows.  The ultimate smile is God's alone."
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


"Most victories come from instantly exploiting your enemy's stupid mistakes, and not from any particular brilliance in your own plan."
-Orson Scott Card, Shadow of the Hegemon

Monday, May 14, 2012


"In government, one of the great undervalued strengths is the power of conviction."
-Les Gelb, Council on Foreign Relations. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012


"A prudent commander should be modest in his aspirations, conscience of his limitations, and sparing with his exhortations."
-Eliot Cohen, Supreme Command

Saturday, May 12, 2012


"Never criticize a policy unless you can convincingly depict a better course of action."
-Raymond Aron, as quoted by Eliot Cohen in "Supreme Command"

Thursday, May 10, 2012


"In the words of Stephen Jay Gould, 'When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown.'"
-Thomas Gilovich, How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason In Everyday Life

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


"I don't intend to die.  But I'm not afraid of the risk of death. Sometimes a soldier has to put himself in harm's way in order to achieve victory."
-Orson Scott Card, Ender in Exile

Monday, May 7, 2012


"Leading is a strange thing.  People see it happening, but they don't have a clue how it works."
-Orson Scott Card, Ender in Exile


"Valentine well knew that complacency was the best possible attitude for one's rival and opponents to have."
-Orson Scott Card, Ender in Exile

Friday, May 4, 2012


"Every officer learns how to function within the system that promoted him."
-Orson Scott Card, Ender in Exile

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


"In short, they had to think of the user of their work -- they needed to get information to him or to his staff in time for him to be able to read it and use it."
-Robert Gates, From the Shadows

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


"Keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent."
-Robert Greene

Monday, April 30, 2012


"The North Vietnamese called this strategy the 'Blooming Lotus.'  It has deep roots in Asian military thinking, and its applications go far beyond war.  Instead of focusing on an enemy's formidable front, on capturing key points in the periphery of its defenses, and finding a way through them (the traditional Western approach), the Lotus Strategy aims first and foremost at the center...The soft and vulnerable parts within. The goal is to funnel soldiers and confederates into this central area by whatever means possible and to attack it first in order to spread confusion.  Rather than trying to penetrate defenses, it infiltrates them.  This includes the minds of the enemy soldiers and officers -- strategizing to get under their skin, to unbalance their reasoning powers, to soften them from within.  As with the lotus flower, everything unfolds from the center of the target."
-Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Sunday, April 29, 2012


"A mind captivated by a story is relatively undefended and open to suggestion.  Readers barely notice that in reading these stories, they are absorbing ideas."
-Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Saturday, April 28, 2012


"First, it is wise to pick a fight with an enemy you can portray as authoritarian, hypocritical and power hungry.  Using all available media, you strike first with a moral offensive against the opponent's points of vulnerability.  You make your language strong and appealing to the masses, and craft it, if you can, to give people the opportunity to express a hostility they already feel.  You quote your enemies own words back at them.  To make your attacks seem fair, almost disinterested, you create a moral taint that sticks to them like glue.  Baiting them into heavy handed counterattack will win you even more popular support.  Instead of trumpeting your own goodness -- which would make you seem smug and arrogant -- you show it through the contrast between their unreasonable actions and your own crusading deeds.  Aim at them with the most withering charge of all -- that they are after power while you are motivated by something higher and selfless."
-Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Friday, April 27, 2012


"Nothing in life happens in isolation; everything is related to everything else and has a broader context."
-Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Thursday, April 26, 2012


"Ignore the conventional wisdom about what you should or should not be doing.  It may make sense for some, but that does not mean it bears any relation to your own goals or destiny.  You need to be patient enough to plan several steps ahead -- to wage a campaign instead of fighting battles."
-Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War


"I further know that if God has something special for you, you have a knowledge of it inside you, which causes you not to be satisfied with anything that is not that thing."
-Leonard Cheshire

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

John Paul

"In the Designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences."
-Pope John Paul II

Monday, April 23, 2012


"But to do this he must have spoken?" [said of the mute invalid M. Nortier.]
"He has done better than that -- he has made himself understood."
-Exchange between M de Villefort and the Count of Monte Cristo, The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas

Sunday, April 22, 2012


"We might say in passing that, on this earth where nothing is perfect, being blind and being loved is one of the most strangely exquisite forms of happiness.  To constantly have at your side a woman, an unmarried woman, a sister, a wonderful person who is there because you need her and because she cannot do without you, to know that you are indispensable to the one you need, to be endlessly able to measure her affection by the amount of presence she grants you and to say to yourself, "since she devotes all her time to me, that means I have her whole heart"; to see her thoughts, if not her face, to weigh one being's faithfulness when the rest of the world has been eclipsed, to detect the rustling of her dress as though it were the sound of wings, to hear her coming and going, going out, coming back, talking, singing, and to know you are the center of every step she takes, of every word, of every song, to manifest your own gravitational pull every minute of the day, to feel yourself all the more powerful for your infirmity, to become in darkness, and through darkness, the star around which this angel revolves-- few forms of bliss come anywhere near it!  The ultimate happiness in life is the conviction that one is loved; loved for oneself--better still, loved in spite of oneself. And this conviction is what the blind have.  In distress, to be waited on is to be hugged and kissed.  Is there anything the blind man is deprived of?  No.  Having love means not losing the light.  And what love!  Love entirely pure.  Blindness does not exist where there is certainty.  The soul gropes for another soul -- and finds it.  And this soul found and tried and tested is a woman.  A hand supports you, it is hers; lips brush your forehead, hers; you hear breathing right next to you, it is her breathing.  To have all of her, from her devotion to her sympathy, never to be abandoned, to have that sweet frailty that succors you, to lean on such an unshakable reed, to touch Providence with your own hands and hold it in your arms.  God made palpable--what rapture! The heart, that dark celestial flower, bursts into mysterious bloom.  You would not trade such shade for all the light in the world.  The angel of the house is there, is always there; if she goes away, it is only to return; she fades like a dream only to reappear like reality.  You sense her approaching, and there she is.  Your cup runs over with serenity, gaiety, ecstasy; you are a beacon of light in the night.  And the countless little shows of thoughtfulness!  Little things that are enormous in the void.  The most heavenly tones of the female voice are employed to soothe you and make up to you for the vanished universe.  You are stroked with soul.  You may see nothing, but you feel adored.  It is a paradise of darkness."
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables


"The mountains, the forest, the sea, make men wild.  They bring out the fierce side of human nature, but often without destroying the human side."
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Saturday, April 21, 2012


"A Superpower should never shout, never bray 'We're Number One!'  If you're number one, you don't have to."
-Peggy Noonan, Patriotic Grace

Thursday, April 19, 2012


"Reading is the collection of intellectual income; writing the spending of it. You need to read to write, you need to take in other people's words and thoughts and images.  If you want to be a good conversationalist, you must both talk and listen; if you want to be a good writer, you must both read and write."
-Peggy Noonan, On Speaking Well

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


"But you know it's true:  When the battle is over and the ground has cooled, well, it's then that you see the opposing General's valor."
-Ronald Reagan, in tribute to John F. Kennedy, On Speaking Well

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


"A good case well argued and well said is inherently moving.  It shows respect for the brain of the listeners.  There is an implicit compliment in it.  It shows that you're a serious person and understand that you are talking to other serious persons."
-Peggy Noonan, On Speaking Well

Monday, April 16, 2012


"True Believers are what you want.  Expertise and impressive resumes matter less than character and the capacity for sacrifice."
-Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

Sunday, April 15, 2012


"All lives on a battlefield are equal, and a dead rifleman is as great a loss in the eyes of God as a dead General.  The dignity which attaches to the individual is the basis of Western civilization, and this fact should be remembered by every commander."
-General Matthew Ridgeway, as quoted in The Coldest Winter, David Halberstam

Saturday, April 14, 2012


"'You are mistaken, my friend' replied the Abbe, 'God may seem sometimes to forget for a while, whilst His justice reposes, but there always comes a moment when He remembers.'"
-Edmund Dantes, as an Abbe, The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas

Friday, April 13, 2012


"You who are in power have only the means that money produces -- we who are in expectation have those which devotion prompts."
-M. Nortier, The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas

Thursday, April 12, 2012


"[Lincoln] had his hopes and desires, but he did not commit the strategic sin that Napoleon described, of 'making pictures' of the world as one wishes it to be, rather than as it is."
-Eliot Cohen, Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen and Leadership in Wartime

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


"The language of love is simple because love is big. And big things are best said - are almost always said - in small words."
-Peggy Noonan, On Speaking Well

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


"Fleets do not work unless fed, clothed, equipped, and encouraged. They require, in other words, both a sense of their own dignity and a conviction that they are agents of freedom."
-Adam Nicholson, Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty and the Battle of Trafalger (p.33) 

Monday, April 9, 2012


David Halberstam is one of my favorite historians.   He's written about many topics, and is often an insightful critic of US engagement abroad.  His sweeping knowledge of America and powerful storytelling abilities allow his histories to come alive.  He had a keen insight into our nation. 

Thus did [America] begin an almost unwanted ascent to superpower status.  That the ascent has been more unwanted than desired is critically important to understanding how America responds to crises in foreign policy, why it does this more slowly and more awkwardly than other nations, but when finally aroused, does it with a certain finality.  Our instinct, born of geography, is to be apart.  We are a vast country, with all kinds of different ethnic factions and regions and class; we do not lightly--it is I think, in the long run, a source of both strength and tolerance -- respond too quickly for any one single purpose.  We have other preoccupations."
-War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals


"Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."
-General George S. Patton