The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H100 –Viva la Revolucion!

The Leavenworth Way of War

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?  

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September 3, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. I do not think the US Army considers emerging digital capabilities to be a new Military Revolution. Instead, the digital front is being seen by the Army and other military services as an evolutionary step in modern warfare therein labeling digital capabilities as a Revolution in Military Affairs. This opinion is evidenced by the lethargic transition away from lumping all things communication under Signals and the very slow doctrine incorporation of digital power as a warfighting function. While changes are happening in the Army such as new MOS creation and emerging capabilities with CYBERCOM, these changes are only evolutionary in nature to meet a growing threat.

    I agree with the Army in that this is not a Military Revolution. My opinion mainly is built around the definitions of a Military Revolution – namely, that the event be large, unpredictable, and revolutionary. While cyber capabilities are slowly being integrated into warfare, the domain has existed and grown over nearly four decades. Science fiction authors since the 1970’s predicted logical courses of action on the technology front which are manifesting today therein underscoring the predictability of the digital domain.

    The true challenge facing the military is how rapidly the cyber warfighting function is incorporated into doctrine and mindset. Establishment of a new MOS and Weapons Instructor Courses for Cyber warfighting is not enough. Instead, the US military must incorporate cyber dominance throughout the force structure and adjust the battlespace picture to account for this critical domain as a forethought instead of its current afterthought status.

    Comment by Matt Wunderlich, 19A | September 3, 2015

  2. I believe that the military is currently undergoing a military revolution. While Knox and Murray define a military revolution as one that is uncontrollable, unpredictable, and unforeseeable, there are indications that the information revolution could fundamentally change the framework of war. First, the information revolution affects all levels of war from the tactical to the strategic. The tactical soldier at the frontline is now empowered with strategic precision strike capabilities through networked communication systems. Second, the information revolution affects all services. The nature of joint warfare depends on inter-operability and communication across the services. A key enabler is critical communications infrastructure. This allows armed forces to fight in a more integrated and effective manner. Third, the information revolution has an impact on society and the state. In the article “A Framework About Societal Evolution”, David Ronfeldt describes the evolution of society from tribes, to institutions, to markets, and finally to networks. Ronfeldt’s proposition is that the information revolution strengthens network forms of organization. He adds that “power and influence appears to be migrating to actors who are skilled at developing multi-organizational networks, and at operating in environments where networks are an appropriate spreading form of organization”.

    Comment by Luke Goh, 19B | September 3, 2015

  3. I believe we are potentially on the verge of a military revolution. I argue that the establishment of the new MOS and CYBERCOM is only an evolutionary step in military development, I would also argue that it is merely only one RMA of the digital revolution. Cyber defense has been in practice within the US Military since the advent of a globalized internet. However, the addition of new, highly trained, Soldiers in the art of cyber attack has added a fifth dimension to the war fighting domain. Although not fully taken advantage of, mostly due to the lack of established skills, the technological possibilities are endless. On Dec 4, 2011, Iranian cyberwarfare units took control of a US RQ-170 Sentinel and diverted it into Iranian airspace, landed it, and exploited the aircraft. Although embarrassing for the US, this example has opened the eyes to the possibilities of future warfare. If we can protect our assets and use cyber attack to render the technologies of our foes useless, this would indeed change the nature of warfare. The need for massive forces occupying land may no long be needed when the enemy can be stopped before they even start.

    As stated earlier, I believe this is an RMA, however coupled with the continued advancement of different technologies within the 21st Century may later on suggest that we are in a period of a military revolution. I would state our technological advances are revolutionary; and has and will continue to change the dynamics of how we fight. Like every other military revolution, we may not know that we are currently in one and may be hind sight years down the road. I think we are in the midst of the sixth revolution and only time will tell.

    Comment by James Stall, 19A | September 4, 2015

  4. I do not think the US Military believes it is in the middle of a MR. It is true the speed of technology growth is faster than ever, but the US Military is not making any major moves to capitalize on these advances. However, our adversaries are and this is evident by the cyber and space warfare China and Russia are waging (and winning) on the US. The most recent MR, during WWII, was characterized by heavy investment by the US to develop nuclear weapons faster than the Soviet Union. We knew this technology was revolutionary and could not afford to fall behind so the ramp up of development and fielding was very rapid.

    There is no doubt the military recognizes the importance of technology on the battlefield and how it has leveled the playing field. Technology is a RMA. The US Military was able to initially capitalize on the technologic advantage in the 90’s and early 2000’s but our lead is shrinking. Despite all of these signs, the US Military/government is only making small steps to capitalize on the advantage today. Why is this the case? I think the military is aware of the issues, but 15 years of continuous war has taken a heavy toll on development. Every service is struggling to modernize and coupled with continuing budget uncertainties it is almost impossible to commit large sums of money that don’t pertain to the here and now.

    Until budgets normalize and the military can plan more successfully, I don’t see the military doing more than holding ground and hopefully not loosing anymore as evident in the recent OPM hacks. This is one battle we cannot afford to fall behind because technology is quickly leveling the battlefield creating more threats.

    Comment by Greg Moulton 19C | September 8, 2015

  5. I think that the US Military leaders want to believe we are in the midst of an MR. I think we all want to believe that what we are doing and the changes we are making are revolutionary in nature and have a significant impact for the future. There is a significant amount of evidence to support the belief that an MR could be occurring due to a large number of RMAs over the past decade or so. Technology, especially in the areas of cyber, informational and electronic warfare, is impacting our current tactics and doctrine at an incredible rate. These advances allow us to deliver more lethal combat forces quicker than before. However, I do not believe we are in an MR. First, our new technologies help us conduct war, but haven’t shifted our thinking about warfare. Second, the technology gap we have over our enemies isn’t substantial for very long. They copy or acquire the technology and its application quickly and lessen the effective impact. Using the Nature of Warfare charts presented in class, I visualize our current trend line changing from 45 degrees to a steeper slope, not jumping vertically. Although I cannot identify specific evidence that proves we are in a MR now, I do think that the number of RMAs we are seeing now could still create an MR before the rate of change stabilizes again.

    Before you read this next paragraph, I must warn you that I read a lot of science fiction. I believe that the next MR will be related to warfare in space. Each of the previous five MRs (Murray and Knox, Dynamics of Military Revolution, pg 6) derived from or resulted in a shift in the balance of power between states. Unrelated to war itself, state/tribal/kingdom/etc. leaders wanted to pursue advances in military power in order increase their ability to support their state/tribe/kingdom through some kind of colonization or ideology expansion. The rules and norms within the international community on Earth are well-established now. I believe they are unlikely to change significantly. However, the ability to expand into space would change a state’s power and defy the current rules. I’m not imaginative enough to see what the MR will be, but I’m confident it will happen.

    Comment by Laura A Proffit | September 8, 2015

  6. I do not believe we are in a MR. However, the Information Age is an extremely relevant and one of the most important RMAs of the past 50 years. Human beings have always communicated, whether through actions, drawings, voice, writing, messengers, printers, flags, telegraphs, telephone, and now through the Internet. In deciphering the Knox and Murray text, this is merely a natural advancement of the ability to communicate.
    Advocates of the Information Age as an MR will say it fits into the categories that Knox and Murray define as an MR: changes in framework of war, long effects, unpredictable, gives one side a distinct advantage, provides ability to dominate warfare until everyone realizes the revolution and adapts, difficult to detect, and has effects on all parts of society (Murray and Knox, Dynamics of Military Revolution, pg 6-7). It is quite obvious that everyone has realized the advantages of networked systems, and has adapted. In the early 1990’s when the Internet became widespread, it could be somewhat argued that it was in fact an MR, but certainly not in 2015. All future modifications in the Information Age will be RMAs. I believe 3d printing will be one of the greatest RMAs of our time, or a completely new MR.

    Comment by Tim Lawrence 19C | September 8, 2015

  7. There is a debate on whether the 17th century has known a military revolution or evolution. As revolution implies
    multinational changes in the same period of history, and considering other characteristics such as multifacetedness , diversity of fields, suddenness, and constancy, the fact that France was one of the greatest European nations with Louis xiv, the Sun King at that time but did not influence other nations makes it difficult for me to believe in revolution for that period. besides, the changes are minor and specific to France such as the preference of fusils and bayonets to muskets and pikes; the cultivation of esprit de corps and innovation of drill. The failure on the technological field of the canon de nouvelle invention is also a limitation to speak in terms of MR. At least, we can use ME, but later the French Revolution, with Napoleonian creativity will impact the western way of war with technological , tactical, administrative, and many other changes so that we can speak about MR in the 18th century.

    Comment by Celestin Mbayo Lupungu 19A / September 8, 2015

    Comment by Celestin Mbayo Lupungu | September 9, 2015

  8. We are currently experiencing what may be the most significant military revolution in history: the Globalization and Information Military Revolution. This military revolution encompasses broad social, political, and economic change that effects the strategic, operational, and tactical environment.

    Globalization of the marketplace has inextricably linked economies, cultures, and regions more than any other time in history. This dramatically changes the calculation of governments on when and how to wage war. The domestic requirements for international trade, the complex web of foreign direct investment and foreign debt holdings, and the specialization of economies significantly de-incentivizes direct military confrontation between world powers.

    Additionally, the prevalence and access to technology in the current Information Age has empowered the individual, reduced the technological and military advantage of developed, industrial nations, and created an environment where individuals and non-state actors can have global effects. When this access to information and technology are coupled with the current global environment, the way nations and non-state actors wage war will never be the same. In the current environment, any individual can have a strategic effect.

    In the current Military Revolution, a Tunisian self immolates as a final measure of civil disobedience and triggers revolution across North Africa and the Middle East. A civilian casualty against a legitimate military target causes international backlash and a reevaluation of accepted norms in tactics and policy. In the current Military Revolution, a few individuals with box cutters can thrust the most powerful nation in the world into a multi-decade war on multiple continents. These events were, and continue to be, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and unforeseeable, and reflect the current Globalization and Information Military Revolution.

    Comment by Kyle Johnston | October 1, 2015

  9. A military revolution refers to a change in strategy and tactics resulting in major changes in government. We are in the midst of a military revolution and the Army is fully aware. Evidence includes the formation of a cyber command, unfortunately, we are way behind the power curve. John Kerry recently told CNN he believes the Chinese and Russians may be reading his emails. Cyber compromises are on the rise, which is causing us to change the way we work, buy things, etc. Numerous government agencies have fallen victim to data breeches: NASA, Department of social services, IRS, NAVY and Army just to name a few. Millions of files containing PII have fallen into the wrong hands. Th electronic age has ushered in a military revolution of huge proportion and the US has been caught off guard and we are in reaction mode every step of the way. Numerous changes have been made and more are coming. The use of technology has been a blessing as well as a curse and I believe we must go back to the old way of doing things to protect ourselves on and off the battlefield. The government is jumping through hoops trying to stay ahead of the enemy, but we are obviously failing.

    My opinion is we are in the middle of a military revolution and we may never see the end of it. Technology grows by leaps and bounds and keeping up with it is very difficult if not impossible. We change our Tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP)s and the enemy changes theirs just as fast and the cycle continues.

    Comment by Major John McAlister | October 30, 2015

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