The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

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 | , , , , , , , ,


  1. At the time, the German Army perhaps had a more streamlined (although flawed) organizational structure that allowed innovation without the politics that plagued the US Navy. Therefore, they were initially more nimble and able to implement new technology. Regarding doctrine, I personally refuse to belive that they only way to prepare for future wars is to develop formations that can do anything, and thus do nothing particularly well. With an examination of history combined with intelligence and an accurate threat assessment, I believe that the US military can strike a balance between specialization and generalization. Our military has a current identity crisis because just as we have slowly adapted to counter-insurgency, we now have to “re-learn” the art of large scale warfare. We are truly at a doctrinal crossroads as the next generation of planners adapts to new threats and comes to the realization that “hybrid warfare” is not only the enemy of the future but the enemy that we prepared to face in the past as well.

    Comment by Matthew Wilder 17D | February 20, 2012

  2. I disagree like Matthew, that the only preparation for future was is to develop formations that can do anything. Especially, with the anticipated draw down of military forces. Without an adequate force structure it is nearly impossible to train formations with the fortitude to do anything. LIkewise, it is critical that the U.S military forces make adjustment of dealing with counterinsurgency, which will be an on-going problem in Afghanistan as well as in Syria, African and Asian countries in the very near future. Doctrinally, military planners will have an increasing threats and adaptations to encounter in order to fight future wars.

    Comment by MAJ LaShaunda Jackson 17A | February 26, 2012

  3. I agree with Matt in the fact that we are at a doctrinal crossroads or put a different way “a reality check.” I do not believe that we can create an Army that is capable of everything. We cannot be perfect at high-intensity conflict, hybrid-threats (medium-intensity) and stability operations (low-intensity) all at the same time. Using the new terminology: Unified Land Operations through Decisive Action by means of Army Core Competencies, guided by Mission Command. The Army Chief of Staff stated shortly before taking the position, and I paraphrase: the Army will downsize and do less with less. Yet the doctrine we write states will can still do it all.
    With the understanding that Doctrine can be used to gain resources (i.e. money), should Army doctrine continue to be written in this fashion? We can do everything, therefore we should be resourced (again money) for everything. Reality is that we are not even getting resourced enough for COIN operations. Here is some quick math for you: let’s say (for argument) that there are 10 BCTs deploying to OEF. Those 10 BCTs go on 9 month deployment. Over a 3 year ARFORGEN cycle, that is a total of 40 BCTs deploying. There are 45 BCTs in the active component today with the intent of downsizing to 37 BCTs by 2015. The Army will not have a large enough force to hold Afghanistan, much less any larger conflict.
    The question on doctrine is: should it mirror our actual abilities to ensure that we do less with less? Should DoD openly state to our National Leaders that we cannot do certain things such as stability operations? Should our doctrine be written to solely portray the Army as a war winner and a supporting effort to a larger DoS force operating in the country during stability operations?
    If the Army does this, it could run the risk of Political Leaders diverting resources from DoD to DoS. How can our doctrine advocate the need for resources without overtaxing its capabilities?

    Comment by MAJ Ryan Barnett, SG17D | February 27, 2012

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