The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

World War I: On Strategy

General Helmut Von Molke, Chief of the German General Staff, 1914

“I answered His Majesty that this was impossible. The deployment of an army a million strong was not a thing to be improvised, it was the product of a whole year’s hard work and once planned could not be changed. If His Majesty were to insist on directing the whole army to the east, he would not have an army prepared for the attack but a barren heap of armed men disorganized and without supplies.”

The Kaiser: “Your uncle would have given me a different answer.”


Given the below definitions from our current doctrine, and the conversation described above, what did Von Molke not understand about strategy?  Also, do you think there is a danger of U.S. national and miltiary leadership making a similar mistake?  Why or why not?



strategy — A prudent idea or set of ideas for employing the instruments of national power in a synchronized and integrated fashion to achieve theater, national, and/or multinational objectives. (JP 3-0)

National Security Strategy — A document approved by the President of the United States for developing, applying, and coordinating the instruments of national power to achieve objectives that contribute to national security. Also called NSS. See also National Military Strategy; strategy; theater strategy. (JP 3-0)

national defense strategy — A document approved by the Secretary of Defense for applying the Armed Forces of the United States in coordination with Department of Defense agencies and other instruments of national power to achieve national security strategy objectives. Also called NDS. (JP 3-0)

National Military Strategy — A document approved by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for distributing and applying military power to attain national security strategy and national defense strategy objectives. Also called NMS. See also National Security Strategy; strategy; theater strategy. (JP 3-0)

theater strategy — An overarching construct outlining a combatant commander’s vision for integrating and synchronizing military activities and operations with the other instruments of national power in order to achieve national strategic objectives. See also
National Military Strategy; National Security Strategy; strategy. (JP 3-0)


strategy – (DOD) The art and science of developing and employing instruments of national power in a synchronized and integrated fashion to achieve theater, national and/or multinational objectives. See FM 3-0. (FM 1-02).

military strategy – (DOD) The art and science of employing the armed forces of a nation to secure the objectives of national policy by the application of force or the threat of force. See also strategy. See FM 3-0. (FM 1-02).

November 19, 2013 Posted by | H100, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Army and Intellectualism

From an article defining intellectualism:

An intellectual is a person who primarily uses intelligence in either a professional or an individual capacity. As a substantive or adjective, it refers to the work product of such persons, to the so-called “life of the mind” generally, or to an aspect of something where learning, erudition, and informed and critical thinking are the focus, as in “the intellectual level of the discourse on the matter was not high”.

The intellectual is a specific variety of the intelligent, which unlike the general property, is strictly associated with reason and thinking. Many everyday roles require the application of intelligence to skills that may have a psychomotor component, for example, in the fields of medicine, sport or the arts, but these do not necessarily involve the practitioner in the “world of ideas”. The distinctive quality of the intellectual person is that the mental skills, which he or she demonstrates, are not simply intelligent, but even more, they focus on thinking about the abstract, philosophical and esoteric aspects of human inquiry and the value of their thinking. Traditionally, the scholarly and the intellectual classes were closely identified; however, while intellectuals need not necessarily be actively involved in scholarship, they often have an academic background and will typically have an association with a profession.

Based on the above discussion of what intellectual means, particularly the phrase “an aspect of something where learning, erudition, and informed and critical thinking are the focus,” it seems to confirm that the major focus of CGSC is intellectual pursuits.  The curriculum and the history course in particular specifically highlights the learning objective of improving “critical thinking.”

The above is aligned with the German General Staff tradition of producing “thinkers” above “leaders” to guide the institution at the strategic level.  Not that a gifted individual cannot be both, but in terms of which capacity the institution values more at the operational and strategic levels of command.

Given the emphasis at CGSC, and by implication, at SAMS and the Army War College, on critical thinking, what are you thoughts on the two part Army magazine article the Uniformed Intellectual:

Part 1

Part 2

Note that in the above article, written in 2002, you will see many themes that have come up at different times in class.   That is purely coincidentaly, but appropriate.  This article didn’t come to my attention until 2012.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | C120, H100, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ender’s Game: Tactics, Strategy, Training, and Critical Thinking in Science Fiction

Ender’s Game is a recognized sci-fi classic and my intent here is not to review it. There are over 2,000 positive reviews of it on Amazon (as well as over 60 negative reviews) and I encourage that all who are interested in the book graze over what the Amazon readers have opined. Despite the few very critical reviews, I found the book a quick, easy, and interesting read. I recommend it strongly to those interested in sci-fi in general, military sci-fi in particular, and training military leaders.

My interest in Ender’s Game is that it is a sci-fi novel that is mostly about training for battle. The actual war is wrapped up in the last 30 pages of the book. I think the important points that the book makes are about training; and the most important points about training that it makes are the importance of immersion in the training environment and the focus on creative solutions. It also makes the point that it is absolutely critical to focus on the development of individual leading and thinking skills. Acquiring knowledge, technical skills, and collective training are important but secondary educational requirements. The leader is the single point of failure in military endeavors. Knowledge, skill, and collective training mean little unless uniquely trained and exceptionally competent leaders employ soldiers and units correctly and most effectively. Ender’s Game makes the point that leaders make two vital contributions to military success: first, effective decision-making and second, maximizing the abilities and potential of subordinates.

The most intriguing aspect of the book is the use of simulation and technology to train critical and creative thinking and decision-making. Written in 1985, this book advocates many of the training characteristics I did in my article “Training Tactics in Virtual Reality” ten years later.

What I think is still frustrating is that, though the technology is there to support it, the military in general still has not made the leap to using technology to train individual thinking and decision making skills. Ender’s Game demonstrates that military sci-fi can be a creative inspiration for how we should be thinking about and using technology to make our military more effective.

Click here to go to Orson Scott Card’s Website.

Click here to see my article on training in virtual reality.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments