The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H109: The Army and Intellectual

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.


November 22, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Even thought this article was written in 2002, it does share many themes that we have discussed in class as Dr. Dimarco said. It is unfortunate that critical thinking is touted so highly on one hand, and completely disregarded on the other. It is a difficult enough transition to go from a “doer” to a “thinker” after the former has been more engrained in us by our superiors while the latter seems to elude those who expect us to follow their example. SAMS does have a unique opportunity to change the culture with regard to critical thinking in the U.S. Army but as an institution, they themselves still fall victim to the “doer” mentality. This is perhaps most evident in their requirement for a pre-determined APFT score upon application. Does this requirement, other than simply achieving a satisfactory score, do anything to determine the ability of an officer to think critically and creatively? Or is it simply a holdover of a more Jominian way of thinking? Either way, it seems that as gains are made in creative thinking, those same gains are wasted because someone incapable of performing said creative thinking places emphasis in an area that might not be in accordance with the overall standard sought.

    What does anyone else think?

    Comment by Justin Reddick | November 25, 2016

  2. I fully agree with what was written above that, the intellectuals are very important persons in the military and they play very important role in society as well.CGSC trying to increase the number of the intellectual in the army, as they provide the students with many tools, that guide them to be transformed from doer mentality to thinker mentality. The process, that CGSC uses is a long-term plan and it is also under other considerations like the authorized number of the officers in the army, how many officers, that the army really need to be a thinker not a doer, and… etc. These consideration limits the CGSC ability, but on the other hand I think the CGSC overcomes many of these limitation -from my opinion the college is doing great in this process-. The CGSC always tries to improve its ability by using tools like AAR with the students and instructors, the surveys, and many other tools. These tools help both the HQ of the CGSC and the students as it transfer the students from attendance of the course or a doer to be more than that and be a thinker (which is the goal of the CGSC HQ). As it give the student the opportunity to be a critical thinker. In addition to the general course, SAMS is fully another unique opportunity for the students to be more intellectual. From my opinion the average of APFT is very important tool, because the APFT will help the student to reach to the fit body which will help the brain to work better and then it will improve the chances of achieving the goal of the college which is transforming the required number of officers ( students) to be the leaders of the future ( the intellectual )

    Comment by mohamed ibrahim | November 26, 2016

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