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ANDREW MARSHALL : ONE OF THE GREATEST MINDS EVER


















The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy 





Hardcover – January 6, 2015



by Andrew F. Krepinevich (Author), Barry D. Watts (Author)








http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Warrior-Marshall-American/dp/0465030009











The Last Warrior

By John Mauldin





Remember those picture problems we had to solve when we were in elementary school? They would give us six pictures and ask us, which one doesn’t belong? I often feel like that odd picture, out of place but still on the page. There are moments when I feel like I’m really living in a dream, that I will wake up and find myself back in some mundane existence. Lately (in the past few years) I have often found myself in the company of truly extraordinary people and later wondered why I have been privileged to be there.




A few weeks ago I was invited to a small reception in Washington DC for Andrew Marshall. Andy Marshall, 93½ years old, was director of the United States Department of Defense's Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon’s internal think tank, under 12 defense secretaries and 8 administrations. Appointed to the position in 1973 by President Richard Nixon, Marshall was reappointed by every president that followed. He is the longest-serving and oldest federal employee in history.





The reception was to honor him on his recent retirement. 


To say that he has been the most influential person in US defense and intelligence thinking in the last 50 years is no exaggeration. 


It is almost impossible to overstate his influence. 



He was at the heart of US nuclear strategy in the ’50s and ’60s and was the first to recognize that the CIA assessment of Russia was incorrect in the mid-’70s. 



He developed the concept of “net assessment,” and Nixon created an office in the Pentagon just for him to pursue that work. 



In the late ’80s, as we were still faced off with Russia (which is the stance he had urged in the ’70s), he began to beat the drum that China would be our chief preoccupation in the next decade.




In the ’80s he was beginning to talk about the need to shift to precision warfare. He saw that need before any of the generals did, as he has almost every other shift in weaponry. He was on top of everything. His sources were legendary. 


He is one of the most amazing futurists on the planet. He truly seems to possess the ability to tease out significant insights regarding the future direction not just of defense systems but also of markets and national trends from seemingly unrelated data. 



The Russians were obsessed with his thinking. 


Even the Chinese have officially recognized that he was “one of the most important and influential figures” in changing their thinking about defense in the 1990s and 2000s.




He has served both Republican and Democratic administrations, quietly and in the background. The strong odds are that you have never heard of him. But, no matter where you live in the world, you have been influenced by his thinking. 



And you have heard of the names of those who went to school at what is called “St. Andrews Prep.” 



As recently as 2012, Foreign Policy named Marshall among its “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” “for thinking way, way outside the Pentagon box.” 


Try being named a top global thinker at any time in your life, let alone at age 90 years.




I looked around the room at the reception and saw a lot of faces I recognized. Some were from the two weeklong summer events I participated in at the Naval War College, where we debated and theorized with Andy Marshall about possible contingent events that might happen to the United States in the future and how the country should prepare for the occurrence of non-consensus events.




As people were later introduced, though, I realized that I recognized only those associated with Republican administrations. Talk about a personal bias – there were probably as many people in attendance from Democratic administrations.




I recognized Vice-President Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and various secretaries, deputy secretaries, assistant secretaries, and deputy assistant secretaries of the Defense Department. As I was talking with Mr. Wolfowitz, he introduced me to Scooter Libby, whom I did not recognize, I’m embarrassed to say. Libby is a man who was as unjustly persecuted as any man in the history of this country, in my humble opinion. They couldn’t get to Cheney, so they went after Scooter for very obscure and who-gives-a-damn reasons. Collateral damage and all that. I hate that partisan bullshit, no matter which side shovels it on.



Andy Marshall, however, didn’t care what your politics were; he just wanted you to think about what was best for the country.




I’ve often been somewhat puzzled as to why Mr. Marshall invited me into his coterie. We initially met at two three-hour-long discussion groups where he listened to a number of economists and well-known money managers talk about the future of the world. Most were names you would recognize. I’m certainly not a name-brand economist, nor can I even rightly be called an economist – I’m more of a dilettante – but I got invited back for private meetings and then to additional meetings and to the weeks at the War College.





