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United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Quantico Virginia – October 1995

The following is a true story. The morning of October 25, 1995, I was a student at the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Quantico, Virginia.  I went to the computer to download my final paper in the course the Strategic Level of War. I had spent the past couple of days writing, rereading, and directly focusing the paper to ensure it had the correct font and was grammatically correct. I saved the final copy on my desktop computer, but I did not back it up.  The following morning, I attempted to locate the file, upload, and print the final copy; and, to my surprise and dismay, discovered that it was nowhere to be found on my computer. To date, I do not know what happened. The only thing that I can admit to is that I was a neophyte, when it came to computers back then…not very savvy at all.

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The paper was due in by 9:00 a.m.  I swallowed hard and had this large lump in my throat and a sinking feeling.  It was about 7:30 a.m. My initial thought was to contact the instructor, whose name I cannot remember, and just be honest and tell him what happened.  I quickly mentally scrapped that idea, because of the “zero defect mentality“ in the military at the time. I felt I would never academically and professionally recover at the school from such an honest admission.  The truth did not matter.

The only solution was to try to make it right. So…even though I had almost run out of time and had metaphorically dropped the baton, I had to pick it up, and keep on running the race and not quit. I took a deep breath and grabbed my school bag and hurriedly went through it looking for the 3.5 inch floppy disk, where I had saved the original rough draft of the paper with the points that I wanted to discuss, but had not fully developed and expounded upon.  I found the disk, and began to quickly read and skim through it not focusing on the content, but on spelling and grammatical errors; and, thinking and saying to myself words to the effect: I cannot believe this is happening to me. I had a chance to read through it once. I found and corrected some mistakes, but did not catch all of them, before I ran out of time.  And, I did not notice in my haste that the fonts were different. And, in some of my deletions and corrections, I had drawn the bibliography page onto my summary page.  Subsequently, I ran out of time, printed a copy, and went off to class nervous and shaken, but I turned in my paper on time. I had to use hope as a strategy.

A few weeks later, I received the paper back from the instructor of which I received the grade of a “B.” I exhaled and took that; did not complain; and, silently said to myself…in the future I will do better next time, and I will not be caught in this type of situation again in the age of the computer.  So, I apologize to the readers of the ensuing attached course paper.  By my writing standards today, the instructor was generous. I thought the outcome was going to be far worse.

The reason that I want to share the paper to a larger academic audience, is because in a look back, retrospectively, in reading the paper today in 2020, I found it profoundly relevant, prophetic, and even a sense of foreboding.  The paper is unedited and unchanged. It is as it was written twenty-five years ago. Back then, in 1995, my focus and mindset was to talk about the interconnection and interplay of national and geopolitical factors that impact our national security strategy.  Unbelievably, they still exist and are realities today.

They were: (1) The rising level of crime and specifically, in American cities in the recent past such as Chicago, Illinois, Baltimore, Maryland, and St. Louis Missouri. (2) The drug problem in America has morphed from cocaine and crack of the 1980s to opioids and methamphetamines of today whose death rate have impacted American longevity. Longevity and health have a significant impact on our national security and ensuing strategies. (3) The disintegration of America by silent forces pitting Americans against each other. (4) Racial disharmony, it has been established that we have always been a divided nation among racial lines.  And, one could extrapolate that we are even more divided in the recent past, and there has been a rise in hate groups. (5) An increase in international and domestic terrorism. The Oklahoma City bombing, the attack and fall of the twin tower buildings in New York City in September 2001; the domestic terrorist attack in churches and Islamic mosques, schools, colleges, and stores. (6) Mass migration upsetting the social strata in America and causing further disharmony, discourse, and division among races, political parties, and belief lines. (7) Imports and tariff laws and wars with Japan and China that impact our economy and American way of life. (8) Climate change and the protection of our environment before it is too late and we have reached an unrecoverable tipping point. (9) Deficit spending and jobs programs are still relevant issues today. (10) NATO engagement and world policies; and (11) weapons of mass destruction, which was the focal point of the second Persian Gulf War in 2006.

All of these 10 points interconnect and interplay and impact in real and strategic ways our national interests and national security strategy in the maintaining and sustainment of our democracy and American way of life. To me they were relevant back then and even more relevant today. The point back then was that we cannot bury our heads in the sand…that there has to a thin line of demarcation between over-involvement and overreaching and a staunch and strident isolationist.  If we pretend that we do not see and hear obvious problems and concerns and disengage and look the other way, because of the interconnection and interplay of a globally connected world, the same problems that we see afar, will be in our back yard.  For the reader today, is this premise or assertion still true?

The Strategic Level of War Paper

 

Curtis Wray is a United States Navy 21-year veteran, a retired enlisted and commissioned Surface Warfare Officer. He has over 21 years in the Virginia Workforce Development System with experience at the Virginia Employment Commission (1999 – 2007) in job services, unemployment insurance, and a passion for the art of Rapid Response service delivery, providing this service while at the Virginia Employment Commission (2006 – 2007 and 2017 – present); the Governor’s Office for Workforce Development 2007 – 2008; the Virginia Community College System (2008 – 2010); and, Thomas Nelson Community College (2010 – 2017).