oday’s long wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and increasingly in the U.S. military involvement in and around Syria’s civil war, demonstrate a failure of the political resolution for which the U.S. military acts. Lacking an attainable political end, the blue whales find the need to continually keep the tiger sharks in action. Without this understanding as we confront the many challenges to U.S. policy aims, we may find ourselves, again, in exactly the wrong kind of limited wars, using limited means—wars that have no fundamental or achievable political aim—with the only option a continuing and bleeding military application for which no end appears.
An appropriate grand strategy, one that has a regional focus on deterrence, trade, and values will go a long way towards the peaceful management of the balance of power in the Pacific. Green’s work is timely, and decision makers, practitioners, or students of grand strategy and statecraft would do well to add it to their reading list.
While some might see chaplains as anachronistic, or even as an affront to the principle of separation of church and state, Ronit Stahl, a scholar of modern American social history, argues the military chaplaincy has been and continues to be a driver of change in American religion and society. Given the perennial argument over whether the United States military should or should not be a social laboratory, Stahl’s book invites fresh consideration of the connections between military and society.
Stephen W. Sears, author of twelve prior Civil War volumes, reassesses the Eastern Theater in Lincoln’s Lieutenants: The High Command of the Army of the Potomac. It explores two topics germane to the modern military. Strategists will note that the Army of the Potomac was the most important Northern force and fought in the preeminent theater. Russell F. Weigley claims that this area “offered the most promising opportunity for a short war and thereby the limitation of costs and destructive violence.” Students of civil-military relations will focus on the relative politicization of the officer corps and whether President Abraham Lincoln could impose his strategic vision on commanders.
In a quiet, quirky, and often quotable collection of poems spanning the late 1970s to present day, poet Michael Brett spins tales of bombs, bodies, and bureaucracies, echoing and updating European traditions of 20th century war poetry. He does so with a wonderfully plainspoken and honest tone of a mid-level political functionary or well-informed citizen—someone engaged in immediately observing conflict, but also intellectually apart from it.
A successful strategy is usually not the result of one single factor such as advanced technology. Effective strategy depends on a closely interlocking set of systems that need to work smoothly together. Technology, people, doctrine, organizational structure, and training must work in a coordinated and complementary manner. Failure to integrate all these elements will create leaders who are just as frustrated such as the submarine skipper of the USS Tinosa in July 1943––when he spent the entire day firing torpedoes into an enemy ship only to see it sail away intact.
Marines too, grow old. I’m already older than my father was when he had his first child, my sister Elizabeth. At twenty-eight I have no children of my own. I haven’t finished college. I still draw dicks on the whiteboard of my apartment to make my roommate laugh. I still stay out too many late nights, still drink too much, still wake up too many mornings with stale cigarette and vodka red bull breath. At the age when my father was getting his masters’ degree and raising small children, I’m still acting like a kid with something to prove.
Intelligence at all levels is an art form. Sources, corroborating or contradicting information, unknowns, and delays in time all result in varied levels of analytical confidence. Information coming from different means, methods, and areas requires a functioning structure to ensure senior national leaders have the best information to make the decisions. While strategic intelligence drives operations and national goals, military decision-makers—especially in combat zones—rely on tactical intelligence to help win battles. For the Department of the Navy, “tactical intelligence support is the primary focus of naval intelligence.” Marine Corps intelligence also focuses almost exclusively on the tactical level to support Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) maneuvers since tactical intelligence is, “the level of intelligence Marines need, generate, and use most often.” When strategic missteps occur, tactical intelligence can provide a needed capability to keep front-line forces winning, creating breathing room for new strategic plans. A functioning intelligence structure encompassing all levels of intelligence is needed to enact this goal.
The movie “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is a movie about war. About a war so big, so terrible, that it defies description. It is also a movie about a society in denial, where the wounds of war are ever-present, but unseen –– in those who came back, but also in those who were left behind waiting for them. “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is a nuanced movie since the best way to talk about war is in a nuanced manner. The big dry numbers are lost on people –– one can’t grasp the millions, the faceless, uniformed icons, killed and wounded. The ferocity of war can never be truly described in anyway meaningful. On the contrary, the pyrotechnics of modern cinema might only cheapen it by making entertainment out of the unimaginable. Maybe war can better be understood by and about the individual. By one’s story; by one’s suffering. And the suffering that is best understood is not that experienced in war, but after it ends. It is also best understood by the suffering of loved ones; even those only born because of the war, never to be in it themselves.
The year 2017 marked the 70th anniversary of the National Security Act of 1947. To commemorate the landmark legislation that powerfully shaped the American national security enterprise, over 60 prominent scholars, practitioners, and national security experts gathered at the United States Military Academy over the course of two years to consider national security reform in the modern era. In April 2016, the group examined how the world has changed since the end of the Second World War and, building upon those discussions in April 2017, endeavored to develop specific, actionable recommendations for reforming our national security institutions and processes.
What best explains the German General Staff’s decision to go to war in 1914? Was Alfred von Schlieffen’s war plan a self-fulfilling prophecy that pushed the Triple Entente to balance together against Germany? This article argues that the best, most recent scholarship concerning the impact of pre-war German military planning depicts a situation in which not one, but a multitude of of causal factors led Germany to go to war in 1914.
The future of U.S. military competitiveness will depend upon the ability to remain a leader in innovation in these critical technologies through a national surge in science, while also building upon perhaps more enduring advantages in talent and training to advance innovation in concepts of operations.
What if Napoleon Bonaparte was brought back to life and told about the concepts of war and peace today, how militaries are structured and employed and their place in modern societies? If I were explaining these developments to him, I would start by describing the armies of today, a topic he would find familiar. For instance, as I presented myself he would immediately recognize the rank, branch, and the army. The rest—unit types, doctrine, and weaponry—wouldn’t be much of a stretch for the mind of one of the most celebrated Great Captains of History. Familiarity would end, however, if I began describing the size and shape of war today.
The essence of war is a competitive reciprocal relationship with an adversary possessing the capacity to make choices in battle. It is impossible to anticipate and predict with precision the contours of all future conflicts and the opponent’s strategy and discrete choices on the battlefield. Recognizing the need to adapt and implement the requisite changes is therefore inherent to the nature of war. The clash of arms is, therefore, also a competition in cycles of learning, reaction, or counteraction. The side that reacts best, and perhaps faster, increases their chances of success.
Biographies are often among the best-selling history books, but for many academic historians they are among the most difficult to write. The attraction to some subjects over others has also led to limitations in the literature. Many biographers are attracted to top-level commanders or to the lower level individuals making tough combat decisions in the tactical realm. Rarely do mid-level managers get a thorough treatment that can accurately relate the importance of their work to the larger trends of history. This is exactly what Brian Laslie’s new book Architect of Air Power seeks to remedy for General Laurence S. Kuter. In this brief but lively survey of Kuter’s life, Laslie successfully argues that although Kuter may not have risen to the fame of other Air Force leaders of his day, he nonetheless deserves recognition. Kuter was the father of the United States Air Force’s history program and a key developer of U.S. Air Force doctrine from the Second World War through the early days of the Cold War. As Laslie claims, he was the architect of American air power.
Just as the leaders and thinkers within the joint force are becoming more dedicated to the notion that a “post-joint” understanding of complex future military operations should be framed by the concept of multi- or cross-domain operations, the Joint Warfighting Department at the Air Command and Staff College has similarly altered its instruction of joint capabilities and planning. The department exchanged the traditional service-centric presentations, and discussions of capabilities and employment of forces, for a series of seminars covering military operations within the various domains of battle. So, instead of viewing military operations through the lens of a service structure, the department is emphasizing holistic joint force capabilities; the manner in which these capabilities facilitate access to, and maneuver within, the battlespace; and the various effects they can achieve by combining and synchronizing actions within and through the land, air, maritime, space, and cyber domains.
The ‘Thucydides Trap' is a term coined by Harvard professor Graham Allison to ostensibly describe the tensions and conflict that occur when an existing great power is confronted with a rising state. According to Allison, as the new power rises, the two are more likely to engage in violent conflict as the new power displaces the old. He cites sixteen cases of power transition since the late 15th Century, of which twelve resulted in war between the two powers. Allison also cites Thucydides, and in particular the ancient Athenian author’s conclusion that the war between Athens and Sparta, chronicled in his History of the Peloponnesian War, began "because they [the Spartans] were afraid of the further growth of Athenian power.”
In the aftermath of the German U-boat campaign in the First World War, many in Europe and the United States argued that submarines were immoral and should be outlawed. The British Admiralty supported this view, and as Blair has described, even offered to abolish their submarine force if other nations followed suit. While British proposals to ban submarines in 1922 and 1930 were defeated, restrictions on their use where imposed that mandated that submarines could not attack a ship until such ships crews and passengers were placed in safety. This reaction to the development of a new means of war is illustrative of the type of ethical and legal challenges that must be addressed as military organizations adopt greater human-machine integration.
The post-World War II U.S. occupation of Japan set conditions that continue to shape today’s dynamic Indo-Asia-Pacific security environment. Architects of Occupation: American Experts and the Planning for Postwar Japan, by historian Dayna L. Barnes, examines the wartime planning processes and resultant policy that enabled Japan’s postwar transformation into a stable international actor and strong U.S. ally. This well-researched contribution to World War II literature thematically explores the policymakers, strategic planners, think tanks, media players and networks that influenced postwar outcomes and set the stage for modern U.S. foreign policy. Though the strategic reader will appreciate this generally persuasive volume’s bureaucratic politics lens, some of the author’s arguments about policy maker influence are imperfectly reasoned.