The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Driving Transformation

A variety of factors influence transformation. Usually, however, one factor is the initiator. For example and obvious dangerous threat which has defeated a country in the past could be the factor which initiates the transformation process. Once that initiator is successful in “kick-starting” the transformation process the remaining factors interact with each other dynamically to eventually achieve the end result product of transformation. Which of the factors was the most important for starting the transformation process during the interwar years? In some countries and military services transformation did not occur, or failed to transform into a successful form. In the interwar years what factor was the most important to inabling or preventing successful transformation? The dynamics that effected transformation in the interwar years continue to effect transformation today. Which is the most important factor effecting transformation in the U.S. military today?

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November 27, 2012 - Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , ,

7 Comments »

  1. During interwar years the factors that were most important for starting the transformation process work conceptual. The rise of Germany motivated nations like Great Britain, Japan, and the United States to develop technology.  Each country was not directly creating technology to defend against Germany. However,  the rise of Germany created a chain reaction globally. For example Great Britain was highly concerned in maintaining naval supremacy. As a result, they were the first to develop and establish such technologies as the naval air carrier.  This transformation was in an effort to protect Great Britain from any threats coming from Europe. The United States and Japan both benefited from the technological advancements made by Great Britain. And as a result they were able to learn from the mistakes of Great Britain. Additionally both countries were able to establish newer technology than what originally came from Britain’s transformation. 

    If we continues Great Britain as an example, we can also see that they were country that failed to transform successfully. One reason for Great Britain so used to transform what it’s like a resources following World War I. Great Britain took a big hit during the war and as a result they were resource constrained. Being resource constrained meant an inability to invest money on upgrading its technology. We can see this limitation in how it developed its naval aviation capabilities. 

    The biggest problem facing the transformation of United States military today is conceptual. We do not know what our future threat will be. We tried our best to anticipate how we will fight the future based on global trends. However, it is impossible to successfully predict how will fight in the future. As stated by Robert Gates, when it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam, our record has been perfect. We have never once gotten it right. The best we can do is remain vigilant of the rising nations in an effort to maintain our dominance as a military. Additionally the, US military must not forget the lessons learned over the last 11 years of war while also trying to reacquire the skills needed in conventional warfare. 

    Comment by MAJ Ryan J. Scott | December 3, 2012

  2. Revision to initial post( auto correct burned me again!!!)

    During interwar years the factors that were most important for starting the transformation process were conceptual. The rise of Germany motivated nations like Great Britain, Japan, and the United States to develop technology.  Each country was not directly creating technology to defend against Germany. However,  the rise of Germany created a chain reaction globally. For example Great Britain was highly concerned in maintaining naval supremacy. As a result, they were the first to develop and establish such technologies as the naval air carrier.  This transformation was in an effort to protect Great Britain from any threats coming from Europe. The United States and Japan both benefited from the technological advancements made by Great Britain. And as a result they were able to learn from the mistakes of Great Britain. Additionally both countries were able to establish newer technology than what originally came from Britain’s transformation. 

    If we continue to use Great Britain as an example, we can also see that they were a country that failed to transform successfully. One reason for Great Britain to transform was it’s like a resources following World War I. Great Britain took a big hit during the war and as a result they were resource constrained. Being resource constrained meant an inability to invest money on upgrading its technology. We can see this limitation in how it developed its naval aviation capabilities. 

    The biggest problem facing the transformation of United States military today is conceptual. We do not know what our future threat will be. We continually try our best to anticipate how we will fight the future based on global trends. However, it is impossible to successfully predict how will fight in the future. As stated by Robert Gates, when it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam, our record has been perfect. We have never once gotten it right. The best we can do is remain vigilant of the rising nations in an effort to maintain our dominance as a military. Additionally the, US military must not forget the lessons learned over the last 11 years of war while also trying to reacquire the skills needed in conventional warfare. 

    Comment by MAJ Ryan J. Scott | December 3, 2012

  3. In terms of the factors enabling or hindering interwar innovation, two strike me as salient: political factors and military culture. Political factors seem relevant in that the winning side (particularly Britain and France) seemed unwilling or unable to innovate. In part, this seems to stem from victory preventing significant dissatisfaction with the current state that could lead to political will for innovation and transformation. In contrast, the political factor of defeat played a profound role in driving leaders to understand “why” and what could have been done better to succeed the next time. The dissatisfaction led to support for leaders who would deliver the promised victory and a military that could be that leaders primary tool.

    Military culture also played a role. The cultures of the British, French and to a lesser extent American seem rooted in service self-interest and resource conflict. All of the parties after WWI (including Germany) faced resource constraints. The Allied services, however, seem to have squabbled amongst themselves in the competition for dwindling resources rather than pulling together to present a common front and lay out the future threat in order to create a bigger pie. This failure to project unity could even translate into failure to work together effectively.

    I contend that we see many of the same problems arising now. While the US military is without peer in the world, until political factors allow for and encourage innovation and invention over self, contituent or local interests, the military risks stagnation in both equipment and manpower to face conflict. Similiarly, until military cultures change to incentive innovation and invention in leaders as opposed to punching the right tickets, the US military faces serious problems in its development of new doctrine and concepts and its effective use of allocated resources. Both of these factors will reduce the military’s ability to respond to emerging threats that will seek to take advantage of our slowness to react.

    Comment by Kenneth Mortimer, 11A | December 4, 2012

  4. It also seems to me that, from a US-centric view, political and cultural factors were the most salient to transformation in Germany, France, Russia, Japan, UK and the US during the interwar period. Of course, charismatic leadership (innovators) and thoughtware also played a significant role just as one would expect since these factors are mutually reinforcing. The remaining factors: threat, resources and hardware, seem to have been fairly equally distributed among the powers, but certainly not equally perceived. I think the threat of losing purity of race and of ideology must have been much more palpable for the Germans and Russians.

    During the interwar period, Germany and Russia advanced beyond all expectations. Their advance was heavily based on a political and cultural push brought about by the likes of Hitler and Stalin. Of course, these cultural and political forces had their callous side of leaving hundreds of thousands killed even before major hostilities broke out. The military innovations of the time can be seen in the context of each country’s cultural and political situation: expansionist Germany was the scene of Guderian’s innovations regarding blitzkrieg, victorious France wanted nothing to do with the problems of the rest of Europe and constructed the Maginot Line, and in the US Billy Mitchell strongly advocated for the use of airplanes in war since he ached to close the distance gap between the US and any war in Europe.

    In our current struggle against terrorists, we have faced the likes of Osama bin Laden and still face his replacements Mullah Omar and Ayman al Zawahiri. The enemy uses threat as a prime motivator of its base and to trigger transformation for its survival. Our dominance and omnipresence/omnipotence is used against us to generate fear and motivate change in the enemy. This type of war requires covert action with few if any headlines. Our success against terrorists depends on extinguishing the perception of a threatening US.

    Comment by Art Terhakopian | January 2, 2013

  5. The factor that was most important for starting the transformation process during the interwar years was the threat. The threat was represented in multiple forms depending on the country, but as a whole, each country that innovated was faced with their own threat. The most common threat was the threat of war with another country, or the threat (fight) of losing limited natural resources. For the United States, a major threat which assisted in the transformation process came from the prospect of war with Japan. The strategic balance of power was in the Central Pacific with Japan, which had numerous islands that were defended and served as outposts. These fortified islands supported by the Japanese fleet were a significant challenge for the United States Navy’s movement west through the Pacific. For several countries, the threat of losing limited natural resources led to occupations and the need to maintain LOC’s to areas with natural resources. The Japanese control of the islands in the Pacific limited the United States lines of communications to the Philippines and other resources. Innovation and advancement also came for the British Navy who faced a threat from the Germans, the Japanese who felt threated from the United States and other countries that had influences in Asia, and Germany who felt pressure from both her borders. In all these cases, the threat forced the other factors to interact and work to initiate transformation in an effort to be prepared for the particular threat each country faced.

    A factor that is effecting transformation in the U.S military today deals with the logistics/resources directly tied to budget constraints. Although we look at and analyze global trends and issues, it is difficult to predict what the future threat will be and what we need to be prepared for first. This forces the military to try to be ready for many things at the same time. Being prepared for multiple different threats and being in multiple different locations is easier to do with a larger military that has newer and more capable equipment. As the budget shrinks, so does the military’s manpower, equipment, and ability to be prepared for multiple different threats in multiple areas at the same time.

    Comment by John Nash | January 16, 2013

  6. It is the moment of need, presented with the chance of being oppressed that creates the catalyst to innovate and adapt to overcome the enemy. However not all militaries successfully innovate to overcome their adversary’s capabilities or advantages. The ability to transform a military to win conflicts comes from one thing, innovative military leadership.
    It is only when the correct leadership is in place the potential to transform a military exists. This leader will inspire the military and the members will display the willingness and desire for improvement. These conditions enable the transformation within the military to take place to respond and overcome an enemy’s effort against them.
    Studying the transformation a given military charged itself to adapt to the current threat and gain advantage over their enemy, there was not one “Constantine” or “aha moment” that the truth and path to success was revealed to the leader. It is instead a mix of leadership and circumstances of the battlefield creating the transformation. The closest to having this “aha moment” moment was Colonel General Hans von Seeckt, Commander-in-Chief of the German army from 1919-1926. Seeckt’s ability to overcome the status quo and move beyond current military doctrine gave the German army and advantage over its adversaries in subsequent conflicts.
    Seeckt led this transformation by removing traditionalists from the German General Staff and replacing them with people who were able to take a close look at the failures of past conflicts and learn to create doctrine to overcome its adversary.
    Although the German General Staff thrived under Moltke, Seeckt’s led the way for doctrinal changes from trench warfare to ultimately, after his departure – Blitzkrieg. This unique ability for critical self-evaluation was made possible by an enlightened military leader created the professional development of the German German Staff, truly the real reason the German military was able to transform in response to military conditions, tactics and doctrine of its allied during the interwar period.

    Comment by Kevin Caesar | January 25, 2013

  7. In order for a military organization to successfully overcome obstacles, they have to consider many factors that would either enable or hinder them from achieving certain goals. Whether it is political factors that would hinder or economic that would promote innovation, they all can add to the military organizations success. As no military organization entered the wars following World War I with the same equipment, the interwar period was a time of advancement for most countries. The Versailles Treaty ended the war between Germany and the Allied Forces and required them to accept full responsibility for the war, disarm their military and leadership development and pay reparations to certain countries. With the German Army, innovation during the interwar period was a success due to their advancements in armored warfare at the operational and tactical level of war. Even with the Versailles Treaty dictating the removal of all weapons from Germany in 1919, it was the one country that was able to capitalize during the interwar period with new weapons. The German Army’s successful innovation during the interwar period facilitated their ability to develop doctrine from a careful and thorough analysis of their actions during World War I, and their desire to advance and improve their leader development.
    The German Army was successful with the use of their tanks not because of quality or quantity, but because they were able to train with them before the war based on their understanding on the analysis of World War I. The German Army was able to innovate with their mechanized forces better than any other country and attributed that success by studying the previous war in depth and interwar progressive movements. The success of the German Army Panzer forces at Sedan displayed their use of initiative and exploiting maneuver opportunities on the battlefield. An example of this exploiting opportunity was the German Army successfully establishing a bridge across the Meuse River for the panzer divisions to seize France. The emergence of aircraft as a weapon, although profound in its capabilities, maneuverability on the battlefield with the use of tanks and infantry was a capability that the German Army was able to capitalize on effectively.
    Doctrine development was very important to the Germans in determining which type of war they would fight next. The first of the doctrinal changes occurred in 1921 with the publication of Army Regulation 487 in the German Army that was a direct result of lessons learned from World War I as compiled by the over 400 general staff officers that fought it. A static defense, trench war concept would not be the type of war they would face in the future, so the German Army had to develop doctrine that would be comparable to what the future enemy would look like. A mobile warfare would prove to be most beneficial doctrinally to the German Army. The new Army regulations depicted doctrine that placed a high importance on maneuver, offensive operations and mission command at the lowest levels. The German Army had mastered this method of researching the past wars and also came to understand that the success to their innovation would lay in a combined arms approach in future wars. The German Army’s vision of a highly mobile force supported by a lethal artillery fires would be key to their innovation and being able to seize the initiative. Combined arms equaled success for the German Army in so many ways and according to Heinz Guderain; panzer units should include infantry, artillery and engineers in order to exploit more ground on the battlefield. This was something that was already being taught in other branches of the German Army, so it was easy to envelop them under one umbrella of doctrine. The tanks had the speed that was necessary to push through the enemy while the motorized infantry was able to bring the firepower into the battle and inflict mass destruction.
    Leadership education and training during interwar periods should help a country’s military prepare for future wars by instilling in them lessons learned from previous conflicts and doctrinal improvements that have been validated during training. The professional nature of the German Army enabled the retention of talent, an environment for the development of doctrine as well as promoted initiative amongst leaders and trust amongst the ranks. Leader development and creating a learning organization was very important for the German Army in their innovation efforts during the interwar period. Understanding that the majority of the German Army officers had not seen war since 1918, the Germans saw the need for officer training as paramount to success. Developing quality leaders during peacetime will allow a military to adapt quickly to change because they are free to learn from mistakes without the trials of an actual war. The most important move towards advancement of the officer corps occurred after Hans von Seeckt was placed in command of the Truppenamt in 1919, which was a somewhat secretive version of the General Staff, which was to have been disbanded under the Treaty of Versailles. Von Seeckt established an environment where leaders selected on their ability to lead in the Army and he used the requirement to reduce the number of soldiers in the German Army as the foundation for this selection process. Under the Versailles Treaty, Germany’s Army was reduced to 100,000 soldiers and Hans von Seeckt also used this to his advantage and changed the culture of the officer corps by retaining the most experience staff officers over those that were politically connected or “front-line” leadership. He postulated that as a smaller Army of professional soldiers trained on maneuver and mobility, they were most effective for the German Army and so he raised the standards for admission into the officer candidate program. The training programs he established brought rise to the development of Blitzkrieg tactics and the understanding that innovation was possible with the right amounts of technology, tactics and study of previous campaigns. Seeckt established an extensive amount of committees that would research the lessons learned from World War I that covered a wide range of topics uncovering why the first World War turned into a impasse leading to the defeat of the Germans. He wanted these committees to gather as much information as possible while the embers of the battle were still fresh in their memories and the leaders that were on the battlefield, were still in the German Army where he could tap into their experiences

    The ability of the German Army to successfully innovate during the interwar period was due to their ability to build a military even under the Versailles Treaty, the understanding that a review of their doctrine was necessary and the ability to develop leaders that could lead the Army at war. Von Seeckt implementation of mission command in the German Army allowed for officers and non-commissioned officers the opportunity to use their initiative on the battlefield without repercussions and because of the smaller size of the Reichwehr it was able to train select officers at complex levels of doctrine. During the Battle of Sedan, the German Army proved it intellectual value over that of the French and was able to seize France with little resistance during World War II. The success at innovation during the interwar period for the German Army with conflicts in North Africa and Soviet Union with the armored warfare was more advanced than those of the British or the French. This was due mainly to their lack of time for innovation, lack of doctrinal development or lack of talent to envision the future wars.
    The difficulties that hinder the US in innovation currently lead with the issues pertaining to our current sequestration. Budget restraints as noted by DOD is currently hindering the US from obtaining the necessary edge on Cyber warfare, thus keeping the US from successful transformations of being prepared to defend against the unknown.

    Comment by Detrice Mosby | March 21, 2013


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