The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H110: WWI — On Strategy

General Helmut Von Molke, Chief of the German General Staff, 1914

“I answered His Majesty that this was impossible. The deployment of an army a million strong was not a thing to be improvised, it was the product of a whole year’s hard work and once planned could not be changed. If His Majesty were to insist on directing the whole army to the east, he would not have an army prepared for the attack but a barren heap of armed men disorganized and without supplies.”

The Kaiser: “Your uncle would have given me a different answer.”


Given the below definitions from our current doctrine, and the conversation described above, what did Von Molke not understand about strategy?  Also, do you think there is a danger of U.S. national and miltiary leadership making a similar mistake?  Why or why not?



strategy — A prudent idea or set of ideas for employing the instruments of national power in a synchronized and integrated fashion to achieve theater, national, and/or multinational objectives. (JP 3-0)

National Security Strategy — A document approved by the President of the United States for developing, applying, and coordinating the instruments of national power to achieve objectives that contribute to national security. Also called NSS. See also National Military Strategy; strategy; theater strategy. (JP 3-0)

national defense strategy — A document approved by the Secretary of Defense for applying the Armed Forces of the United States in coordination with Department of Defense agencies and other instruments of national power to achieve national security strategy objectives. Also called NDS. (JP 3-0)

National Military Strategy — A document approved by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for distributing and applying military power to attain national security strategy and national defense strategy objectives. Also called NMS. See also National Security Strategy; strategy; theater strategy. (JP 3-0)

theater strategy — An overarching construct outlining a combatant commander’s vision for integrating and synchronizing military activities and operations with the other instruments of national power in order to achieve national strategic objectives. See also
National Military Strategy; National Security Strategy; strategy. (JP 3-0)


strategy – (DOD) The art and science of developing and employing instruments of national power in a synchronized and integrated fashion to achieve theater, national and/or multinational objectives. See FM 3-0. (FM 1-02).

military strategy – (DOD) The art and science of employing the armed forces of a nation to secure the objectives of national policy by the application of force or the threat of force. See also strategy. See FM 3-0. (FM 1-02).


November 3, 2017 Posted by | H100, leadership, military history, Professional Military Education, 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 9, 2016 Posted by | H300, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

H305: Ends Ways and Means in Vietnam

Through the Tet offensive in 1968, some have argued that the United States did not have a firm strategy in Vietnam. For a strategy to be coherent it must logically connect ends, ways, and means. If you assume that the U.S. end was a stable South Vietnamese government, and that the U.S. had the means to achieve that end, how do you evaluate the ways the U.S. pursued the strategy? Some things to think about: What were the U.S. ways? Were they logically connected to the end? What was missing from the U.S. strategy?

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

H304: The Korean and Vietnam Wars

Arguably, the US was successful in achieving its desired end state in the Korean War: stopping the expansion of communism in Asia and preserving the existence of the Republic of Korea. Given this success, many US analysts in the early years of Vietnam did not see any serious problems with repeating that success in Vietnam. Was that a correct analysis? If so, then why didn’t the US repeat its success? If not, what were the significant differences between the two situations?

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

H302: 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


Consider this:  Do populations whose economic aspirations are being met ever revolt?

March 9, 2016 Posted by | COIN, H300, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 3 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

H208 Feel Lucky?

The title of a famous book on the battle of Midway Island is “Miracle at Midway,” indicating the degree to which “luck” played a role in the US victory in the battle. How do you feel about luck in military operations? Clausewitz called it chance –and recognized that it had a role in determining the outcome. Jomini might have said that things like luck and chance play on both sides and cancel each other out and therefore are irrelevant. Where do you stand? Also, how do you think the role of chance or luck should be addressed in PME or should it be addressed at all?

February 9, 2016 Posted by | H200, military history, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

H207 Is There a Strategist in the House?

russia 1941One of the reasons why the German offensive into Russia in 1941, Operation Barbarossa, failed, may have been the cultural inability of the German high command to think in terms of, and visualize strategic warfare on a global scale. The German military, prior to WWII, had very little experience with warfare outside of Europe. Their major war experience was WWI and the primary focus of the German military in that war was in the relatively small geographic area of western Europe. Thus, many students of World War II see the German military as experts at battle, experts at operational warfare, and complete failures as global strategists. Today’s American army is similarly considered expert at battle and joint warfare. Does the modern American military have a similar weakness when it comes to strategy?

February 9, 2016 Posted by | H200, Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

H106 H107 War, Strategy and Politics — Book Review

Distinguished U.S. Marine Corps General (ret.) Zinni argues that the key to the U.S. military’s success in battle lies in a combination of strategic decisions and actions that occur off the battlefield and often before the battle begins. Zinni illustrates his primer on the basics of formulating national strategy with examples taken from more than 50 years of military and national security experience. His full-bore critique of presidential administrations is organized chronologically from Kennedy to Obama. In the course of his analysis, Zinni names names and makes some bold and controversial assertions (for example, the U.S. has been too quick to use military force in the past and most civilian politicians are not knowledgeable enough to make correct decisions regarding war or strategy without professional advice). He offers several solutions to the issues he raises, including the creation of a professional, civilian-led national security corps, and a complete legislative reorganization of the military’s administrative departments to force “whole of government” strategic approaches to solving problems of national security. Zinni insightfully criticizes the decision-making process behind our national strategy and makes recommendations worthy of consideration.

October 14, 2015 Posted by | books, H100 | , , , , , , | 2 Comments