Michael Neiberg is the U.S. Army War College Chair of War Studies, an American historian, award winning author, teaches at the War College, and has lectured on every continent.
Neiberg’s list of published works on war and its effects on countries and people is extensive. To name just two, he wrote “The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America” and “Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I” (which The Wall Street Journal named one of the five best books ever written about the war.)
One might assume that given Neiberg’s list of personal accomplishments (Ph.D. in History, Master and Bachelor of Arts in History, speaks three languages, Chair of War Studies at the US Army War College) he’d be a “nose in the air” university type.
Quite the opposite. Neiberg said he understands and relates to students because he was motivated, early in his undergraduate years, by a course that changed the trajectory of his professional career.
“I took a course called 20th Century American Wars as a Personal Experience. That course opened my eyes, that there was a whole way of thinking about war and conflict that had never dawned on me before,” said Neiberg. “It was the intellectual question about what does military service mean for people, and especially what does it mean in a democracy like ours?”
Neiberg said the class helped him see the military as one institution inside a much greater system. And that the military is a product of the country’s political, cultural and economic system.
That got Neiberg’s historian juices flowing and he said he began to look at American and European history through those lenses.
“How does the United States, an avowed individualistic, democratic country, think about the military over time?” said Neiberg. “And what conditions our response to overseas crisis? And how do other countries and societies think about their military?”
Neiberg is still thinking, researching, and writing about those questions today.
Soon to be 52 years old, Neiberg expresses the same energy and optimism as a college freshman.
“I love to watch a group of very talented students come in at the beginning of the year, very bright, but they haven’t worked at the strategic level which is where our sweet spot is,” said Neiberg. “And then, by the end of the 11 months in the academic year, to see them asking different questions, to see a change in their way of thinking, they’re seeing issues in a more complex way. That’s wonderful to see.”
Q&A with Michael Neiberg
Current place of residence:
What service branch:
- Neiberg is a civilian employed as the Chair of War Studies at the U.S. Army War College
How many years:
- Joined the US Army War College in 2010
What was the toughest challenge you faced?
“We’re very busy people who work hard here at the War College. It’s not a typical academic job where you have time off in the summer. We jokingly refer to it as lather, rinse, repeat. Our primary mission it to teach students and we all internalize that.”
What do you like best about being employed at the War College?
“It’s a community. From the day we showed up here in Carlisle the department chair at the time said ‘You’re part of the Army family now’ and we definitely felt that.”
What was your proudest achievement?
“My proudest achievement is watching a group of very talented students come in at the beginning of the year, very bright, but they haven’t worked at the strategic level which is where our sweet spot is. And then, by the end of the 11 months in the academic year, to see them asking different questions, to see a change in their way of thinking, they’re seeing issues in a more complex way. That’s wonderful to see. And to hear from students three, four, five years later say that something they learned in class helped them think about things in a different way, that’s terrific, that’s the sweet spot.”
What would you say to someone who wants to join the military?
“I have a friend, from my days teaching at the Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs), who joined the Air Force because the only other option he had was barber school. By the time he was done the Air Force had sent him for a Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. in Engineering — all at phenomenal schools. If you enjoy being part of something that’s much larger than yourself you may have opportunities that you might not have had otherwise.”