The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H207: Is There a Strategist in the House?

russia 1941One of the reasons why the German offensive into Russia in 1941, Operation Barbarossa, failed, may have been the cultural inability of the German high command to think in terms of, and visualize strategic warfare on a global scale.  The German military, prior to WWII, had very little experience with warfare outside of Europe.  Their major war experience was WWI and the primary focus of the German military in that war was in the relatively small geographic area of western Europe.  Thus, many students of World War II see the German military as experts at battle, experts at operational warfare, and complete failures as global strategists.  Today’s American army is similarly considered expert at battle and joint warfare.  Does the modern American military have a similar weakness when it comes to strategy?


January 30, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. I believe the U.S. military does have some significant handicaps with respect to formulating and prosecuting effective global strategies. However, whereas the German deficiencies seemed related primarily to the scale and scope of global conflict, I believe the U.S. strategic blind spots stem from cultural deficiencies.

    In his classic book “The Clash of Civilizations,” author Samuel Huntington argues that the wars of the future will be fought along cultural lines. In this realm, the U.S. has demonstrated a repeated ability to misread or not misinterpret the impact of foreign cultures on strategic policies enforced with military force. Our recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan serve as relevant examples. Despite immense and near-complete military success executing battles and lethal campaigns against Iraqi and other armies, the U.S. policies in the aftermath of these victories demonstrates a lack of understanding of the impact of cultural and societal norms that fall outside the American experience. A disregard for tribal and sectarian differences fanned the flames of the insurgency that followed our victories in Iraq and exposed our military as unsuited to conduct many of the tasks associated with nation-building and civil security/control. Policies that reflected a more nuanced understanding of these elements would have enabled a strategy that would not have had to learn through the years of trial and error (emphasis on error) that Iraq gave (and continues to give) us.

    Comment by Scott Harr | January 31, 2017

  2. After the sweeping success of the Blitzkrieg campaign, Germany appeared to adopt the mentality of, “if it worked in France, it must work anywhere.” In many respects, they weren’t wrong. As they swept across European nations, they were quick able to achieve victory by applying the same doctrine and tactics that worked so well against the French. Only during the Battle of Britain, they met enough resistance to halt their invasion of the UK. But what truly caused the strategic failure of Germany as they proceeded to invade Russia was the lack of a clear objective. Germany was successful in securing key major cities as they approached Moscow, but failed to take into account the sheer size of the Russian countryside. By not continuing on to Moscow when they had the momentum, the German army was caught in winter without the appropriate means to support them in their operations.

    These types of mistakes are not solely organic to the German army, the U.S. has made similar (although smaller) strategic errors throughout its history.

    To add to Scott’s comment above, lack of a clear end state or strategic vision in Iraq has certainly led to the problems we continue to face today.

    Comment by Justin Reddick | January 31, 2017

  3. Yes, I believe the US as a whole has a similar weakness when it comes to strategy. The US continues to reduce wars and strategy to “defeat” ISIS or how to “defeat” Iraq. That strategy works against nation states with one national military. In that case the operational COG is the military. Once that COG is defeated the country must surrender. Because the US military is so far ahead of other nations there won’t be many large scale conflicts. The US must adapt to handle this new hybrid threat. The way the current strategies are depicted they haven’t figured it out yet.

    Comment by Jeffery Hoover | January 31, 2017

  4. *correction to a sentence above: “…the U.S. has demonstrated the repeated ability to misread and misinterpret….” – sorry for the confusion

    Comment by Scott Harr | January 31, 2017

  5. Jeffery, I agree with you. Yes, I believe that the modern American military has a similar weakness when it comes to strategy. The US did not have a full strategy to what will be the situation after defeating the Sadam Hussein’s system inIraq. This lake of strategy caused what the US military suffered from it to date. The US military won on battles previously in Korea, Vietnam, and in Somalia also but they did not win the war because of the lake of the strategy. Only in Iraq and Afghanistan, the modern US military won the war. However, there are several crises that are happening there to date. The lack of the vision and future strategy always works against the nation. I agree with what Jeffery said, the operational COG is the military, but I disagree with him on this point” Once that COG is defeated the country must surrender”. From my perspective that if you hit the military you have a chance that you may win the war but the other chance is the COG could be something else like the Passion of the people and their well. As a result, the US military should have the vision and the strategy that will enable him to understand every single opportunity with very high degree of efficient.

    Comment by mohamed ibrahim | February 9, 2017

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