The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H107 The Military 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.


October 14, 2015 - Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The army requires commanders with different strengths, including “leaders”, “doers” and “thinkers”, to complement each other and operate as a team. I think it is unproductive for armies to explicitly value a particular quality (e.g. thinking) above another (e.g. leading). Such armies will inevitably put in place structural incentives to promote the particular quality that is preferred. By doing so, the organization becomes more homogeneous, with commanders having similar strengths and weaknesses. This reduces the capacity and resilience of the organization.

    Armies should encourage commanders to achieve their potential in different areas based on their differing aptitudes and preferences. This results in multiple peaks of success – “leaders”, “doers” and “thinkers”. Consequently, there is no single path to success, but rather multiple paths based on each individual’s potential. This has the added advantage of providing intrinsic motivation for the individual to pursue his potential.

    Comment by Luke Goh, SG 19B | November 13, 2015

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