The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H106 Clausewitz and the American Military Profession

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 war in Iraq 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 Afghanistan?

Advertisements

October 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

H105: 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 25, 2017 Posted by | H100, military history | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

H104: 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 25, 2017 Posted by | H100, Professional Military Education, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

H103: 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 effectived 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 professionals effect on war in 18th Century? If so, how?

September 14, 2017 Posted by | H100, military history, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

H102: Afghanistan: A Contractor Solution

In a recent article Eric Prince (posted in the BB H100 folder), former CEO of Blackwater, proposed using Contractors as an alternative to US military forces to provide expert advice and training to the Afghan military. He asserts that this COA will substantially reduce the cost in both dollars and human resources of pursuing US policy in the region. He also maintains it will be effective.  Is this a viable COA? Do the downsides of mercenaries discussed in H102 apply to the use of contractors in the way described by Prince? Why do you think the idea is not acceptable to the US military and the US Government?

September 7, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

H102: The 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?

September 5, 2017 Posted by | H100, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 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, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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 25, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

H306: Doctrine After Vietnam

Lieutenant General John H. Cushman, Combined Arms Center (CAC)Commander 1973-1976, and General William E. DePuy, US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commander 1973-1976, had dyametrically opposed views of the purpose and nature of army doctrine. Ultimately, General Depuy’s view won out, resulting in the ineffective 1976 FM 100-5 focused on the concept of the “Active Defense.” General Cushman’s opposing view which included a nuanced view of war-fighting; emphasized education over training; and focused on creative thinking over predictable solutions, was the loser. Depuy’s view is largely credited with setting the conditions for the transformation to the successful “Airland Battle” doctrine of the 1980s. Did the army make an error following Depuy’s doctrinal view, and how does this debate provide insights into the on-going doctrinal transformation of the 21st Century? Was Depuy just “Lucky” that his active defense doctrine was never tested in battle? Should doctrine be focused solely on its warfighting utility or should it be a multi-demensional tool of the institutional army that facilitiates training, force development, procurement, and leader development as well as warfighting?

March 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

H303: Duke Nuke’em

21168During the Korean War US forces were caught in a bloody stalemate because the US, as a matter of policy, choose to keep the war limited. Why did the US not escalate the war and unify the Korean peninsula? Were nuclear weapons a viable option for use in the war? What role do nuclear weapons play in the US strategy in Korea today?

March 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments