The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

What do you think?

The goal of military history at CGSC is to demonstrate the use of military history to inform professional military judgment, decision making, and critical thinking. Each history class is designed as a practical demonstration of how that goal can be achieved.

A secondary goal is to expose students to some of the most important military history issues and thinkers relevant to today’s operating environment.

How well did the three history courses, H100, H200, and H300 accomplish these goals?

As a follow on, did you personally notice a change in your approach to thinking and analyzing important military issues as a result of the readings and discussions presented in your military history class?

March 28, 2011 Posted by | H300, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Military History and the Future

What are the military implications of this video? Does history, particularly military history, help understand or put these implications in context? How?

March 28, 2011 Posted by | H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Moderate Islam and Terrorism

Great article from the BBC on a moderate Islamic view of terrorism:

March 28, 2011 Posted by | COIN, Current Events, H300, leadership, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Doctrine after Vietnam

Lieutenant General John H. Cushman, Combined Arms Center (CAC)Commander 1973-1976, and General William E. DePuy, US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commander 1973-1976, had dyametrically opposed views of the purpose and nature of army doctrine. Ultimately, General Depuy’s view won out, resulting in the ineffective 1976 FM 100-5 focused on the concept of the “Active Defense.” General Cushman’s opposing view which included a nuanced view of war-fighting; emphasized education over training; and focused on creative thinking over predictable solutions, was the loser. Depuy’s view is largely credited with setting the conditions for the transformation to the successful “Airland Battle” doctrine of the 1980s. Did the army make an error following Depuy’s doctrinal view, and how does this debate provide insights into the on-going doctrinal transformation of the 21st Century? Was Depuy just “Lucky?”

March 28, 2011 Posted by | H300, leadership, military history | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


The American situation has dramatically changed in Iraq. Daily the end state seems to gain more clarity and the Administration has just announced that troop strength by the end of 2010 will be approximately 50K. Given that, attention is shifting to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is dramatically different than Iraq. A quick look at geography, history, and demographics, not to mention the nature of the adversary and the geopolitical setting all describe a completely different operating environment. Also, with the change of political parties in the U.S. and with the U.S. facing significant economic challenges, the domestic U.S. scene is completely different. Some analysts believe that these circumstances make Afghanistan a more significant challenge than Iraq ever was. Commentators Ralph Peters and French MacLean have described their views on the strategic situation. Is Afghanistan more like Vietnam than Iraq?

March 28, 2011 Posted by | COIN, Current Events, H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ends, Ways, and Means in Vietnam

Through the Tet offensive in 1968, some have argued that the United States did not have a firm strategy in Vietnam. For a strategy to be coherent it must logically connect ends, ways, and means. If you assume that the U.S. end was a stable South Vietnamese government, and that the U.S. had the means to achieve that end, how do you evaluate the ways the U.S. pursued the strategy? Some things to think about: What were the U.S. ways? Were they logically connected to the end? What was missing from the U.S. strategy?

March 28, 2011 Posted by | COIN, H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear Strategy and Today’s Operating Environment

At one time nuclear strategy was one of the central pillars of U.S. national defense strategy and foreign policy. Its related technologies were probably the most expensive items in the U.S. defense budget. Deterence was the central concept in the U.S. national strategy to meet the threat of nuclear attack. It was most graphically illustrated by the idea of mutually assured destruction (MAD). However, since the end of the Cold War the idea of nuclear war has been pushed to the margins of the national defense strategy debate. Since 9/11, strategy discussions have continued to largely ignore the issue of nuclear weapons.

There are two nuclear scenarios which have received some attention, both related to the issue of proliferation: one is nuclear armed “rogue” states –most specifically a nuclear armed Korea and the potential for a nuclear armed Iran; and the other threat is small scale “suitcase” nuclear terror attack. These threats are catagorized by the national defense strategy (NDS) as “catastrophic challenges.”

The 2005 NMS identifies the threat of WMD but it does not clearly articulate the role of the U.S. nuclear arsenal relative to the WMD and other threats. The 2006 national military strategy to combat WMD says that offensive operations ” Kinetic (both conventional and nuclear) and/or non-kinetic operations [will] defeat, neutralize or deter a WMD threat or subsequent use of WMD.” The NMS for WMD implies that deterence is still a central part of strategy to combat the threat of nuclear attack.

Some questions to consider regarding the role of nuclear weapons in current strategy:

Is deterence a viable strategy agains the nuclear threats in today’s operating environment? Is deterence against WMD integrated suffeciently with the overall national strategy? Is current U.S. strategy asymetric or symetric?

March 28, 2011 Posted by | Current Events, H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It’s the Economy Stupid”

Maoist revolutionalry war theory puts the priority of effort on the political line of operations. Our experience with our own domestic politics indicates that the key to successful politics is the economy. Therefore… maybe:

COIN = Politics

Politics = Economy

March 28, 2011 Posted by | COIN, H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Use of Force in Urban COIN –Conclusions from the British Experience in Northern Ireland

A major lesson to be learned for the British experience in Northern Ireland is regarding the use of force. During the second phase of British operations in NI the British military strategy was a symmetric approach. The PIRA used force (bombings, assassinations, sniper attacks etc.) and the UK forces responded with increased overt security operations (raids, check points, patrols, arrests and detention etc.). British operations were focused on metrics which measured the military capabilities of the PIRA. Though not unimportant, this was not the center of gravity of the of the PIRA. The center of gravity of the PIRA was the support of the Catholic population of NI.

PIRA attacks against British targets rarely garnered popular support from the Catholic population (A). However, overt British security operations against the PIRA elicited great popular sympathy for the PIRA in the Catholic population (B). Over time, this gradually built up significant sustained support for the insurgency and provided a friendly population that reliably provided recruits and resources. This cycle could only be broken by systematically not responding to attacks with overt security operations. Instead, the response had to be covert –precisely targeted with little or no public signature. In addition, a very thorough information response had to be orchestrated. This response emphasized the illegality and immorality of the attack and labeled the insurgents as terrorists (C). This type of response decreases public support for the insurgency. Over time this strategy gradually weaned the population from supporting the insurgents. It also had the effect of greatly increasing the HUMINT provided by the population to the security forces (D).

The British security forces began to recognize this dynamic in the late 1980s. By the early 1990s a change in British strategy began to have effects on the situation in NI. By the middle 1990s Sinn Fein, the political arm of the PIRA, began to push for a change in strategy. The PIRA recognized that armed struggle was causing them to lose the support of the population and therefore it was imperative that they change their strategy to one of negotiation while they still retained significant popular support. Hence the negotiated cease-fire between the opposing factions in NI and the Belfast Agreement of 1998.

Another aspect of COIN operations illustrated by the history of the NI “troubles” is the definition of victory. Given that the current situation appears to be proceding to a democrat solution, who won? Did the PIRA and Sinn Fein achieve their objective of creating a means of uniting Ireland (through democracy), or did the British government win because violence has ended and democratic process are dominant?

March 28, 2011 Posted by | COIN, H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mao and the Iraqi / Afghani Insurgency

There are a wide variety of insurgent groups who have operated against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Very few, if any, have followed a Maoist strategy. Some analysists believe that this fact proves that Mao’s Revolutionary War theory is not relevant to the type of adversaries faced by the U.S. in the GWOT. Are these analysists correct?

March 28, 2011 Posted by | COIN, H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment