I recently presented a paper I wrote on the topic of military diplomacy. It was for an essay-writing competition within my unit, because unlike normal combat units, we don’t just krav maga until defeat. The prompt was vague, instructing participants to write about something military diplomacy-related, drawing on personal experiences but ensuring that the piece was unclassified. That last bit perplexed me as I mused about how to discuss my experience with military diplomacy in an unclassified way when all my experiences are classified. The irony and the ambiguity eased me into an army headspace, not to be confused by one of academia or clarity.
I wondered how I could create something so majestically vague that it would do this competition justice. There was a rubric, after all. It included nice things like organization and structure, effectiveness of argument, logic of argument, and grammar (with subcategories like an interesting opening, professional language, and transitions). From what I understood, a professor in the field would judge, so I had to think hard. I thought and I thought and I thought and then I thought of the perfect essay topic:
Fabulously vague yet with a hint of relevance that perhaps could pique attention away from the words for words’ sake.
In the past ten or so years of my writing career, when faced with developing a thesis I have mostly managed to steer clear entirely. It’s a talent, I know. But writing around a thesis is one of the things I’m best at. When the writing dazzles and tiptoes in the direction of a declarative statement, that’s when you know you’re in the clear – no thesis needed. Thus in true Sophie fashion, the closest thing that could be perceived as a thesis in this entire 9-page testament to my writing faculties whittles down to,
The definition of military diplomacy must be reexamined, yet this revision is not a delay in progress, but rather an optimistic step toward a more collaborative future.
Reexamining a definition? Like turning to a dictionary and adding slang that has pulsed its way into a collective vernacular? An optimistic step? My gosh, I outdid myself.
Though the writing of my paper entertains me to bits, I did use academic sources, all the buzzwords, and perfect punctuation. This was for a competition, after all. Nevertheless, here are some of my sentences that best question the academic soundness of the piece:
- The only way is forward (and two meters apart).
- expanding one’s Rolodex of contacts is strategic and essential.
- the viral enemy thrives in movement.
- While an active duty soldier may be perceived as biased
- It is a malleable art form, being cast in the kiln again and again, each time producing something unique from its previous form.
- Just remember to smile—you’re on camera!
My amusement side, the paper exists and would earn me a solid B+/A- in an Intro to International Relations course at the collegiate level.
I also created an accompanying minimalistic, professional, and pretty (if I do say so myself) presentation:
I presented my presentation in place of my paper. 5 minutes. Simple. Unclassified. Blissfully vague.
I sat through nearly 2 hours of others’ presentations that less simple and unclassified and vague. How, I wondered, could topics so specific be deemed appropriate when I can’t even talk about who I made coffee for last week*? (*Note: I was home last week, but figuratively speaking). Barthes declared the author dead, yet for some reason personal experience was still present in these presentations.
Perhaps I missed point. More than perhaps, my attention also wavered when all but two (excluding my own) presentations were in Hebrew. In retrospect, I could have also written a media analysis of military diplomacy coverage for a specific state. Regardless, my fate is sealed and the results aren’t in. I just hope my paper was vague enough to do all my past professors proud.