The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

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 9, 2016 Posted by | H300, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

H210 My Doctrine Right or Wrong!

The results of flawed doctrine: Unescorted Daylight Strategic Bombing

The focus of H200 was an analysis of how useful doctrine developed in peace time, based on previous war experience, proved to be in the conduct of operations in World War II.

The history of interwar transformation and doctrine development process provides insights into the relationship of peacetime visions of future wars and the actual conduct of war. In World War II the German army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Army Air Force all attempted to execute doctrine developed in the years after WWI, on the battlefields of WWII.

In some cases, blitzkrieg doctrine for example, the doctrine proved remarkably effective. In other cases, the primacy of the battleship in navy doctrine for example, the doctrine failed to meet the requirements of modern war. Were there organizational characteristics that permitted a particular service (the German army) to have an accurate understanding of tactical ground warfare, and another (the U.S. navy) fail to understand the importance of key technologies?

In the case of airpower doctrine, the US Air Force strategic bombing campaign in Europe achieved great results by forcing the destruction of the Luftwaffe. However, it did not achieve its primary doctrinal objective –force the German government to surrender. On the other hand, strategic airpower, armed with atomic weapons, did cause the Japanese to surrender. Did WWII prove that airpower doctrine, as advocated by Generals Billy Mitchell and Douhet, was effective?

Some observers believe that writing doctrine in peace time is a futile exercise because the lessons of history are such that the conditions of the next war will be completely different from the last war and impossible to predict. Getting doctrine right is more luck than genius. Thus only very multi-functional formations are of any use to the army of the future, and only vague, general and generic doctrine is appropriate for the current and future operating environment. Do you agree or disagree?

Are there doctrinal issues which our current military refuses to recognize because we have invested too much in organization, training, and equipment to change the doctrine at this point? If so what are they and why are they flawed?

February 9, 2016 Posted by | H200, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Mao and Current Insurgencies H302

There are a wide variety of insurgent groups who have operated against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Very few, if any, have followed a Maoist strategy. Some analysists believe that this fact proves that Mao’s Revolutionary War theory is not relevant to the type of adversaries faced by the U.S. in the GWOT. Are these analysists correct?

February 13, 2015 Posted by | H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Doctrine versus Technology H209

In the video above, virtually none of the technology, or even the tactics techniques and procedures used to attack Iwo Jima were available seven years earlier when the Marines issued their 1938 manual on landing operations.

In the interwar years the Germans and the U.S. Marine Corps developed concepts for operations (doctrine) before they developed the enabling technology. Ultimately, the doctrine would not have been successful without the technologies that were added later. However, without the initial doctrine the technologies may not have ever been developed, or may have been utilized in a different way. Is this the right way to transform? Should doctrine always precede technology? Are there situations where technology should precede doctrine? Which comes first in the U.S. military today?

February 13, 2015 Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Semper Fi!




The transformation model proposed by miltiary historians Allan Millet and Williamson Murray proposes a number of different factors that can influence an organization’s ability to be innovative and transform itself.  What factors do you think most influenced the USMC’s adoption of amphibious warfare doctrine in the interwar years?  In particular, was the USMC more driven by war plans and the nature of the threat than it was by the very real possibility that budget constraints might eliminate it as an organization?  In an era of real budget restrictions that the US military will face in the future, what core capability does the modern USMC bring to the table?  Does that capability warrant a USMC that is 25% the size of the army?  Will there be a future fight over the USMC and its mission or is the USMC so much of a part of the American military tradition that it doesn’t have to justify its mission?

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Current Events, H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Naval Air Force?

During the years 1919 to 1941 Naval Aviation carved out a place for itself in the Navy by being a member of the battleship team.  Naval aviation supported the battleship-centric fleet by finding the enemy fleet, fixing and harassing the enemy fleet through air attack, and defending the fleet from enemy air.  WWII forced navies around the world to recognize that airpower at sea had become the dominant capability of naval forces.  As a result, the aircraft carrier became the center of naval strategy, operations, tactics and force development.   However, the rise of the aircraft carrier in the US miltiary during WWII occured in an enviroment in which a US Air Force did not exist.  How did the absence of a US Air Force help the development of Naval Aviation in the US in the interwar years?

The first clash between the US Air Force and Naval Aviation over roles, missions, and most importantly, budget, occured after the draw-down of the US miltiary after WWII and was known as the “Revolt of the Admirals.”  Are we destined for another revolt of the Admirals?  What is the core capability of Naval Aviation today and is it worth the cost in the budget of maintaining a fleet built around aircraft carriers?  What does the aircraft carrier provide the US military that is unique and different from what the Air Force is capable of?  Should todays US Navy be built around a unique naval capability such as the submarine, rather than the aircraft carrier which seems to perform a similar role as the US Air Force?

January 14, 2015 Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Advocate and Air Power Doctrine

The transformation case study of the US Army Air Corps in the interwar years focused largely on the personality of BG William “Billy” Mitchell.  He has since then been considered one of the “fathers” of the modern US Air Force.  Was he really a positive  force for the transformation of the Air Force?  Could his efforts have been more effective if he had worked inside the structure of the military as did his superior, Major General Mason Patrick, the Chief of the Air Service?

Air power doctrine as advocated by Italian theorist Giulio Douhet, Hugh Trenchard, and Billy Mitchell predicted essentially that decisive strategic effects could be achieved from air.  In other words, air power was capable of winning wars without the assistance of the other services.  This theory has been echoed by modern US Air Force leaders such as Air Force Chiefs of Staffs Michael J. Dugan and Merrill A. McPeak.  These ideas have been detailed in such popular discussions of air strategy as The Air Campaign and Shock and Awe.  Can air power win wars decisively and at low cost in some cases?  If it can not, what capability justifies a separate Air Force?  If it can, does that argue against jointness as central component of US military doctrine?

December 5, 2014 Posted by | H200, military history | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tanks for the Memories

One of the most dramatic transformation that occurred in the interwar years was the transformation of ground combat.  The attrition focused stalemate of the trenches evolved into a new dramatic form of maneuver warfare developed primarily in Germany.  When it was executed during the opening months of WWII it was popularly called blitzkrieg and military professionals and the general public alike associated the technology of the main battle tank with this new form of warfare.  Was the main battle tank the key enabling technological component of blitzkrieg or was it something else?  Was technology really the most important aspect of blitzkrieg?  How would you describe the importance of doctrine and leadership, including the idea of mission command,  to the blitzkrieg concept.    Finally, was blitzkrieg really a new way of war, or simply a better way to prosecute an old way of war?

December 5, 2014 Posted by | H200 | , , , , , , , , | 2 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