The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

My Doctrine Right or Wrong H210

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?

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 13, 2015 Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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?”

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

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?

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?

January 30, 2014 Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Army and Intellectualism

From an article defining intellectualism:

An intellectual is a person who primarily uses intelligence in either a professional or an individual capacity. As a substantive or adjective, it refers to the work product of such persons, to the so-called “life of the mind” generally, or to an aspect of something where learning, erudition, and informed and critical thinking are the focus, as in “the intellectual level of the discourse on the matter was not high”.

The intellectual is a specific variety of the intelligent, which unlike the general property, is strictly associated with reason and thinking. Many everyday roles require the application of intelligence to skills that may have a psychomotor component, for example, in the fields of medicine, sport or the arts, but these do not necessarily involve the practitioner in the “world of ideas”. The distinctive quality of the intellectual person is that the mental skills, which he or she demonstrates, are not simply intelligent, but even more, they focus on thinking about the abstract, philosophical and esoteric aspects of human inquiry and the value of their thinking. Traditionally, the scholarly and the intellectual classes were closely identified; however, while intellectuals need not necessarily be actively involved in scholarship, they often have an academic background and will typically have an association with a profession.

Based on the above discussion of what intellectual means, particularly the phrase “an aspect of something where learning, erudition, and informed and critical thinking are the focus,” it seems to confirm that the major focus of CGSC is intellectual pursuits.  The curriculum and the history course in particular specifically highlights the learning objective of improving “critical thinking.”

The above is aligned with the German General Staff tradition of producing “thinkers” above “leaders” to guide the institution at the strategic level.  Not that a gifted individual cannot be both, but in terms of which capacity the institution values more at the operational and strategic levels of command.

Given the emphasis at CGSC, and by implication, at SAMS and the Army War College, on critical thinking, what are you thoughts on the two part Army magazine article the Uniformed Intellectual:

Part 1

Part 2

Note that in the above article, written in 2002, you will see many themes that have come up at different times in class.   That is purely coincidentaly, but appropriate.  This article didn’t come to my attention until 2012.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | C120, H100, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ender’s Game: Tactics, Strategy, Training, and Critical Thinking in Science Fiction

Ender’s Game is a recognized sci-fi classic and my intent here is not to review it. There are over 2,000 positive reviews of it on Amazon (as well as over 60 negative reviews) and I encourage that all who are interested in the book graze over what the Amazon readers have opined. Despite the few very critical reviews, I found the book a quick, easy, and interesting read. I recommend it strongly to those interested in sci-fi in general, military sci-fi in particular, and training military leaders.

My interest in Ender’s Game is that it is a sci-fi novel that is mostly about training for battle. The actual war is wrapped up in the last 30 pages of the book. I think the important points that the book makes are about training; and the most important points about training that it makes are the importance of immersion in the training environment and the focus on creative solutions. It also makes the point that it is absolutely critical to focus on the development of individual leading and thinking skills. Acquiring knowledge, technical skills, and collective training are important but secondary educational requirements. The leader is the single point of failure in military endeavors. Knowledge, skill, and collective training mean little unless uniquely trained and exceptionally competent leaders employ soldiers and units correctly and most effectively. Ender’s Game makes the point that leaders make two vital contributions to military success: first, effective decision-making and second, maximizing the abilities and potential of subordinates.

The most intriguing aspect of the book is the use of simulation and technology to train critical and creative thinking and decision-making. Written in 1985, this book advocates many of the training characteristics I did in my article “Training Tactics in Virtual Reality” ten years later.

What I think is still frustrating is that, though the technology is there to support it, the military in general still has not made the leap to using technology to train individual thinking and decision making skills. Ender’s Game demonstrates that military sci-fi can be a creative inspiration for how we should be thinking about and using technology to make our military more effective.

Click here to go to Orson Scott Card’s Website.

Click here to see my article on training in virtual reality.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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 7, 2013 Posted by | H300, leadership, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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?

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?

January 24, 2013 Posted by | H200, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Army and Intellectualism

From an article defining intellectualism:

An intellectual is a person who primarily uses intelligence in either a professional or an individual capacity. As a substantive or adjective, it refers to the work product of such persons, to the so-called “life of the mind” generally, or to an aspect of something where learning, erudition, and informed and critical thinking are the focus, as in “the intellectual level of the discourse on the matter was not high”.

The intellectual is a specific variety of the intelligent, which unlike the general property, is strictly associated with reason and thinking. Many everyday roles require the application of intelligence to skills that may have a psychomotor component, for example, in the fields of medicine, sport or the arts, but these do not necessarily involve the practitioner in the “world of ideas”. The distinctive quality of the intellectual person is that the mental skills, which he or she demonstrates, are not simply intelligent, but even more, they focus on thinking about the abstract, philosophical and esoteric aspects of human inquiry and the value of their thinking. Traditionally, the scholarly and the intellectual classes were closely identified; however, while intellectuals need not necessarily be actively involved in scholarship, they often have an academic background and will typically have an association with a profession.

Based on the above discussion of what intellectual means, particularly the phrase “an aspect of something where learning, erudition, and informed and critical thinking are the focus,” it seems to confirm that the major focus of CGSC is intellectual pursuits.  The curriculum and the history course in particular specifically highlights the learning objective of improving “critical thinking.” 

Given the emphasis at CGSC, and by implication, at SAMS and the Army War College, what are you thoughts on the two part Army magazine article the Uniformed Intellectual:

Part 1

Part 2

Note that in the above article, written in 2002, you will see many themes that have come up at different times in class.   That is purely coincidentaly, but appropriate.  This article didn’t come to my attention until about two weeks ago.

November 9, 2012 Posted by | C120, H100, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grooming and Picking Generals

In his article, A Failure in Generalship, Paul Yingling argues that the American army’s process for selecting generals is flawed. He advocates taking the general officer promotion system away from the military and making it a task for Congress.  Retired MG Scales wrote an article which seemed to back up Yingling’s view.   Numerous other analysts believe that Yingling’s general point is accurate.  Defense analyst Tom Ricks has just published a book on the subject called The Generals –I suspect somewhat inspired by Yingling’s article (see the Atlantic  article related to the book –click here).

There are essentially two different military philosophies regarding the system used to pick general officers. One view is a view that comes from the French revolutionary armies of the 18th and early 19th century. That view is promotion should be based strictly on merit. In this system officers are selected from among their peers for promotion based on their demonstrated performance of duty. Ultimately, this promotion by merit system results in the most competent officers achieving the highest rank.

A second system comes from the Prussian army of the 19th Century. That view is to identify through rigorous testing a small elite cadre of the most intelligent officers in the army. These officers then are specially educated and assigned for the rest of their careers. They are specifically groomed to lead the army at the highest levels. Promotion in this system is based on intellectual ability, special education, and talent.

The promotion by merit system assumes that the best qualifications for command are demonstrated by success in command. This philosophy is traditionally the bedrock of promotion in the naval service (both in the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy) where time in command of ships and at sea are the ultimate test of fitness for command.

Which system does the U.S. army promotion system seem to follow? Is Yingling right? Is there a failure of generalship in the U.S. Army? If so, is it because of the selection philosophy the army uses, or, is it just that the execution of the process is flawed? If the selection process is flawed, how does that explain Generals like Patraeus and McCrystal? What process or philosophy do you believe produces the best senior leaders? Does the senior officer promotion system need to change?

October 12, 2012 Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments