Friday, September 21, 2007

Michael Mazarr

Michael Mazarr is the author, most recently, of Unmodern Men in the Modern World: Radical Islam, Terrorism, and the War on Modernity, published by Cambridge University Press.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm a professor at an American War College, which is a timely, slightly depressing, but also heartening (given the amazing quality and inspirational character of our students) vocation to have at the moment, all events considered. My reading lately has been in support of my teaching and curriculum design work. Just a few examples: We naturally read Sun Tzu; but to complement that I also re-read major parts of the Tao Te Ching, the Mair translation. Absorbing the worldview of the piece is a sobering reminder of just how linear our American perspective remains -- something on tragic display in our strategy, I tend to think.

The times call for nothing so much as Nietzsche, I try to insist to my students; any of his own works are essential; The Birth of Tragedy, The Geneology of Morals, Thus Spake you-know-who and so forth, but a guidebook that I read recently and really enjoyed was Lee Spinks, Friedrich Nietzsche (Routledge, 2003). Nietzsche knew of alienation in the face of modernity, and thus helps us understand some of the basis for the extremism at large in the world today. He knew about willful peoples' devotion to their perspectives and projects, and thus helps explain how a few people with a powerful idea can draw a nation to an ill-thought-through war.

Finally at home I am reading and re-reading (and re-re-reading) Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. In my humble view, no wiser guidebook for life exists -- especially if you own small children with an affinity for mud, paint and homemade weaponry.
Mazarr joined the faculty of the National War College in May 2002. He spent much of his career in research organizations, serving, among other positions, as a senior project director and journal editor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and president and CEO of the Henry L. Stimson Center. He also worked as a senior defense aide and speechwriter on Capitol Hill, and as senior vice president of an industry association in the Washington area. Earlier he served for seven years in the U.S. Naval Reserve, joining as an enlisted intelligence specialist and later gaining a direct commission. He has BA and MA degrees from Georgetown and a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Maryland. He has authored numerous books, edited five anthologies, and published many articles, most on various aspects of U.S. defense policy and international security.

--Marshal Zeringue