The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Is There a Strategist in the House?

russia 1941One of the reasons why the German offensive into Russia in 1941, Operation Barbarossa, failed, may have been the cultural inability of the German high command to think in terms of, and visualize strategic warfare on a global scale.  The German military, prior to WWII, had very little experience with warfare outside of Europe.  Their major war experience was WWI and the primary focus of the German military in that war was in the relatively small geographic area of western Europe.  Thus, many students of World War II see the German military as experts at battle, experts at operational warfare, and complete failures as global strategists.  Today’s American army is similarly considered expert at battle and joint warfare.  Does the modern American military have a similar weakness when it comes to strategy?


January 9, 2014 - Posted by | H200 | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I believe that the military today does has a similar strategy weakness in determining the path and service strategy during inter-conflict periods. We have already discussed the relatively poor track record of the military in forecasting the next conflict or enemy but the requirements for how we budget the force requires each service to commit (fully) to a strategy to bridge the gap between current conflict and the next, a strategy that will prepare the service for the enemy and struggles of the future, while preserving their strength and piece of the budget. Once faced with a clear enemy or crisis (specifically once funding is less of a limitation) there services come together with a much more cohesive strategy for short (relatively) term joint success in executing national strategy and achieving national strategic means.

    In the interim, despite our joint tact, budget concerns drive services to develop their own unique capabilities and each service is, in many ways, averse to yielding capabilities or funding to support another service in times where we must do “more with less.” This is not to say that we do not strive to work in a joint environment or value the contributions of other services, but nearsighted budget fights under the guise of long term service strategy have led to a myriad of service strategies that are joint, in that they include a partner service, but that they prioritize funding for specific services over others. Examples of this include Strategic Landpower; Air-Sea-Battle; Maritime Strategy; ballistic missile defense planning; the inter-service UAV struggle; the Joint Strike Fighter development and roll-out plan… all of which prioritize some but not all services as the way ahead for national defense.

    Not that I have any recommendations around budget restraints or a seamless solution with one inter-conflict strategy (honestly I err to naval strategy and capabilities) but I believe this is a long term strategy weakness that prevents the military from making progress to overcome the next enemy and conflict and we are likely to start the next conflict trying to shoehorn the current doctrine and lessons learned into whatever situation we are facing while we ramp-up and readjust.

    Comment by LCDR Matt Krull | January 12, 2014

  2. Sir, very interesting analysis. Great perspective. There are weaknesses in the military strategies that will take time to implement. Also despite the time it takes to develop strategies we must have a budget to support, right? Strategies and budgets are both weaknesses if not properly implemented and can or will prevent progress to overcome the next enemy and conflict.

    Comment by Tawan Harris 17B | January 23, 2014

  3. It is my opinion that it is not the American military that is weak when it comes to strategy, I think it would be more appropriate to say that it is our nation’s leadership. The American military has certainly been successful at both the tactical and operational levels of war, but the strategic blunders have been due much more to misplaced (or nonexistent) strategic goals/vision on behalf of our political leadership. It’s nearly impossible to know how our Afghanistan campaign would have been different had the invasion into Iraq never happened. It’s also very difficult to know how different the Iraq war might have been had the senior leaders listened to the Army leaders on required numbers for the war and the necessity to use members of the Iraqi security forces during the rebuilding effort after major combat operations were over.
    The American military is certainly not without fault and it seemed to take us longer than necessary to fully understand how to be successful in counterinsurgency operations, but I still contend that the majority of the strategic blunders occurred due to political strategic failures above anything else.

    Comment by Jeff Pickler | February 3, 2014

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