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1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – “Like War,” written by P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking is a book on the Chief of Staff of the Army reading list that focuses on the weaponization of social media. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – “The Social Dilemma,” directed by Jeff Orlowski and Written by Orlowski, Davis Coombe and Vickie Curtis. The movie demonstrates how powerful social media is, which is why it made it to the Chief of Staff of the Army reading list. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
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3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – “The Future is Faster Than You Think,” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler that forecasts the speed at which technology is advancing and how the world will change as a result. The book is a recommendation on the Chief of Staff reading list. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

By Lt. Col. (retired) MARK LESLIE


FORT POLK, La. — This Chief of Staff of the Army reading list review will be unlike my other reviews in a few unique ways.

One, I will be discussing three separate titles off of the Chief’s reading list including “Like War,” The Social Dilemma (available on Netflix) and “Faster Than You Think” (available in traditional book form or through e-book).

Second, I didn’t read all of these. I read “Like War” around Thanksgiving last year, watched “The Social Dilemma” (as the CSA directs) during Christmas and listened to “Faster Than You Think” as I drove to and from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while visiting my son and family in January.

The CSA is deliberate in his selections for the reading list and it is my personal belief he is using this reading list as one of many methods to change the way leaders in the Army think and subsequently, our culture and approach to war and warfare.

The Army and Department of Defense, in general, are transforming the approach to warfare — to include cross-domain operations that bring the Army into the next century and prepare us not only for the fights of tomorrow, but today.

The Army has recognized that warfare is changing, as evidenced by the release of “TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028” in December of 2018.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend that you at least pick it up and become somewhat familiar with it before diving into any of the three CSA titles above.

The pamphlet is a good “primer” to get the reader ready for what the Chief wants you to get out of these reads. It will help the leader reader know what to look for and what to take back from these reads to their formation.

To drive rapid, non-linear solutions in Army doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership and education, personnel, facilities and policy, the leader must first understand the operational environment. To understand that environment, the above three titles are essential and are a good primer for the much anticipated release of the Army manual of Multi-Domain Operations, hopefully in June.

I will give you an introduction to each of the three titles that I think the Chief wants us to study as leaders to be better postured, prepared, trained and educated to execute warfare in the multiple domains in which we must operate, not only in the future, but now — as the war in Ukraine so clearly demonstrates.

“Like War,” by P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking

I read this one off the list the old fashioned way, as a traditional book, and I am glad I did. In my opinion, it is a “must” read for every leader in our Army. I have more pages “dog-eared” and things underlined and highlighted than not. This read is basically a text-book on how to execute a credible information narrative through cross-domain actions that communicate and counter threats in the cyber-space domain. While the first third of the book is dedicated to how this domain evolved into the “super-shaper” of the operational environment that it is today and the latter third is slightly politically tainted, the majority of the book is chock full of nuggets that apply to today’s “pre-battlefield” cyber domain and “Like War” elements that are indispensable.

As an added bonus, in the chapter 9 conclusion, the Joint Readiness Training Center is highlighted for its Social Media Environment and Internet Replication (SMEIR). This SMEIR accounts for the internet as a battlefield and should change how the military leader thinks about information. This book is superb and of all three in this review the highest rated at 4.5 Anvils out of a max score of five anvils.

“The Social Dilemma,” directed by Jeff Orlowski and written by Orlowski, Davis Coombe and Vickie Curtis

The main point of this movie, and why I think the Chief put it on the list, is to demonstrate just how powerful social media is and how it can be used to influence and manipulate not only a society, but an operational environment as well.

Social media has been “weaponized” to put it bluntly. For us as an Army, to not fully use this medium to positively influence and condition the global operational environment would be a mistake. Take the time to watch it and see how whole generations of people across the globe are influenced into action (or inaction) by social media. What I liked about this movie was the multiple interviews with all types of experts. The insight and perspective provided to the leader is invaluable. Social media today makes the 1938 broadcast of “War of the Worlds,” where Americans were convinced that we were being attacked by aliens, look like child’s play. In the information age of today, this kind of “attack” or “conditioning” of the OE is happening thousands of times every minute across the globe. This one earns three out of five anvils on the scale.

“Faster Than You Think,” by Peter H. Diaminds and Steven Kotler

An excellent read that will blow your mind when the authors brilliantly forecast the speed at which technology is advancing and how the world will change as a result. The authors tackle the impact of technology in just about everything in our lives — transportation, retail, advertising, education, health, entertainment, food, finance and more.

I listened to this title on an audio book and really enjoyed the interjections and breaks that they would take from the book itself and talk with the authors. Their insight and reflections on their writing a few years later is insightful and worthy of reflection and consideration.

Overall, a nice addition to the audio book. What made the “light come on” for me as to why the Chief wanted us to read this book was the line; “we will see more change in the next ten years than our parents saw in a lifetime.” To me, that is a very powerful statement, and likely accurate and telling for the leader reader.

The operational environment is going to change rapidly, producing more vulnerabilities and threats than the military and industry can likely develop and procure to protect these vulnerabilities.

The OE will be expanded, broader and more dangerous than ever before. It will be up to the leader to recognize and react to a rapidly transforming technology environment. Overall, a great read and rightly earns four out of five anvils on the scale.