At the reception, one of the secretaries of defense, in noting the rather odd nature of the gathered group, said that Andy’s unique talent was in pulling together people with eclectic, if not downright eccentric, thinking. There was a rather knowing laugh as everyone looked around and realized that the word eccentric defined those people in attendance they knew and maybe even themselves. Some of us were the people who helped Andy uncover obscure and counterintuitive facts and trends, and others were those he trained to use them in making assessments and charting strategy.





The next morning, Andy invited me to come by his apartment in Alexandria for a chat. Honored, I adjusted travel times and showed up on time. He started the conversation by reminding me that I had at one time asked him how he came to question the consensus thinking about the Soviet Union in the ’70s. He then proceeded to give me a tutorial on how to question orthodox thinking. His own investigation gave him facts that didn’t square with CIA thinking. “How did you know that?” I would ask. He would explain, and then like some five-year-old kid I would ask that question again and again, trying to understand how he came to the next insight. We kept deep diving until it became apparent that he was looking at some of the most obscure references and piecing together bits and pieces of information to complete a picture that nobody else saw. He referenced obscure German publications, interviews with the sons of Russian diplomats, and conversations with major and minor Russian leaders. He would commission studies of what it actually cost the Russians to build particular pieces of gear. For instance, Russian ferries were also designed as troop transport and military ships, with EMP-protected controls. That configuration drove the cost up and was not part of the CIA assessment. As it turned out, there was a lot the CIA missed. The actual cost of Soviet defense was double what the CIA thought. And the consensus Soviet GDP that not only the CIA but everybody else was operating by was actually 30 to 40% too high. Thus, in the mid-’70s Andy and then Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger began to realize that the Russians could not afford to keep up their massive defense spending.





“Aaah,” 
I said, “then you passed that information on to Reagan.”


“No,” he said, “Reagan came to that conclusion on his own.” 



“Really?” I questioned. 



We went back and forth on how a Republican governor and former actor could arrive at such a non-consensus conclusion that was absolutely, totally correct. I kept insisting that somebody had to have given him an inside view. Andy confessed that he didn’t know how Reagan came to his conclusion, other than that he came into the White House with it. Remember, Andy served under every president from Truman onward and I assume was personally acquainted with every president after Nixon.




 Andy then told me that Scooter Libby was doing research and developing a paper on how Reagan came to that conclusion. It is truly one of the defining moments in American history and one that has remained a complete mystery, at least to me. Maybe the answer is as simple as that it wa s a presupposition: communists can’t win. I really want to get an early copy of Libby’s paper.





As we were wrapping up our talk, I looked over to Andy’s desk and saw a book titled The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy.



“When did this come out?” I asked him.


“Last month,” he said.





It was his biography, which he had finally allowed to be published after he retired. 



He was gracious enough to autograph a copy for me, which I will proudly display in my library; but I immediately downloaded a copy to my Surface Pro on the subway ride back to Reagan Airport and began to read it on the plane. 



It is not a simple biography but rather an analysis of the intellectual journey of a man who came of age in the ’40s and who learned to question orthodox thinking in a manner that nobody had done before.


 He literally invented new forms of analysis. 


The book is causing me to rethink my approach to analyzing data and how it impacts our view of the future. It is a total mental reset. I’m going to have to make another trip to Washington DC for a few follow-up questions.





For the record, the title The Last Warrior is not a description of Andy’s personality, which is as decidedly low-key and non-combative as that of any person I’ve met. He is truly an analytical thinker with a quiet, thoughtful demeanor. I don’t think of the word warrior when I think of Andy. But he was part of what Tom Brokaw called “the Greatest Generation,” and at almost 94 he is truly one of the Last Warriors.








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