The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H108: The American Way of War

The American Civil War vividly demonstrated how the products of the industrial revolution, the rifled musket, steam powered trains and ships, the telegraph, banking, and mass production manufacturing techniques changed tactical and operational warfare. Less noticable was the way in which the economic base of a country became an important aspect of its war making capability. Limited economic base meant limited war making capability while a large robust economic base meant a large war making capability. General Grant consiously developed his attritition strategy followed in the last eighteen months of the war based on his understanding of the economic advantages of the Union. Simply put, the Union could sustain losses of manpower and material and the South could not. Thus, tactical and operational victory, though desired, was not necessary to winning the war. Continuous fighting was necessary to make this happen –not continuous tactical victory. Thus Grant’s guidance to his subordinate :

grant

Though focused tactically on battle, the purpose of battle was not to achieve tactical victory, but rather to deplete Southern resources, regardless of tactical victory. Thus, there was no direct link between military tactical victory and strategic victory. Military operations were necessary to enable the leveraging of the Union’s economic advantage, but the economic advantage was what was decisive not the supporting military campaign.

Grant focused on destroying the Southern Army, and then Southern governance. Nothing done in the Civil War or after addressed the third aspect of Clausewitz’s trinity –the passion of the people. Some argue that this was the reason for the failure of Reconstruction and domination of former Confederates of the South after the war.

Historian Russel Weigley sees the Civil War as a template for an “American Way of War:” “The Civil War tended to fix the American image of war from the 1860s into America’s rise to world power at the turn of the century, and it also suggested that the complete overthrow of the enemy, the destruction of his military power, is the object of war.”

Does Weigley’s template for the American Way of War still apply today? Are we pursuing a Grant model strategy in Afghanistan focused on insurgents and insurgent leadership, and ignoring the “passion” that supports the insurgency?

How does a strategy address the “passion” aspect of war? Is it part of the military strategy or should it be part of the national strategy? Who in government is the lead for attacking the enemy’s passion?

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October 20, 2017 Posted by | H100, Professional Military Education, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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?

October 14, 2015 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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?

For a Free .pdf book on Renaissance Armies click here.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

H100 –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 27, 2014 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

To Infinity and Beyond — Final Thoughts on History, CGSC and the Military Profession

History is not about dead people but rather it is a story of the living –people and nations.  We are the current chapter of that story.  Knowing the story as it preceded us, what happened in the previous chapters, is absolutely necessary to understand the role we (and the institutions we are part of) play in the current chapter.  It is also necessary to know what came before in order to anticipate what future chapters might contain and to prepare ourselves for the type of challenges the future chapters will present us with.  Using history in this way, to provide context to our lives, careers, our military, and the world events we participate in is an important part of critical thinking, which is the foundation of military decision making, problem solving, and sound military judgement in all areas.  Understanding this basic concept, and then applying here at CGSC and more importantly, as we go forward in our lives and careers is the reason we have military history in the curriculum of CGSC.

March 27, 2014 Posted by | H300, leadership, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Its the Economy Stupid Comrade!”

Maoist revolutionalry war theory puts the priority of effort on the political line of operations. Our experience with our own domestic politics indicates that the key to successful politics is the economy. Therefore… maybe:

COIN = Politics

Politics = Economy

.’. COIN = Economy

March 21, 2014 Posted by | H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

H100 –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 27, 2013 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

“Its the Economy Stupid Comrade!”

Maoist revolutionalry war theory puts the priority of effort on the political line of operations. Our experience with our own domestic politics indicates that the key to successful politics is the economy. Therefore… maybe:

COIN = Politics

Politics = Economy

.’. COIN = Economy

January 24, 2013 Posted by | H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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 7, 2012 Posted by | H100, Professional Military Education | , , , , , | 4 Comments

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?

For a Free .pdf book on Renaissance Armies click here.

 
 

August 29, 2012 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , | 5 Comments