The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H100 –Viva la Revolucion!

poster_cheguevara_bigAuthors Knox and Murray, in the textbook, The Dynamics of Military Revolution, analyze the major historical changes in the nature of warfare in the modern period.  They call these Military Revolutions (MR).  A subset of those revolutions are smaller specific changes in the methods of warfare, they consider these smaller scale more focused changes Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMA).  The major military debate coming in the next years is how to structure the American military for the 21st Century.  In that debate it is important to determine if warfare currently is in the midst or has undergone an MR based on emerging and existing digital information technologies.    Do you think the US Army leadership believes that an MR has occurred or is occurring?  What is the evidence of that?  Regardless of what you believe the US Army leadership thinks regarding MRs, what is your opinion?  


August 27, 2013 - Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , ,


  1. To the last question…I think the United States Army is currently experiencing a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA); however, I do not believe this RMA is the beginning of, or will lead to, an MR. In the textbook, Knox and Murray define an MR as something that “fundamentally changes the framework of war.” Nothing the Army is doing now meets that threshold. Innovative technology or newly created commands such as UAVs and Space Command, which could be sighted as evidence of an MR, more accurately fit the description of RMAs, which are, as Knox and Murray define them, “new conceptual approaches to warfare or a specialized sub-branch of warfare.” These examples do not signal a “fundamental change in the framework of warfare,” they are simply more efficient, and hopefully for our side safer, ways to fight wars under our current framework.

    Comment by Seth G. Hall | August 27, 2013

  2. Seth, while I agree that the American Military has not yet met the Military Revolution threshold, as defined by the Knox and Murray. I would suggest that the American Government and Military Leadership is preparing for a MR in the “Cyber Domain”. Chiefly I will point to the Creation of, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), a Sub-Unified Command under USSTRATCOM and its Service Component Command, mainly U.S. Army Cyber (ARCYBER). USCYBERCOM centralizes command of cyberspace operations, organizes existing cyber resources and synchronizes defense of U.S. military networks(1).

    The reason that I think this command was created was to combat the realities that are out in the cyber domain. One of the most glaring is the STUXNET computer virus. As, Steven Cherry discussed in his 2010 article, “Stuxnet…provides a blueprint for a new generation of cyberweapons.(2)” It is these weapons that represent the start of a new MR because of who is able to employ them. We no longer have men on the battlefield or missiles in the air to achieve strategic strike objectives. It can be a lone computer programmer with access to the “Cyber Global Commons” who removes the ability of a nation-state to refine and process nuclear material.

    This is a “fundamental change in the framework of war”; battles no longer need to occur between nations or even against nations. If we look at war the way Carl Von Clausewitz did, as war as an extension of politics, this new technology gives any individual the ability to manipulate the politics of a nation, corporation or other individual.

    Now, I will say that STUXNET is currently being attributed to a nation-state(3). But by the very nature of the cyber domain, we may never know who perpetrated this attack. And this is even more frightening. If there is no ability to “return fire”, how will nations defend themselves in the cyber age. And this may be another “fundamental change in war”.
    This is why I believe that an MR is coming and why the American Military is preparing for it.

    1. U.S. Department of Defense, Cyber Command Fact Sheet, 21 May 2010

    2. Steven Cherry, with Ralph Langner (13 October 2010). “How Stuxnet Is Rewriting the Cyberterrorism Playbook”. IEEE Spectrum.

    3. Robert McMillan (16 September 2010). “Siemens: Stuxnet worm hit industrial systems”. Computerworld. Retrieved 16 September 2010.

    Comment by Aaron M. Parker | August 28, 2013

  3. I believe that we very well may be at the beginning of an MR, however are at present within a RMA. Cyber absolutely poses a new arena of warfare, which has both unknown possibilities and ramifications. The President denotes the importance of cybersecurity within the National Security Council creating a comprehensive National Cyber Initiative. This initiative identifies the importance of cyber security as well as clearly states the risks and future are unknown. The domain and concept is new and the possibilities are endless.

    The military is preparing (and funding) Cyber in order to defend networks, institutions, and the US as a whole. Cyber’s affect has been demonstrated in past and current conflicts. In 2007, Estonia was cyber attacked by Russia causing havoc on Estonia’s government, financial, and media websites. This was the “second-largest instance of state-sponsored cyberwarfare” (2007). Currently, as the US plans a strategy for handling Syria, the New York Times ( was attacked by Syrian supporters on 28AUG13. If US involvement occurs in Syria, a cyber defense should be considered.

    Cyber is the new weapon to be used in war and has become another dimension on which to fight. This is not to say that the physical Army will therefore become obsolete. The way we currently use the cyber, the internet, and the technological advances are very much on an incremental incline common to the RMA theme. Currently Cyber is being used in conjunction with other forms of warfare; Cyber can become a great enabler if used properly. It is the current usage and current posturing of Cyber combined with the unknown future that posse cyber as a possibility of become the next MR.

    The Economist 24 May 2007: Cyberwarfare is becoming scarier:

    Comment by Mai Lee Eskelund | August 29, 2013

  4. Cyberspace is decisively a revolution in military affairs. The Pentagon recognizes it as a new domain and as such unified the effort under Cyber Command to lead day-to-day protection of defense networks, centralize military cyberwarfare resources, and work with domestic and international partners (1).

    1. Lynn III, William J. “Defending a new domain: the Pentagon’s cyberstrategy.” Foreign Affairs, 2010: 97.

    Comment by Troy Feltis | August 30, 2013

  5. I think the US Army leadership believes an MR has occurred, based on the experience in OEF and OIF. OEF and OIF have been characterized by primarily urban warfare. In light of that experience, the Army changed the term from Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) to Urban Operations (UO). A new FM, (FM 3-06, URBAN OPERATIONS, October 2006), was published to incorporate, among other things, the UO into the full spectrum operations in urban areas for planning purposes. The FM 3-06 states in page 2-1, “From a planning perspective, commanders view cities not just as a topographic feature but as dynamic entities that include hostile forces, local population, and infrastructure.” The urban warfare doctrine has changed from the 90’s when I joined the Army. I don’t recall ever conducting any MOUT or UO training while stationed in Germany or Fort Knox, KY. Now is almost mandatory to conduct UO training at all level of commands. The OEF and OIF, to me, changed the way we used to think about urban warfare. Now is even more complex that leaders and planners most take in consideration when conducting mission analysis.

    Comment by MAJ Emilio Rodriguez-17B | August 30, 2013

  6. Has the US Military gone through a Military Revolution?
    I don’t think that a military revolution has occurred. I do not believe that all the elements needed to create a military revolution are present in regards to doctrine or cyber. Both are only changes in conceptual approaches to warfare.

    Although doctrine now uses new vocabulary (with associated new concepts) like, “Decisive Action” and “Mission Command”, the framework of warfare hasn’t changed. I do acknowledge that significant revisions to previous military doctrinal publications allude to a change in attitude and perspective, but I do not recognize those changes as a signal of a military revolution. I also do not believe that the cyber arena is mature enough to force a change to the framework of war.

    Cyber attacks occur. All electronic devices that touch a shared network are vulnerable to intrusion…and control is just a few steps away. Although military leaders recognize the potential for compromise, no framework changes have been made…yet. I do believe that a Military Revolution will occur with cyber. Why would a government pay to send Soldiers to a foreign country for information collection, when they could hack into thousands of wireless cameras using sophisticated technology to perform geolocation, pattern recognition and voice translation simultaneously and find, what (who) they are looking for from their beach chair on the North Shore using cloud architecture.

    One indicator that a military revolution has occurred with cyber would be if the National Security Council thinks first of a cyber attack rather than discussing cruise missile strikes. There aren’t enough pieces of infrastructure in foreign countries (South Korea, maybe; Egypt, doubtful) connected to an open computer network to provide all the capability for precision action yet. Although this is an option to US adversaries unless we get smarter.

    At present the US population relies heavily on the internet, and Americans are using more devices to provide autonomous control for efficient function of utilities, pattern recognition, scheduling, information storage, etc… But, many of the belligerent countries of the early 21st century aren’t there yet. Until our adversaries begin installing surveillance systems in their homes (that they can check from their mobile devices…so we can check it for them), connect their air defense control networks to the internet or link their nation’s electricity control mainframes to the internet, then cyber can’t be the ‘go to’ attack strategy.

    Therefore, cyber has the potential but it isn’t there yet and the military revolution as a result of new doctrine won’t occur until US Military Officers actually know the doctrine (maybe the Box-O-doctrine is the first step). I liked the comments so far. Great thoughts.

    Comment by MAJ Dallen Arny SG17C | August 30, 2013

  7. To expand on my argument from above and for all the doubters out there I offer this. The absolute ubiquitous integration of technology into every day society has fundamentally changes the way military leaders need to think about and conduct warfare.

    This means that commanders must consider and control the information and technology inside and outside their formations. In the reading, Knox and Murray discuss a Military Revolution in these terms; “uncontrollable, unpredictable, and unforeseeable” and “it recasts society”. While it is hard to judge the first one, I would say that society is recast around the information revolution; the availability of unlimited data at our finger tips. While several comments have pointed out that technology is not universal worldwide yet, I would point to a recent International Business Time article discussing, the spread of 3G wireless data capability in rural Africa (1). The article shows that even the poorest, most remote nations and peoples are quickly gaining the capability to join the rest of the world in the “Cyber Global Commons.” This means a failure to consider these information dissemination and technological advances in every AO in which we operate has the potential to be a catastrophic failure.

    Now back to the “uncontrollable, unpredictable, and unforeseeable”. The problem with the “next” MR is there needs to be a conflict that shows the “change in framework”. Is it ok for the Army or the American Government sit back and wait to see if we will come out on top? As was discussed in class, an MR gives a temporary advantage to the force that see the change first and capitalizes on it. This has worked for Americans in 3 of the 5 MR that are discussed in Knox and Murray. But if we put our head in the sand and ignore the possibilities that the cyber domain enables, we will be on the wrong side of this next MR. The challenge is to establish how to uses these capabilities first and add them to the combined arms capabilities already used in the US Army.

    1. Staff Reporter (August,2013). “Rural Africa, Meet 3G: Asian Telecoms Using Satellites To Increase Coverage On Continent” International Business Times.

    Comment by Aaron M. Parker | August 30, 2013

  8. Based on what I’ve read above and my own experience, I believe that our current Army leadership does not necessarily believe a MR has occurred or is occurring, but are hedging their bets that one will likely occur very soon. There have been some good points brought up about the new emphasis on cyber command and how many resources our current leadership is pouring into this new domain, but I do not think it has met the full threshold yet of a MR. I fail to see any “fundamental change in the framework of warfare” – if there was, we would be talking about how and if the President and other coalition partners will execute a cyber attack against the Syrian regime instead of a missile and/or bombing campaign. As it stands, we are not and our military leadership is likely recommending a strike package not dissimlar from strikes that were carried out during the Clinton Adminsitration nearly 20 years ago. And while any potential strike the US and/or its coalition partners decide to carry out may be done with a great deal more precision this time, this, to me, is evidence enough that we have not yet had any type of MR regarding digital information technologies.

    Our current technological advancements have brought an increased capacity to the Soldier on the battleifield, but they are still mostly only contributing to his own situational awareness and completion of the mission. We continue to fight in the manner that we have fought our nations wars for quite some time – with Soldiers on the ground holding key terrain and being responsible for making the necessary decisions to win individual battles. The incredible pace to which digital information technologies advance likely has many key leaders worried of losing any potential digital advantage over an adversary – which, in my opinion, explains our increased efforts in the cyber area. No MR has yet occurred in this area, but the US likely wants to be very sure it is ready for when and if it does come so that we are able to seize its benefits.

    Comment by MAJ Jeff Pickler | September 3, 2013

  9. Just before I departed South Korea this summer, it was asserted that North Korea was behind a cyber attack that crippled South Korea’s banking institutions bringing most of them offline for 24-48 hours. I think we will continue to see small disruptions of service and hacking events as countries such as South Korea, Iran, and China continue to refine their hacking capabilities. We are certainly crossing into a period of “unknown” and perhaps “uncontrollable.” I think the military recognizes this possible revolutionary capability that cyberspace brings and is actively attempting to either be prepared for or lead the way into the next military revolution. Economically crippling a society, shutting down vital systems, and putting people into chaos could happen in as little as 48 hours. We better be ready.

    1. BBC News (July, 2013). “North Korea ‘behind cyber attack’ on South websites”.

    Comment by Ray Crotts | September 4, 2013

  10. Ray, good points. One definition of war is that it is the application of violence. If you can achieve destructive effects through cyber –ie shut down communications and disrupt economies… is that war? Is cyber attack the same as violence? Do we need to change the definition of war or do we need to broaden the definition of violence?

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  11. Jeff– good arguement.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  12. But… if cyber / digital is not the next MR, but rather an enhancement of existing capabilities, then we risk putting too much emphasis on a capability that is an enhancement rather than a core function of warfare. So the question remains, has digital technology “fundementally” changed warfare.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  13. I will put you down as a definate maybe at some time in the future if possible. 😉

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  14. Good thoughts Mai Lee. Consider this, Knox and Murray do not consider flight or the creation of the USAF as important enough to rate a “new MR.” This demonstrates how high they consider the bar.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  15. While I agree with Aaron’s views on the importance of Cyber, I believe it best fits as a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) vice a Military Revolution (MR). While Geoffrey Parker does not use the MR/RMA terminology, I can not separate his analogy of Charles the Bold and Philip the Bold(1) from my own definition and opinion of MR. While Cyber’s importance and impact certainly can not be minimized, and has permeated our military culture, it is an evolution of technology and while my grand-father would no doubt be surprised by cyber’s significance in military operations and conflict, it would not be a world that he could not understand; despite the fact that his Navy of the 1950s did not have true Cyber elements.

    Further, MacGregor Knox seems to stress that technology alone is not a sole indicator of a MR.(2) And while I feel that Cyber’s is integral to daily operations, I do not believe that we are too far removed from the world without this technology. Cyber has the ability to achieve the status of MR if as it continues to impact the warfighting arenas, functionally changing how all wars and conflict are fought. However, as recent military struggles and conflicts illustrate, Cyber has not, as of yet, changed the very foundation of war and has to date been little more than evolution and implementation of new technology.

    What I believe we have seen recently though is, to coin a term, is a Revolution in Military Leadership (RML); with RMLs being an underlying change in military leadership and associated values and ideals which impact but do not result in a fundamental shift in the the ways wars are fought. Using the theories of Parker and Knox related to principles of MR/RMA and those mentioned above, there have been several time-periods where major changes in military leadership, seem to have occurred. While this hypothesis would require significant research to identify specific RMLs of the recent past, and how toxic leaders (new term for a old concept) of these periods signaled these RMLs. I would propose that these have been driven by both technology (the media, rise of social media and information availability) and societal changes (such as evolving political landscape, funding, Joint focus, a family focused military, societal risk aversion and political correctness) and that we are experiencing a RML now.

    (1) Geoffrey Parker, ed., The Cambridge History of Warfare (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 99.
    (2) MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray, ed., The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050 (New York: NY: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 73.

    Comment by LCDR Matt Krull | September 10, 2013

  16. Dr. Dimarco,the military is assuming significant risk in committing to cyber, not know if it is a red herring. But, I think there are two answers to your question about the fundamental change.

    First, a nation’s / individual’s ability to inflict violence with Cyber (Your suggestion to Ray). The ability to inflict violence is only limited by the creativity of the hacker. There are three examples; Hacking cars on the road, changing the Common Operating Picture (COP) on digital platforms, and causing damage to industrial systems through digital controllers. Think of the chaos that would be caused if OnStar was hacked and cars on the freeway were stopped suddenly? How many deaths/ injuries would there if this happened in high speed traffic? (1) Additionally, what if a nation state was able to hack into the Command and Control systems used to control fires in an Army division? The ability to put false or modified data on the COP would only be limited by access. Changing the location data of friendly and enemy units could cause fire effects to be misplaced on friendly units or civilian areas, think of the violence that could be inflicted. And Finally, I think I already talked about the “STUXNET” virus that crippled the industrial facility refining uranium in Iran. These three example show, that while the hackers don’t pull the trigger, they could be more than capable of inflicting violence.

    Second, the change in the “Cyber Warrior”. Think of the operator in Cyber Space. They have power to inflict damage, create confusion, and reduce situational awareness without being in immediate threat of retaliation. They do not have to put themselves in harm’s way to disrupt the enemy. They don’t have to have “forbearance” to withstand enemy fire or even the requirement to be physically fit. The requirement for the Cyber Warrior, is to be good with computers and have the drive and creativity to exploit the enemy. This is a leadership challenge to the current military system. The people that are truly good at Cyber don’t often look like, think like, or are motivated like traditional Solders. This is a fundamental change in how militaries recruit, train and retain cyber capabilities.

    So, although there could be a nothing that comes of the cyber fight, to ignore the impacts and changes that come with cyber would be foolish and could kill Americans on our own soil, the real question is, are we doing enough?

    (1) Howard, Bill. (July, 2010). “Conspiracy of the week: Can your car be hacked while you’re driving?”

    Comment by Aaron M. Parker | September 11, 2013

  17. Aaron,

    You make a great point about the risks of being wrong. I also like your point that cyber can be very lethal. These two points make the decisions and cultural attitudes toward cyber warfare very critical. I don’t think anyone is advocating that cyber is not very important –the debate is over just “how important is it.” Getting that answer wrong may have significant consequences either way you answer it.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 12, 2013

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