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Phil M. Haun on flying, teaching and leading

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This interview with Phil M. Haun comprises the military portal of The Yale Historical Review.

Dean Haun joined the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College in January 2016 as Dean of Academics. His areas of scholarly and professional expertise are coercion, deterrence, air power theory, strategy, international relations, and security studies. Phil served for 29 years as an active duty U.S. Air Force officer and A-10 pilot with combat tours in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. He commanded an operational A-10 squadron. He is a research affiliate with MIT’s Security Studies Program.

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Phil M. Haun on flying, teaching and leading

  1. 1. INTERVIEW PHIL M. HAUN On flying,teaching and leading Interview by Henry Jacob Transcribed by Mathis BittonSEPTEMBER 1, 2020 In 2016, you retired from the United States Air Force after 30 years of service. For how long did you know you wanted to join the military? I come from a family with a long history of service. But I decided to join the military during the Vietnam War. I watched Walter Cronkite on the CBS News with my family every eve- ning from when I was six years old. Up until April of 1982 I planned to go to West Point. Then I got a fat en- velope in the mail with my acceptance to Harvard. Af- ter some real soul-searching, I chose to study enginee- ring at Harvard because I wanted both a technical and liberal arts education. I don’t know how I got to that decision, but that was a critical moment in my life. I picked the Air Force because the Army only offered me a three-year instead of a four-year ROTC scholarship. I come from landlocked Kentucky and had rarely been on a boat, so I didn’t even consider joining the Navy. After graduation, I entered the Air Force at the height of the Reagan buildup in 1986. I started off as an engineer in acquisitions at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and thought that I would get a job as a defense contrac- tor after my four-year tour. But I watched as, one af- ter another, defense contractors went out of business. Then I got interested in flying. I noticed that in the Air Force there were two types of officers: the “rated” and the “non-rated.” I was asked one day, “Are you rated or non-rated?” and I responded, “Well, I don’t know,” and then they said, “Well, then you’re not rated.” To be rated in the Air Force means you’re a pilot or a navigator. I learned that, in any organization, if your job title begins with “non-” you don’t have much of a future there. I told myself, “Well, if I’m going to stay in the Air Force, I want to fly.” Then I went and got my private pilot’s li- cense and applied for an Air Force pilot training slot. his morning I have the pleasure to speak with Phil M. Haun,Dean of Academics at the U.S.Naval War College. Dean Haun was Professor of Aerospace Studies at Yale until 2016, and he will speak with me about his career and military history. Welcome, Dean Haun. T 1YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW FALL 2020
  2. 2. Phil M. Haun Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval War College. Within two years I was an A-10 "Warthog" pilot. Then it was a whirlwind of assignments and deployments over the next 15 years. As an A-10 pilot I never had to work, because every day was just pure joy – the people I wor- ked with and the flying I did. Interestingly enough from my college education three courses stand out. My senior year I took a course on wa- ter chemistry, where we spent a great deal of time balan- cing equations. The key was to determine which com- pounds were significant, and which were not. As soon as I eliminated the insignificant factors I could solve the problems. I have since spent my life trying to determine what is urgent and what’s important. That insight came from scribbling out water chemistry equations. The second course that influenced me was Professor Gregory Nagy’s introductory course to the classics – we called it “heroes for zeroes.” I took that my freshman year, in fall of 1982, so it’s been a while. But I remember the definition of a hero – a hero in Greek mythology is not the great warrior or the most popular. The hero is the one who makes sacrifices for the state. Great leaders are great not because they’re up front, and not because they make the key decisions, but because they put their organizations before themselves in service. The third course that I really loved – I didn’t take it un- til I was a senior – was in economics. Microeconomics opened my eyes to how to look at the world. That’s why after my first flying assignment I went back to school and received a master’s degree at Vanderbilt in econo- mics and then taught at the US Air Force Academy. By the time I got to Colorado Springs, however, the Air Force, went from a surplus of pilots to a shortage, and I got pulled back into the flying world. My first flying assignment had been in England, my next was in Korea, and by the time I was on my third flying tour I was in Germany by the mid-nineties. Over the course of the 1990s I also spent a lot of time deployed to the Middle East