The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Military Genius?

Genius has been defined in several different ways:

Genius:  Distinguished mental superiority; uncommon intellectual power; especially, superior power of invention or origination of any kind, or of forming new combinations; as, a man of genius. [1913 Webster]

Genius refers to a person, a body of work, or a singular achievement of surpassing excellence.

More than just originality, creativity, or intelligence, genius is associated with achievement of insight which has transformational power.

Many military historians, and many of Napoleon’s contemporaries think that he was a genius: Napoleon conquered all of Europe and dramatically changed the way wars were fought. Many French believe that Napoleon’s rise was because of the French system’s emphasis on promotion due to merit.  Thus it put the best man, Napoloen, in position to command the Army.  The French then built a command system to support him.  

Was Napoleon really a genius or just the leader “lucky” enough to be in the right place at the right time?

Was Napoleon’s rise based on merit… or did he lead France due to factors besides merit?

Is the commander centric command system designed to leverage “genius” the right model that the U.S. military should be following?  Is the current US system overly commander centric? 

What do you think of the idea that in a commander centric system, the commander becomes the single point of failure of the entire system?  Is “commander centric” the only logical way to run an army?

September 19, 2013 Posted by | H100 | 9 Comments

The People’s Army –An Idea Who’s Time has Past?

Some say that the concept of a “People’s Army” that is large, represents the responsibility of citizens doing their duty in service to the nation, but is relatively untrained, is a quaint 19th Century idea that is irrelevant to the modern nation state. What the modern nation state needs is a military that is highly skilled, manned by expert long service professionals, who are capable of precisely wielding the sophisticated high technology weapons of the 21st century to achieve decisive effects with minimum collateral damage. A professional l military allows war to be executed quickly and with the minimum of casualties to all concerned. A “people’s army” is good for violent, costly, and chaotic revolution, but the professional army of the stable nation state is the ultimate military force.

A different point of view insists that the professional army is a costly and wasteful arm of government that permits a nation to constantly wage war without the commitment or approval of the vast majority of the population. The standing professional army is inherently destabilizing to the international system. This argument maintains that when the cost of war is low than war is common. Thus, the relative ease and lack of debate with which the U.S. entered war with Iraq was a function of the standing professional military that made engaging in war “too easy” for the American population.

Does a professional army allow a country to go to war with the minimum of disruption to civilian life? Is this a good thing or does it contribute to the willingness / ease with which a country might decide on a war option?

The trend of Western Armies is toward small, professional, volunteer forces. Has the nature war changed in the 21st Century to make the people’s army irrelevant? Or, have transnational groups taken the idea of the “people’s army” to the next level and found a way to match it asymmetrically against a professional force?

September 19, 2013 Posted by | H100 | 11 Comments

The True Volunteers

To call an army of paid professionals a volunteer army is a misnomer. Paid professionals don’t volunteer for service, they are paid compensation for services. They are essentially mercenaries who are hired by the state. The only difference between a paid professional army that works for the state and mercenaries is that the mercenaries work for a sub-contractor of the state. The details such as citizenship, military law, and other differences are not differences in kind, but rather just differences in the nature and strictness of the contract that governors the relationship between the paid professional and his employer.

True volunteer armies are those that are manned by the democratically authorized conscription of citizens. A truly volunteer army was the French Army of the Napoleonic period or the American Army of World War I and II. The citizens voluntarily consent to military service through the actions of their elected representatives. That service is truly voluntary in that there is no contract between the state and the individual, and there is no just compensation provided back to the individual soldier.

Do you agree with the above analysis of volunteer army versus professional army? Why / why not?

Regardless of the validity of the above argument, conscript armies have many benefits to the state. What are they? What war making advantages do they have? What are their disadvantages?

The Chinese military is currently a largely conscripted force. Is it a better alternative to the professional army?

What are the concerns regarding a professional army that is not directly connected to the majority of the citizens of the state?

Finally, when helping to create national armies in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, is the US model professional army the right model for those societies?  What cultural and political factors should be considered when choosing the appropriate army model?

September 11, 2013 Posted by | H100, Uncategorized | 24 Comments

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Just a short a note to welcome the new CGSC class, Staff Section 17, to the blog.  As I have put out in class, the purpose of this blog is to continue the discussion of the class room topics in another venue. 

I will be posting a class specific blog entry for each class .  Anyone in the class, actually anyone –other CGSC students as well anyone from the public, military or civilian,  not affiliated with CGSC –can comment on what I post. 

I do not plan to edit in any way the comments on the posts.  However, in the extremely rare case where someone might spam or flame the comments sections, or post anything I deem inappropriate,  I will edit those out.

If you have something to say relevant to the class/topic that you want to express that does not go directly to the lead in blog, feel free to add that in the comments section as well.  In other words, the topics are not limited to the subjects I suggest, but are limited only limited by what is relevant to our history class and your CGSC experience.

If you are interested in “guest blogging,”  that is begining a conversation in this space on a topic related to class that you are interested in, see me for how to do that. 

Note that occassionally there will be posts to this blog which are not directly related to the History curriculm, but do relate to either the purpose of the history instruction, to use history to promote critical thinking; or to the overall purpose of critical thinking; or promote to development of your military professionalism.  Those posts are open for comment and will be considered just as all the other posts are.

A recommendation:  be aware of your writing style and grammar in your comments.  Like any public writing, including email, people will judge you by how you write as well as what you write.  I won’t be concerned about your grammer and style –but it is just natural that others will.  Do what I do –write your blog comments in word –spell check and proof read them –and then post them.  Its not a big deal, but it is an opportunity to practice good communications habits.

That said, ignore all of my style and grammar errors and focus on my content 😉

First blog(s) for AY 14 are published below.

Again, welcome to the blog for AY 14 and have fun!

September 11, 2013 Posted by | Admin, military history | 3 Comments

The Professionals

The 18th Century saw the perfection of the concept of the professional army. From the point of view of the monarch they were a great asset to the kingdom –ensuring protection from enemies from within as well as without the crown’s borders. The professional army had numerous positive attributes. It also had limitations. Both its attributes and its limitations directly effectived how the Kingdoms and Empires of the 18th Century waged wars. What were those effects?

Today the Western military forces, including the U.S. Army, are considered the finest professional military forces ever produced. As a professional military force, what attributes, both positive and negative, does the U.S. military, and the army in particular share with the professional forces of Frederick the Great’s Prussia?

Do the professional attributes of the U.S. military effect how the U.S. military wages war in a way similiar to the professionals effect on war in 18th Century? If so, how?

September 5, 2013 Posted by | H100, Professional Military Education | 25 Comments