The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

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?”

February 21, 2012 Posted by | H300, leadership, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Afghanistan… Vietnman??

The American situation has dramatically changed in Iraq. The US miltiary is effectively finished with the war in Iraq. 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?

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Current Events, H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 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?

February 17, 2012 Posted by | COIN, H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“Its the Economy Stupid Comrade!”

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

.’. COIN = Economy

February 17, 2012 Posted by | H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Regulars versus Militia in Revolutionary War


If you look at the American Revolution as a People’s Revolutionary War, the revolutionaries had two military tools –the militia and the continental army. Both served important political purposes. The continental army forced the British to keep most of their forces consolidated thus limiting their mobility and ability to control ground. They also represented a conventional military capability that won international allies. The militia controlled all the ground where the British regulars were not physically present and thus ensured revolutionary political domination of the colonies.

Which of the two roles was more important? Could one have been successful without the other? Was it impossible for the British to be successful politically, given the problems and limitations of 18th Century military power?

February 17, 2012 Posted by | H300, military history | , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Mao and Current Insurgencies

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?

February 17, 2012 Posted by | H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Doctrine versus Technology

In the video above, virtually none of the technology, or even the tactics techniques and procedures used to attack Iwo Jima were available seven years earlier when the Marines issued their 1938 manual on landing operations.

In the interwar years the Germans and the U.S. Marine Corps developed concepts for operations (doctrine) before they developed the enabling technology. Ultimately, the doctrine would not have been successful without the technologies that were added later. However, without the initial doctrine the technologies may not have ever been developed, or may have been utilized in a different way. Is this the right way to transform? Should doctrine always precede technology? Are there situations where technology should precede doctrine? Which comes first in the U.S. military today?

February 17, 2012 Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Doctrine Right or Wrong

The results of flawed doctrine: Unescorted Daylight Strategic Bombing

The focus of H200 was an analysis of how useful doctrine developed in peace time, based on previous war experience, proved to be in the conduct of operations in World War II.

The history of interwar transformation and doctrine development process provides insights into the relationship of peacetime visions of future wars and the actual conduct of war. In World War II the German army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Army Air Force all attempted to execute doctrine developed in the years after WWI, on the battlefields of WWII.

In some cases, blitzkrieg doctrine for example, the doctrine proved remarkably effective. In other cases, the primacy of the battleship in navy doctrine for example, the doctrine failed to meet the requirements of modern war. Were there organizational characteristics that permitted a particular service (the German army) to have an accurate understanding of tactical ground warfare, and another (the U.S. navy) fail to understand the importance of key technologies?

Some observers believe that writing doctrine in peace time is a futile exercise because the lessons of history are such that the conditions of the next war will be completely different from the last war and impossible to predict. Getting doctrine right is more luck than genius. Thus only very multi-functional formations are of any use to the army of the future, and only vague, general and generic doctrine is appropriate for the current and future operating environment. Do you agree or disagree?

Are there doctrinal issues which our current military refuses to recognize because we have invested too much in organization, training, and equipment to change the doctrine at this point? If so what are they and why are they flawed?

February 17, 2012 Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments