Weekly reflection 2016–26

This was a pretty cool week, setting up some big changes in the next few weeks and months.


  • Exchanged some ideas on a paper on group emergence after military interventions with my coauthor, Christopher Linebarger.
  • Sent some ideas on a paper on the strategic benefits of military interventions to my coauthor, Isaac Castellano.
  • Took an interest in the concepts of moral hazard and self-fulfilling prophecies. We already see moral hazard discussed quite a bit with humanitarian interventions, but I’ve thought about other applications as well. I also thought about tying the fear of a moral hazard, yet a desire to do something, anything, with self-fulfilling prophecy (if you act while worried something will happen, you may inadvertently cause that something to happen).


I’m giving two 45-minute talks on foundational theories of civil–military relations. I sent a few articles as assigned readings to prepare for my presentations in Sweden:

Burk, James. 2002. “Theories of Democratic Civil–Military Relations.” Armed Forces & Society 29(1): 7–29.

Coletta, Damon and Peter D. Feaver. 2006. “Civilian Monitoring of U.S. Military Operations in the Information Age.” Armed Forces & Society 33(1): 106–126.

Feaver, Peter. 1996. “The Civil–Military Problematique: Huntington, Janowitz, and the Question of Civilian Control.” Armed Forces & Society 23(2): 149–178.

Feaver, Peter. 1998. “Crisis as Shirking: An Agency Theory Explanation of the Souring of American Civil–Military Relations.” Armed Forces & Society 24(3): 407–434.

Herspring, Dale. 2009. “Civil–Military Relations in the United States and Russia: An Alternative Approach.” Armed Forces & Society 35(4): 667–687.


I came up with a nifty approach to combining free writing, presenting, peer review, and speed dating in my face-to-face Basic Political Institutions course. The students have worked on case studies for the past two weeks, learning about a specific leader and an issue at stake for that leader.

After telling them to clear off their desks except for a single sheet of paper, I asked them a few questions about the leaders and cases they selected. The point was to see what they knew and did not know off the tops of their heads. If they could not answer a question, I told them to write the question and put a big question mark to review later. This took about twenty minutes.

I then had them pair up and sit on the edges of the room. There are ten in the class, so this made for a nice set of five pairs distributed around the room. I then told the students who had just moved to meet their partners to present their cases. After about three minutes, I told them to switch presenters if they had not already. In the meantime, the partner asks questions and provides suggestions throughout. After another couple minutes, I told them to stop.

Then I rotated one member of each pair clockwise, so that five new pairs formed. Again, I told the students who had just moved to present their cases to their new partners. I repeated the three-minutes/switch/two-minutes process. I then told the partners who hadn’t moved yet to rotate counter-clockwise, again producing five new pairs, told the students who had just moved to being presenting, and repeated the three-minutes/switch/two-minutes process. I continued this a few more times. Each cycle takes about five minutes, and we went through six times. (I eventually had to shuffle them up so that those in the same rotation group could present to each other.)

All together, this took about an hour, and each student presented his or her case six times to a unique audience. Although the student may be getting tired of the topic by the end, each new partner has never heard about the case before, so the presenter constantly refines what is known and what matters about his or her case. It also worked as an icebreaker, while every student had to physically get up and move around every ten minutes.

It’s key that the students clear their areas before beginning for two reasons:

  1. I want them to see what they can recall about their cases and what they actually know about what they recall. This way they find out what they can review or investigate further.
  2. All the tables are clean and everything is packed when they start moving around the room.

This worked great in a small class, but it could also work in a large class. Just repeat the cycles as many times as you want, and each time each student will give a unique presentation to a different audience.


I have a small pile of books and articles ready to go once my face-to-face class ends in two weeks.


I’ve had the Armed Forces & Society editorial office order a copy of Going to War? Trends in Military Interventions, edited by Stéfanie von Hlatky and H. Christian Breede.

I commissioned Jordan Tama to review Red Team: How to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy by Micah Zenko.


I posted a guide on how to develop a personal uniform.

I should have a post out next week on how not to look ridiculous with your email.


I will teach a section of University Seminar this fall semester, a one-hour mandatory course that introduces first-year students to college life.


After receiving a lower-than-expected appraisal, the sellers accepted our revised offer—at appraisal value—on a house, so my wife, our dog, and I will be proud first-time homeowners on July 11!

Tweet of the week

I hope you enjoyed this reflection, and I look forward to presenting more. If anything piqued your interest, let me know! I’ll follow up with a specific post or two.

Also, if you’re looking for help with your writing, or if you’re sick of Microsoft Word and want to learn a better writing platform, get in touch.

Jeremy L. Wells

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