The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Who Does the American Military See in the Mirror?

Jomini and Clausewitz coexist in many modern militaries.  Jomini, with his emphasis on principals and application may dominate at  the tactical level of war.  Clausewitz, with the emphasis on ambiguity, complexity and politics tends to become more important at the more senior leadership levels.  The break point logically seems to be at the level of brigade command.  Brigade commanders are the military’s senior tacticians.  They are involved in the day to day operations and maintenance of the force and have the responsibility to planning, leading, and executing operations.  Brigade commanders live in the tactical environment.  Cause and effect relationships at the brigade level are more direct and the certainty of factors influencing decisions is higher.  Some general officers operate in the tactical environment as well –depending on the operational situation.  However, at the general officer level the tendency is for issues to become more complex and for effects to become more separated from causes.  Politics, media, and other factors beyond the military’s control begins to intrude on decision making at the general officer level.

Do you agree or disagree with the above analysis?

A challenge facing the effectiveness of general officers is two-fold.  First, how does one select the best officer to operate in the Clausewitz world (senior leader) based on the performance of officers who are typically operating in the Jominian world (tactical)?  In addition, how does the army train senior leadership (Clausewitzian) thinking before the leader makes the general officer ranks, if there is little or no  opportunity to practice it for most of an officer’s career at the tactical level?

Some analysts believe, whether the above described relationship exists or not between Jomini and Clausewitz’s ideas, its irrelevant because American culture demands a demonstrated, positive, scientific approach to all activity and thus the Jominian approach to war dominates the American way of war at all levels.  Do you agree?

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September 29, 2009 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Clausewitz, Politics and the American Military

Clausewitz is famous for his comment that war is an extension of politics by other means.  This is not the definition of war, but rather the context within which war takes place.  That is, war takes place and is only understandable within the context of politics.  By extension then, to be able to effectively plan, supervise, and conduct war a senior military leader must, in addition to his expertise regarding military matters, also be expert at understanding politics.

The sticking point here, is that the professional American military officer is taught to avoid politics.  Expert on American military professionalism, Morris Janowitz, stated:

Under democratic theory, the “above politics” formula requires that, in domestic politics, generals and admirals do not attach themselves to political parties or overtly display partisanship.  Furthermore, military men are civil servants, so that elected leaders are assured of the military’s partisan neutrality.

In practice, with only isolated exceptions, regulations and traditions have worked to enforce an essential absence of political partisanship.

Has this tradition of non-partisanship caused American military leadership to focus too much on the mechanics of making war at the operational and tactical level?   What is the role of the senior military leader in formulating national strategy and can that leader avoid being politically partisan if the different political parties disagree on strategy?

How has the war in Iraq illustrated Clausewitz’s concept of the relationship between war and politics?

How do Clausewitz’s ideas, including the important idea of the trinity,  influence our understanding of the current situation in Afghanistan?

September 24, 2009 Posted by | Current Events, H100 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

People’s Army: An Idea Whose Time Has Past?

Some say that the concept of a “People’s Army” that is large, represents the responsibility of citizens doing their duty in service to the nation, but is relatively untrained, is a quaint 19th Century idea that is irrelevant to the modern nation state.  What the modern nation state needs is a military that is highly skilled, manned by expert long service professionals, who are capable of precisely wielding the sophisticated high technology weapons of the 21st century to achieve decisive effects with minimum collateral damage.  A professional l military allows war to be executed quickly and with the minimum of casualties to all concerned.  A “people’s army” is good for violent, costly, and chaotic revolution, but the professional army of the stable nation state is the ultimate military force. 

A different point of view insists that the professional army is a costly and wasteful arm of government that permits a nation to constantly wage war without the commitment or approval of the vast majority of the population.  The standing professional army is inherently destabilizing to the international system.  This argument maintains that when the cost of war is low than war is common.  Thus, the relative ease and lack of debate with which the U.S. entered war with Iraq was a function of the standing professional military that made engaging in war “too easy” for the American population.

Does a professional army allow a country to go to war with the minimum of disruption to civilian life?  Is this a good thing or does it contribute to the willingness / ease with which a country might decide on a war option?

The trend of Western Armies is toward small, professional, volunteer forces.  Has the nature war changed in the 21st Century to make the people’s army irrelevant?  Or, have transnational groups taken the idea of the “people’s army” to the next level and found a way to match it asymmetrically against a professional force?

September 15, 2009 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments