The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H105: Clausewitz and the American Military Tradition

Clausewitz is famous for his comment that war is an extension of politics by other means. This is not the definition of war, but rather the context within which war takes place. That is, war takes place and is only understandable within the context of politics. By extension then, to be able to effectively plan, supervise, and conduct war a senior military leader must, in addition to his expertise regarding military matters, also be expert at understanding politics.

The sticking point here, is that the professional American military officer is taught to avoid politics. Expert on American military professionalism, Morris Janowitz, stated:

Under democratic theory, the “above politics” formula requires that, in domestic politics, generals and admirals do not attach themselves to political parties or overtly display partisanship. Furthermore, military men are civil servants, so that elected leaders are assured of the military’s partisan neutrality.

In practice, with only isolated exceptions, regulations and traditions have worked to enforce an essential absence of political partisanship.

Has this tradition of non-partisanship caused American military leadership to focus too much on the mechanics of making war at the operational and tactical level? What is the role of the senior military leader in formulating national strategy and can that leader avoid being politically partisan if the different political parties disagree on strategy?

How has the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrated Clausewitz’s concept of the relationship between war and politics?

How do Clausewitz’s ideas, including the important idea of the trinity, influence our understanding of the current situation in

September 24, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

H104: Military Genius?

Genius has been defined in several different ways:

Genius: Distinguished mental superiority; uncommon intellectual power; especially, superior power of invention or origination of any kind, or of forming new combinations; as, a man of genius. [1913 Webster]

Genius refers to a person, a body of work, or a singular achievement of surpassing excellence.

More than just originality, creativity, or intelligence, genius is associated with achievement of insight which has transformational power.

Many military historians, and many of Napoleon’s contemporaries think that he was a genius: Napoleon conquered all of Europe and dramatically changed the way wars were fought. Many French believe that Napoleon’s rise was because of the French system’s emphasis on promotion due to merit. Thus it put the best man, Napoloen, in position to command the Army. The French then built a command system to support him.

Was Napoleon really a genius or just the leader “lucky” enough to be in the right place at the right time?

Was Napoleon’s rise based on merit… or did he lead France due to factors besides merit?

Is the commander centric command system designed to leverage “genius” the right model that the U.S. military should be following? Is the current US system overly commander centric?

What do you think of the idea that in a commander centric system, the commander becomes the single point of failure of the entire system? Is “commander centric” the only logical way to run an army?

September 20, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

H103: The True Volunteers?

To call an army of paid professionals a volunteer army is a misnomer. Paid professionals don’t volunteer for service, they are paid compensation for services.

A Parent who “Volunteers” at the school library isn’t paid. A professional who is paid to work at the library is not a volunteer but rather a contracted employee of the school.

Professionals are essentially mercenaries who are hired by the state. The only difference between a paid professional army that works for the state and mercenaries is that the mercenaries work for a sub-contractor of the state. The details such as citizenship, military law, and other differences are not differences in kind, but rather just differences in the nature and strictness of the contract that governors the relationship between the paid professional and his employer.

True volunteer armies are those that are manned by the democratically authorized conscription of citizens. A truly volunteer army was the French Army of the Napoleonic period or the American Army of World War I and II. The citizens voluntarily consent to military service through the actions of their elected representatives. That service is truly voluntary in that there is no contract between the state and the individual, and there is no just compensation provided back to the individual soldier.

Do you agree with the above analysis of volunteer army versus professional army? Why / why not?

Regardless of the validity of the above argument, conscript armies have many benefits to the state. What are they? What war making advantages do they have? What are their disadvantages?

The Chinese military is currently a largely conscripted force. Is it a better alternative to the professional army?

What are the concerns regarding a professional army that is not directly connected to the majority of the citizens of the state?

Finally, when helping to create national armies in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, is the US model professional army the right model for those societies? What cultural and political factors should be considered when choosing the appropriate army model?

September 20, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

H102: The Professionals

The 18th Century saw the perfection of the concept of the professional army. From the point of view of the monarch they were a great asset to the kingdom –ensuring protection from enemies from within as well as without the crown’s borders. The professional army had numerous positive attributes. It also had limitations. Both its attributes and its limitations directly effected how the Kingdoms and Empires of the 18th Century waged wars. What were those effects?

Today the Western military forces, including the U.S. Army, are considered the finest professional military forces ever produced. As a professional military force, what attributes, both positive and negative, does the U.S. military, and the army in particular share with the professional forces of Frederick the Great’s Prussia?

Do the professional attributes of the U.S. military effect how the U.S. military wages war in a way similiar to the professional’s effect on war in 18th Century? If so, how?

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments