The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

The Professionals

The 18th Century saw the perfection of the concept of the professional army.  From the point of view of the monarch they were a great asset to the  kingdom –ensuring protection from enemies from within as well as without the crown’s borders.  The professional army had numerous positive attributes.  It also had limitations.  Both its attributes and its limitations directly effectived how the Kingdoms and Empires of the 18th Century waged wars.  What were those effects?

Today the Western military forces, including the U.S. Army, are considered the finest professional military forces ever produced.  As a professional military force, what attributes, both positive and negative, does the U.S. military, and the army in particular share with the professional forces of Frederick the Great’s Prussia?

Do the professional attributes of the U.S. military effect how the U.S. military wages war in a way similiar to the professionals effect on war in 18th Century?  If so, how?

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August 31, 2009 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mercenaries and the Rise of the Professional Army

The inability of the feudal system to provide reliable armies gave rise to cadres of mercenaries that at first supplemented the aristocratic warriors of the feudal army, and then replaced them. By the Renaissance period, armies were largely made up of hired mercenary companies.  Aristocrats, once the knights of the feudal army, became the owners and officers of the feudal companies.   By the end of the 15th Century, Kings began the slow process of replacing mercenary formations with their own regiments.  Mercenary companies were a key element of warfare throughout the 15th and 16th Centuries.  Many consider that they reached their greatest influence during the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648.  During the war they began to decline in importance and by the end of the 17th Century they had largely been replaced by national professional armies.

The professional armies that came into existence in the 17th Century evolved from the mercenary companies of the Renaissance period as a more efficient system for the state to meet its military requirements.  They had the major advantages of always being there when the King needed them, they followed orders, they were cheaper in the long term, and could be relied upon in battle even when the odds were great.  They also ensured the sovereignty of the king, the rule of law, and the territorial integrality of the crown’s land.

Why did mercenary companies exist in the first place?  What advantage did they initially bring to the battlefield?

What other reasons were there for switching from an army of mercenary companies to a professional army equipped, recruited, trained and paid for by the King?

How were mercenary specialists of the Renaissance different from the contract specialists that we used today?

For a Free .pdf book on Renaissance Armies click here.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Creative Thinking and Military History

One of the recent popular books that delves into the subject of critical and creative thinking is Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling Blink:  The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.  This book y is a fairly in depth discussion of intuitive decision making.  What is interesting is that I was not expecting Gladwell to talk about the military, but he does. The following is one excerpt from the book:

“Of all the interviews I conducted while researching Blink, the one that made the most lasting impression on me was my interview with General Paul Van Riper –the hero (or villain) of the Pentagon’s Millennium Challenge war game….  I remember being surprised when he took me on a tour of his house by the number of books in his study.  In retrospect, of course, that’s a silly thing to find surprising.  Why shouldn’t a Marine Corps general have as many books as an English professor?  I suppose that I had blithely assumed that generals were people who charged around and “did” things; that they were men of action, men of the moment.  But one of the things that Van Riper taught me was that being able to act intelligently and instinctively in the moment is possible only after a long and rigorous course of education and experience.    Van Riper beat Blue Team because of what he had learned about waging war in the jungles of Vietnam.  And he also beat Blue Team because of what he had learned in that library of his.  Van Riper was a student of military history.”

So, given the above and the readings for H101, consider the following questions:

Do you agree that military history is a critical tool for the professional officer?  If so, how do you rate the army as an institution, providing and emphasizing that skill?  Why?

If you think its an important skill, is it only important for senior leaders and field grade officers?  Does it  have uses for the company grade officer and NCO as well?

If it is an important skill –what can the Army do to teach the skill better than it does?

August 18, 2009 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments