Goatnapping Gladiators of West Point available on Amazon or email to Patriotpublications1@gmail.com
Comment from Chris Arney about Goatnapping Gladiators:
Chris Arney’s satirical novel about West Point (Goatnapping Gladiators of West Point) is a cautionary tale. Arney’s motivation stems from those who want the school to revert to the roles, culture and standards of the “glorious” past (for graduates – when they were cadets). Goatnapping Gladiators is a story about misplaced priorities (in football, honor, education) that could happen if West Point did revert to that form of those good old days. While absurdities abound, the essence of the book is the age-old conflict between two distinct purposes for the Academy. The book seeks to open discussion and debate on this important topic: should the Academy (and the Army) continue to modernize or revert? There is a description of the book’s contents and story on Amazon at: www.amazon.com/dp/0578260654.
Goatnapping Gladiators is about the fight for the Army’s future and how West Point contributes to that future. As we see warfare evolve, as do all elements of society: education, culture, and leadership, there are many ways to consider or frame the issue of how to improve and evolve the Academy. Is the Army of the future a physical hand-to-hand service or a more cerebral technical service? Should West Point fill the Army’s need for critical thinkers and technical problem solvers, or does it continue to provide emotional and physical leaders? Should cadets be smart learners or strong athletes? Should West Point train or educate cadets? Does West Point produce second lieutenants or future generals? Are the best leaders for the Army more like business executives or team coaches? Does the Army prepare for future combat with leaders able to fight World War II and the Vietnam War or should it prepare for Singer and Cole’s Ghost Fleet China War? Do West Point graduates need to develop tier-1 university academic skills (some at the graduate level) that are difficult for ROTC and OCS to develop? Does West Point fill the combat arms branches or does priority go to more technical branches such as cyber, AI experts, information scientists, data and network analysts, operations research analysts, foreign area experts, weapon scientists, systems engineers, and several other specialized fields, especially those in the behavioral sciences. Do cadets need academic breadth to tackle interdisciplinary problems or is undergraduate specialization more valuable? Will the US be in competition with China’s force-on-force military power or more concerned with achieving its influence through the Army’s technical innovation and deterrence?
In Goatnapping Gladiators, the football primacy is a metaphor for these bigger cultural conflicts at West Point. In the book, it is Superintendent Shrek’s football player Cal Wilson verses the new Superintendent Brand’s bio-tech cyber warrior Tom Mando. It’s physicist Colonel Bill verses military trainer Colonel Johns. And inside English professor Major Graz’s mind, it’s his competitive military ambition verses his cooperative academic mentality. It’s often a battle of priorities: at times physical versus intellect and at other times image verses reality.
It goes without saying, West Point’s history and reputation are legendary. To write satire about such a successful place could be called foolhardy. But Arney had several goals in mind besides the one described above.
1) Sometimes successful organizations live off their history and reputations for too long and periodically need subtle reminders of how they earned their status. Sometimes a cautionary tale is all that is needed as a reminder.
2) How can anyone write a satire worthy of the strong, intense, confident, and memorable institution of West Point? The author tried by being strong, intense, confident, and memorable. Some call these intense parts of the book cringe-worthy.
3) Don’t oversimplify the task — embrace the complexity of the Academy. West Point sits at the intersection of several important complex functions of society — military, education, leadership, and sports – Arney had to take on those complexities in their full-up complex form.
4) Just like there are no real supervillains at West Point, Goatnapping Gladiators doesn’t have any superheroes either. The basic villains are power, privilege, misplaced priorities, and excess empowerment. The basic hero is the well-connected collaborating networked system of the Army and the Academy.
The story itself is standard modern fare – a comeback story within a need-for-a comeback story. In a powerful and successful culture and organization such as West Point with loyalty and confidence highly developed, controlling leaders with misplaced priorities can easily produce dreadful actions and create a toxic culture. It takes smart people to notice and be brave enough to fight the cultural lethality. When the vices are exposed and virtuous leaders eventually emerge, the organization and its mission are saved. In this story, the virtuous aren’t the powerful but the resilient. In this story West Point gets its opportunity to recover, but in real situations, when divisions and conflicts occur, how can organizations, societies and nations get their chance at comebacks?
Author Chris Arney is a retired Army officer and an emeritus mathematics professor at West Point. He has authored or edited over 20 books and written one other novel. With over 30 years at the Academy, he was privileged to see its internal workings and collaborate with wonderfully dedicated cadets and faculty members (military and civilian) while sometimes watching West Point’s image and reality diverge. He often advocates for more interdisciplinary studies and problem solving at the undergraduate level. Arney has written about the Army’s future needs in his recently coauthored books entitled Noncomplexity: the Warrior’s Way and Dialogues Concerning Science, Technology, and Intellect in American Society’s and Military’s Future.