Elizabeth D. Samet

Bureaucratic Warriors
Is Foreign Policy Any Different When It's Crafted by Veterans?
March 25, 2013

The long, confused history of warriors as policymakers.

Happy Birthday, ‘Catch-22’: Reading the Novel in a Time of War
July 06, 2011

I initially read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 while squirreled away in a Toronto hotel room during the 1997 Modern Language Association (MLA) convention. It was December, and I had just finished my first semester teaching English at West Point. Heller’s novel was a revelation—an outrageous fiction opening a window onto the various paradoxes and pathologies that characterize institutional cultures everywhere. More important, it helped me to make sense of my recent introduction to military culture. Heller’s glorious caricatures—ex-P.F.C.

Our Troops Abroad: What Does a Soldier Need to Read?
June 11, 2011

I fell in love with the BBC Radio 4 program “Desert Island Discs” years ago while living in Scotland, a place that felt a little like a desert island to me, on my own in an unfamiliar place really for the first time. The premise of the show, which first aired in 1942, is that a celebrity guest selects eight records, together with a book and a luxury item, that he or she would most wish to have if marooned on a desert island.

From Library Records to iTunes
February 22, 2011

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, West Point cadets were permitted to check books out of the library only once a week: “On Saturday afternoon,” the 1857 regulations state, “any book that a Cadet may have been reading during the week, may be taken to his quarters, on the approval of the Librarian, and shall be returned on the succeeding Monday. If not then returned, he shall be reported by the Librarian.” Decades of Saturday borrowing activity are recorded in handwritten ledgers now preserved in the archives.

Military Metamorphoses
December 31, 2010

To teach is always to be in the middle of the next story. This realization strikes me anew every autumn, as the days lose more light and my students accelerate into the end-of-semester scramble. Then, suddenly, it’s finished. But, as the old year breathes out all around me in a welter of regret, missed opportunities, and diminished returns, I already have my eye on the next class, the next batch of students, the chance to do it all again—maybe better.

Sherlock Holmes, the Superhero
November 08, 2010

A battle rages within many college students of my acquaintance between a certain bravado meant to signal there’s nothing they don’t know and a looming suspicion there’s nothing they do. It’s the same battle that rages in the rest of us, but with age we grow more adept at concealing it.

Why Are Athletes and Soldiers So Superstitious?
September 27, 2010

In baseball, streaks are something to write home about: Cal Ripken, Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive appearances; Joe DiMaggio’s 56 straight games with a hit, and—this one’s still alive—Ichiro Suzuki’s ten seasons in a row with at least 200 hits.

Edith Wharton’s War
September 06, 2010

Edith Wharton is not a writer most of us probably associate with war. With the frosty, treacherous, yet bloodless drawing-room battles of Gilded Age New York, yes. With the stink and smoking gore of a trench on the Western Front, no. And yet there Wharton was in France, for the duration of World War I: working vigorously on behalf of numerous charities and relief organizations, sending dispatches from the front back to American readers, publicly and privately making the case for the United States to join the fight.

Edith Wharton’s War
September 06, 2010

Edith Wharton is not a writer most of us probably associate with war. With the frosty, treacherous, yet bloodless drawing-room battles of Gilded Age New York, yes. With the stink and smoking gore of a trench on the Western Front, no. And yet there Wharton was in France, for the duration of World War I: working vigorously on behalf of numerous charities and relief organizations, sending dispatches from the front back to American readers, publicly and privately making the case for the United States to join the fight.

Homecoming
July 19, 2010

A text message instructed me to report to a midtown Manhattan sports bar, where I would find the members of the expedition recharging before the next day’s exertions. I was meeting two of them for the first time, yet, even over the din, conversation was natural and easy. Dan, lean and earnest, spoke of his last assignment in the Army and added, with that distant, intense gaze I’ve now seen many times, that his old unit had recently deployed again.

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