and the Balkans. Then in 2000 I came back to the States to receive a professional military education at the Air Force Com- mand and Staff College, the same school for which I am now the dean, only for the Navy. After Command and Staff College, I went back to fly and command an A-10 squadron in Alaska where I had my last combat tour to Afghanistan. Afterwards, I returned to the East Coast, with a fellowship at the Kennedy School. The Air Force allowed me to remain an additional three years in Cam- bridge, at MIT, where I received my PhD in internatio- nal relations. Then I moved to the Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island and I’ve been here ever since, except for a brief year and a half stint at Yale. There’s 30 years. I’ll tell you it flies by when you’re having fun. Life’s too short not to do what you enjoy. I’ve been very fortunate to do two things I really love, flying and academics. Teaching is like flying. I prepare for it, go in, there’s the adrenaline rush of engaging with students, and afterwards walk out and think about all the things that went wrong, and all the things that went right. You mentioned that your deployments went by like a whirlwind. I am curious to hear more about some individual instances that made your experience such a joy. Which moments from your flying assignments remain in your mind? I have a couple. I’m a Weapons School graduate, which is the Air Force’s version of Top Gun. It’s a six-month, very intense program. I at- tended the school in 1997, and the washout rate was 40 percent in my class of very proficient A-10 pilots. That program was far more difficult than combat ever was. It impressed upon me the idea that you have to prepare in order to succeed in a task. You prepare so that you’re “I've been very fortunate to do two things I really love, flying and academics. Teaching is like flying.” ON THE NEXT PAGE 2 PHIL M. HAUN
  3. 3. better than your opponent. You prepare the best that you can. But then you actually spend a great deal of time preparing for everything that can go wrong – it’s called contingency planning. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in meetings where people talk about their hope – “we hope everything will go well.” I think to myself, “Okay, great. You can hope for that. But let’s spend most of our time talking about all the ways things can go south, and what our potential reaction to that will be.” Yes, we should have a plan or blueprint for how we would like things to go, but let’s invest our intellec- tual capital in all the ways that we can recover when things go bad. That's resilience and flexibility. In flying, the most challenging role is being a mission commander because you may have oversight of over 70 aircraft. I was mission commander in Kosovo. We divi- ded the responsibilities down into individual flights, so, ultimately, you are immediately responsible for up to a four-ship formation. As you can imagine, four pilots, each with different tasks, requires a complex integration so we develop standard procedures for how a four-ship formation will operate. But should one aircraft has a mechanical problem prior to takeoff – this happens fre- quently,thenthefour-shipisnowathree-shipformation and a three-ship formation has even more challenges. I spent almost as much time on the contingency plan- ning on a three-ship formation as I did on a four-ship formation. I refer to this mindset of always contingency planning as using Murphy’s Law in reverse. If I prepare for every contingency, and then everything in the flight goes right, I didn’t waste my time – my preparing for the worse has actually helped influence things to go right. I use this mindset of contingency planning as dean and in the classroom. Also, I learned something that fighter pilots do extre- mely well: they debrief. We used to say that if you don’t debrief and learn from a flight, you might as well not even have flown it. It’s not a matter of taking note of all what occurred during the flight, but analyzing the mis- takes made and how to improve next time. This is where I see professors, quite often, falling down. A professor will walk out of a classroom after giving a lecture, and next year they’ll give the very same lecture, and not take the time to improve it. I don’t give a lot of lectures each year, but the ones I give I try to record. In preparing to give a lecture a second time the most uncomfortable thing I do is review my previous lecture. It is brutal to see all the mistakes I made. But it is also how I improve. There is a military theorist, US Air Force Colonel John Boyd, whom the Marine Corps likes a lot. He came up with a decision-making model he called the OODA loop – observe, orient, decide, and act. It’s a circular way of making decisions, acting upon those decisions, taking information and making changes for another round. If you can adjust and improve faster than your opponent, then you may not start at an advantage, but you’ll quickly gain one. On the subject of transferring the lessons you learned from flying to the lecture hall, I know you taught at Yale for three semesters. I remember as well that you taught Grand Strategy during your stay in New Haven. How did you engage in this program as a former mission commander in Kosovo and as a fa- culty member? I helped teach some Grand Strategy seminars, but I was primarily there to engage with the students. John Gaddis developed the Grand Strategy course from his experience from when he taught at the Naval War College. I thought his Grand Strategy course was a great year-long program for students; the timing of the course which began in the spring and continued through the summer and into the next, the progression of topics from theory to a summer research project to a capstone group project in the fall, everything about it was first rate. In the final exercise students are put into a group and are given an intractable national security problem. They’re asked to provide recommendations to the prin- cipals of the National Security Council. The first time they try it – it’s really funny, because these really bright individuals have not had the experience of giving this type of presentation. Anything that can go wrong will: they can’t use the equipment properly, they’re thrown off-script. Then we give them detailed feedback, and a 4 PHIL M. HAUNN “If you can adjust and improve faster than your opponent, then you may not start at an advantage, but you'll quickly gain one.”
  4. 4. month later they come back and give a much improved, polished presentation. The Grand Strategy faculty were also fantastic as well. I’ve decided that David Brooks is about the brightest person I've ever met. John Negroponte, who was in Paris in 1972 with Kissinger and actually wrote down the Paris Agreement that ended the US participation in the Vietnam War, he was there as well as Charlie Hill, a ghostwriter for Henry Kissinger. The level of enga- gement with these practitioners and scholars, such as John Gaddis and Paul Kennedy, was exceptional. I had a great year and a half at Yale. In addition to teaching, you also served as the com- mander of the Air Force ROTC program at Yale. You mentioned the importance of preparing, reflecting, and improving upon one’s performance with regard to your own career and the Grand Strategy program. As second commander for Yale’s Air Force ROTC, how did you prepare students not only for their aca- demic and extracurricular work at Yale, but also for their careers? I had a unique perspective because I had gone through an ROTC program while attending an Ivy League school. I wanted the cadets to get the most they could from their Yale experience. These four years prepared our cadets to be commissioned as officers in a different way than cadets at the Air Force Academy. I wanted Yale to inject a bit of diversity of thought into the Air Force's future officer corps. Above all, I had one primary objective: to increase the number of Yale students enrolled in AFROTC. The key was funding. Everybody can talk about their desire for military service, but when it comes down to it, that college bill weighs heavy over a student's head. Getting the financial support to allow students to follow their academic dreams at Yale was the vital piece. I doubled the amount of ROTC scholarships available for Yale students, and we essentially doubled the number of ca- dets. I don’t know how many Yale cadets are in the Air Force ROTC program now, but when I came to New Haven in the summer of 2014, there were eight. When I left in January of 2016 we had 40. We had cadets who were also involved in a variety of extracurricular acti- vities from being on the varsity soccer team to being engaged in robotics. We wanted them to experience as much of Yale life as possible. I’d like to shift gears a bit to your scholarship. Let’s start with your book Coercion, Survival, and War. The work analyzes case studies of asymmetric conflicts and examines how hegemons can force weaker states to follow their will by threatening collapse. You also discuss how hegemons enact these coercive methods knowing they will fail in order to justify interven- tion afterwards. Could you talk about this tension between the underlying reason and apparent the ra- tionale for these conflicts? The idea for the book origi- nated while I was overflying Kosovo in 1999 trying and failing to find Serbian tanks. The doctrine didn’t work. I thought about how none of the leaders, all the way up to the President of the United States, could tell me how my applying military force was going to achieve a political outcome. It soured me. I had spent all my career up to that point on how to engage the enemy. But once kine- tic force had been applied, once that bomb went off, I didn’t know what was happening to the political system on the other side. How was that bomb hitting a tank going to get Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to change his mind? I was very fortunate that after the war I was assigned to Montgomery, Alabama, for two years. In the first year I attended Command and Staff College, and then the se- cond year I attended a strategy school, the School of Ad- vanced Air and Space power Studies (SAASS). SAASS is actually a small school, not that well-known outside the Air Force, but it has a phenomenal course of study. That’s where I read Thomas Schelling, that’s where I got introduced to coercion theory, and later SAASS spon- sored my PhD to the Security Studies Program at MIT, where I wrote a dissertation on the question of why the US has such difficulty coercing weak states. I spent five years writing the book, trying to find the answer. I thought I was answering one question of why weak states resist, but I ended up facing a second question: why does the US continue to use coercive strategies, even when they don’t work? The answer is the notion that coercion is just part of a broader strate- gy. Given international norms, the US may have to use coercion first, before it can actually employ the brute force strategy planned from the beginning. In my current research, I’m editing a volume, Airpower in the Age of Primacy, for Cambridge University Press. I'm about to submit that manuscript, and the book will be out by next April. The book examines many of the 5YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW
  5. 5. same cases as my book on coercion, but now the focus is on use of air forces in contemporary conflicts. As dean, I didn’t have enough time to write the entire volume, nor did I have the necessary language background for all the cases, so I have relied extensively on historians and international relations scholars. A nice thing about being a dean is that I know many scholars who were willing to contribute chapters to the book. Air Power in the Age of Primacy is just part of my long- term research on coercion and air power. When I went to get my PhD, I considered researching two questions. The one I chose was on how coercion works, or doesn't work. The other question was on how effective is air power in war. For my dissertation, I chose to write eon coercion, because that’s the answer I was more inte- rested in and provided me the most value. But I have been writing more on airpower in the past few years as that is the subject I'm most often asked to lecture and speak on. When I was at Yale, I edited another book on air power theory before The Lectures of the Air Corps Tactical School, University Press of Kentucky. That book was published last year, and it looked at the use of US airpower in World War II. The idea for the book on Air Power in the Age of Prima- cy came about in 2016. At the time, I was in Alabama being given a briefing on the courses at SAASS. SAASS had a two-week short course on contemporary airpo- wer. I asked for a copy of the syllabus, and the professor turned slightly red in the face as he gave me a copy of it and said, the readings aren’t very good. I looked at the syllabus and said to him," the readings are just dread- ful." This latest book on contemporary air warfare fills the gap in the literature. As a researcher, I have a long list of subjects I don’t un- derstand. Slowly but surely, I have been ticking different questions off this list with my writings. I have become much more efficient in my writing during the quaran- tine – I don’t have people knocking on my office door every day. I’ve had a number of hours given back to me, and I’m now working on another book I had put aside a few years ago when I took the job as dean. It is on mo- dern airpower theory, and it looks at the use of airpo- wer beginning in the 1960s with the introduction of ra- dar guided surface-to-air and air-to-air guided missiles, when the air domain became much more lethal. I just finished a chapter on the Rolling Thunder air campaign in North Vietnam, from 1965-1968. I have previously published on the Linebacker I and II air campaigns of 1972, which will also be a chapter. I also have a draft chapter of the Arab-Israeli Six Day war of 1967 and will be writing a chapter on the Yom Kippur war of 1973. Plenty of time has passed since you watched Walter Cronkite on CBS as a child, but your personal and professional interests seem to have come full circle with this book project. I have long been fascinated by the Vietnam War, since a child. I have enough combat experience, however, to no longer be excited about the use of force in war. I am also a realist. What I’ve come to determine – and COVID has also brought this out on a personal level – is that, when you get into a sur- vival situation, it changes your viewpoint and decision making. When the US is involved in asymmetric inter- national crises, the other weak side often has its very survival at risk. That changes how people and states operate. Liberalism, and liberal ideals work much better in a peaceful international system that is functioning well, where there can be a win-win interaction instead of zero-sum gains. But when it comes to a life or death situation, realism gets closer to the heart of the matter. Could you talk a bit more about how you’ve inte- grated the two sides of your college experience – your liberal arts education and your technical knowledge – during your career? I spent a lot of time asking not the question of why, but the question of how. It probably has to do with my engineering background. For many years I traveled two roads, one of a military pilot and of an academic. When I went back to school for my PhD, I originally wanted to study economics. I thought eco- nomics provided a clear lens to view the world. While I was a fellow at the Kennedy School at Harvard, I spoke to a professor who had been an economic advisor du- ring the Jimmy Carter administration. I laid out my de- 6 PHIL M. HAUN “Liberalism works much better in a peaceful international system that is functioning well, where there can be a win-win interaction instead of zero-sum gains.”
  6. 6. sire to study either economics or international relations. And he said, “Phil, you can go get a PhD in economics and you’ve got a 50-50 chance of being an average eco- nomist, because the math has advanced so much over the past twenty years.” Then he said, “But, you’ve got a pretty good chance of being a really good strategist and political scientist because of your economic background and your expertise.” That’s not what I was hoping to hear from him, but I realized that he was right. You mentioned that doing what you’re best at is the best way to serve. Can you describe how you envision your roles – as an academic, as a dean, as a parent– as a form of service? I will give you some advice that may help when you have children. I now have a 28-year-old son and a 23-year-old daughter. They have thanked me for offering them a structured upbringing, for provi- ding a good example, and for not trying to be their best friend. Now as a dean at the Naval War College faculty are not children – they are gifted professionals, many far brighter and wiser than I could ever hope to be. But as dean I try to provide them the structure for success, that gives them a consistent work foundation for the best use of their time and talents. I also emphasize what I prioritize, academic rigor and excellence, and support faculty with resources so that they can achieve. I don’t really care what their area of excellence is – academic rigor can be in their teaching, it can be in their research, it can be in what their students' produce. Some faculty dedicate themselves to excellence in their classroom. Some work on joint military doctrine. Others write books or appear on talk shows. All I ask is that they be good at whatever they do. There’s another part to success, which is that it doesn’t matter how outstanding you are if you don’t treat others with respect. To be effective working with others you have to first demonstrate that you care about them. Leading is hard, particularly when you have to tell someone to do something they don’t want to do or give them news they don't want to hear. In those tough times it is critical that they know you still care about them as a person. Your comments resonate with the definition of the Greek hero archetype you studied in 1982. Since then, you have continually balanced the personal and the public through your service. In a way, you see a commitment to others as a commitment to yourself. Yes, that brings up two points. The first stems from my parenting experience. At Christmas, a parent doesn’t care about the gifts they receive, but rather the gifts they give, that's where joy comes from, in the giving. Second, you can achieve almost anything in life if you don’t care who gets the credit. As dean I work to give credit to others, whether it is my boss or my faculty. This is easier said than done because one's inner self just really wants to be acknowledged all the time. But if you insist on taking the credit you won’t be able to accomplish nearly as much for yourself or for others. 7YALE HISTORICAL REVIEW

This interview with Phil M. Haun comprises the military portal of The Yale Historical Review. Dean Haun joined the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College in January 2016 as Dean of Academics. His areas of scholarly and professional expertise are coercion, deterrence, air power theory, strategy, international relations, and security studies. Phil served for 29 years as an active duty U.S. Air Force officer and A-10 pilot with combat tours in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. He commanded an operational A-10 squadron. He is a research affiliate with MIT’s Security Studies Program.

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