The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H302 Revolutionary War and the US Military in the 21st C

There are a wide variety of insurgent groups who have operated against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Very few, if any, have followed a Maoist strategy. Some analysists believe that this fact proves that Mao’s Revolutionary War theory is not relevant to the type of adversaries faced by the U.S. in the GWOT. Are these analysists correct?

As the US military moves forward many believe that the age of Revolutionary war is past, and even if its not, it does not represent an strategic threat to US national interests. Therefore, the US military should leave revolutionary war to special operations forces, and the bulk of the US military resources, to include doctrine, training and organization, should be focused on opposing conventional and nuclear threats from China, Russia and North Korea.

How important to future war is revolutionary war, and to what degree should the US military establishment prepare itself to fight revolutionary war?

February 9, 2016 - Posted by | COIN, H300, Uncategorized | , , , , ,


  1. It is impossible to predict the nature of future conflicts. The US military should therefore maintain a diversified portfolio of capabilities to mitigate this uncertainty. While preparing for war against conventional threats, the US military should retain its competency in revolutionary warfare. This provides flexibility in dealing with different conflict scenarios. Assigning the conduct of revolutionary warfare to only special operations forces could result in the inability to surge capacity if future revolutionary wars require more troops than what special operations forces can handle.

    However, the desire to maintain a diversified portfolio of capabilities needs to be weighed against the availability of existing resources. In a period of drawdown and sequestration, there will be pressure to reduce the mission sets and corresponding capabilities required of the force so as to keep within resource constraints. While conventional threats should rightly be the focus, revolutionary warfare should not be completely ignored even in such a scenario.

    Comment by Luke Goh, SG 19B | February 10, 2016

  2. While insurgent activity in recent conflicts may not have directly employed Maoist principles, the United States must not ignore Mao’s guidance in counterinsurgent activities but instead galvanize counterinsurgent doctrine with emerging insurgent activity alongside Mao’s keys to success. Time will tell if insurgent activities in Iraq and Afghanistan will shape future revolutionary doctrine. In the meantime, the United States military must integrate lessons learned from insurgent activity to improve combat effectiveness in future conflicts.

    As in all things, the military must stand ready for combat operations of all sorts. Counter-insurgent mission sets and training should not be placed higher than all conventional missions; instead, the military requires strategic guidance on how counter-insurgent training and mission sets play into the priority of capabilities. With this prioritization from higher, the United States military will smartly prepare for future counter-insurgent operations.

    Comment by Matt Wunderlich, 19A | February 11, 2016

  3. “Some analysists believe that this fact proves that Mao’s Revolutionary War theory is not relevant to the type of adversaries faced by the U.S. in the GWOT.” This statement is inaccurate because Mao’s Revolutionary War Theory is based off of a foundation that involves politics. The insurgent groups that the U.S. have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 have some semblance of a political platform, but that platform is not their main effort. Because of this, the insurgents are not accurately executing a revolutionary war based off of Mao’s ideology.

    When it comes the U.S. preparing itself for a revolutionary war, that is a little more difficult. Historically, the military trains to fight the previous war. With this thinking, the U.S. military will continue to train forces with a COIN focus. What the U.S. military needs to do is balance the training from conventional war and COIN operations. Doing this will produce a force that can be utilized regardless of what type of conflict the U.S. enters into next.

    Comment by Brian Plover | February 19, 2016

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