The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Book Review: Twilight Warriors by James Kitfield

417fjgtl0dl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Twilight Warriors focuses on the cadre of leaders who came of age during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and forged what the author describes as a new “American Way of War.” Kitfield, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress and a recognized authority on the US national security apparatus (Prodigal Soldiers, 1997, War and Destiny, 2005) presents a well-researched argument based on interviews and personal experience overseas, asserting that over the course ten years of war the US national security apparatus has developed a new and devastatingly effective approach to war. This new approach is based on techniques “find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze” pioneered by Generals Stanley McCrystal and Mike Flynn in Iraq. Twilight Warriors describes the professional development and interaction of these and other innovators as they succeed and eventually occupy some of the highest positions in the national security structure. A new cooperative inter-agency culture is also a hallmark of the tactics employed not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but globally as the center-piece of an extremely effective US counter-terrorism strategy.  Kitfield’s work is insightful, informative and timely. He includes in his analysis the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the immigration issues in Europe, and the recent Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks. This new analysis of US counter-terrorism strategy is required reading for anyone with a personal or professional interest in the subject.

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August 25, 2016 Posted by | books, COIN, leadership, military history, Professional Military Education | 1 Comment

H102: Mercenaries –Back to the Future?

The inability of the feudal system to provide reliable armies gave rise to cadres of mercenaries that at first supplemented the aristocratic warriors of the feudal army, and then replaced them. By the Renaissance period, armies were largely made up of hired mercenary companies. Aristocrats, once the knights of the feudal army, became the owners and officers of the companies. Mercenary companies were a key element of warfare throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries. Many consider that they reached their greatest influence during the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648. Toward the end of the war they began to decline in importance and by the end of the 17th Century they had largely been replaced by national professional armies.

Why did mercenary companies exist in the first place? What advantage did they initially bring to the battlefield?

How were mercenary specialists of the Renaissance different from the contract specialists that we used today?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of mercenaries….then and now? Is there an over-reliance on mercenaries today, or are they indespensible for many security tasks that the military simply doesn’t have manpower to accomplish? Are logistics contractors on the battlefield mercenaries?

August 25, 2016 Posted by | H100, military history, Professional Military Education | 7 Comments

H101 –Viva la Revolucion!

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?

August 25, 2016 Posted by | H100, Professional Military Education, Uncategorized | , , | 4 Comments

H100/101 Critical Thinking and Military History

One of the recent popular books that delves into the subject of critical and creative thinking is Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. This book y is a fairly in depth discussion of intuitive decision making. What is interesting is that I was not expecting Gladwell to talk about the military, but he does. The following is one excerpt from the book:

“Of all the interviews I conducted while researching Blink, the one that made the most lasting impression on me was my interview with General Paul Van Riper –the hero (or villain) of the Pentagon’s Millennium Challenge war game…. I remember being surprised when he took me on a tour of his house by the number of books in his study. In retrospect, of course, that’s a silly thing to find surprising. Why shouldn’t a Marine Corps general have as many books as an English professor? I suppose that I had blithely assumed that generals were people who charged around and “did” things; that they were men of action, men of the moment. But one of the things that Van Riper taught me was that being able to act intelligently and instinctively in the moment is possible only after a long and rigorous course of education and experience. Van Riper beat Blue Team because of what he had learned about waging war in the jungles of Vietnam. And he also beat Blue Team because of what he had learned in that library of his. Van Riper was a student of military history.”

So, given the above and the readings for H101, consider the following questions:

Do you agree that military history is a critical tool for the professional officer? If so, how do you rate the army as an institution, providing and emphasizing that skill? Why?

If you think its an important skill, is it only important for senior leaders and field grade officers? Does it have uses for the company grade officer and NCO as well?

If it is an important skill –what can the Army do to teach the skill better than it does?

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments