Man, since creation, has had to kill and pillage in his quest for security and survival. Our complex characteristics such as greed, ambition, and lust have led us through generations to bear the teeth and spear against our kind in order to keep land, power, and wealth. War and the art of it has therefore been a handy tool for man to either destroy or rebuild.
Professional Military Education (PME) covers a wide range of activities. In one sense it refers to a plethora of training, continuing education, and other activities designed to provide development to members of the military at various points in their career and to prepare them for the next level of responsibilities. The U.S. military requires professional education for both officers and enlisted personnel and its form, content, and objective varies across rank, service, and military role. But what is its overarching purpose? Why do we invest so much in this effort?
Before considering the terms of a revised NAFTA, one should consider the thought-provoking insights of international relations scholar Parag Khanna. Khanna notes how outdated political boundaries serve as a constraint on the American economy because they prevent the integration of social, economic, and industrial components across state lines. He concludes that by redefining the American political map, that is, rethinking our current state borders, the economy will be better positioned for the future. This change of perspective, more so than a grand military strategy, will enable the US to remain a superpower. Renegotiating NAFTA must be viewed through this strategic lens.
War and violence decoupled from strategy and policy—or worse yet, mistaken for strategy and policy—have contributed to perpetual war, or what has seemed like 15 years of “Groundhog War.” In its wars since 11 September 2001, the United States has arguably cultivated the best-equipped, most capable, and fully seasoned combat forces in remembered history. They attack, kill, capture, and win battles with great nimbleness and strength. But absent strategy, these victories are fleeting. Divorced from political objectives, successful tactics are without meaning.
Russia’s power politics, demonstrated through its nationalistic tendencies, have the biggest influence on Estonia’s national security. Russia maintains a capability to influence a quarter of Estonia’s population who speak Russian, most of whom are disenfranchised by the government and are highly susceptible to Russian coercion through modern mainstream media emanating from Moscow. Due to these circumstances, Russia is in a position to cultivate Russian nationalism and influence Russian speakers in Estonia, who can elect leaders that will return Estonia back to Russia’s sphere of influence and undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. An alternative view is that Estonia’s NATO membership provides enough security to dissuade Russia from exerting its influence in Estonia. In rebuttal, I offer that Russia’s potential to leverage Estonia’s democratic process to enact laws and policies sympathetic to Russia, renders Estonia’s membership in NATO irrelevant and incapable of mitigating this threat.
Leveraging common principles found in different religions forms a foundation to undermine those using religious differences as a weapon. Expressing a deeper sense of religious understanding paints the U.S. as a pluralist society in a world where “more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group.” Some assert Samuel Huntington prophetically warned about a pending “Clash of Civilizations” citing religiously inspired violence ranging from organized terror groups to “lone wolf” incidents as evidence of a world bound for a cultural collision. Although terrorists represent only a small portion of a religious population, their ability to project global influence indicates the current international framework of nation-states is reaching a tipping point.
After 70 years of domination by the Wilsonian and Hamiltonian schools of thought, the Jacksonian and Jeffersonian traditions are emerging once more. President Trump’s non-conformist policy suggestions have raised concerns regarding the stability of the liberal international order. The rupturing of the internationalist order is not merely rooted in domestic realities however; it is also a consequence of the shifting tectonic plates of geopolitics. This article maintains that the liberal international order, and the grand strategy accompanying it, will have to evolve in response to both the changing dynamics of the American polity and the geopolitical fault lines overseas. This transitional period, in the words of Robert Osgood, is one of “limited readjustment…without disengagement after which America could establish a more enduring rationale of global influence.”
Instead of simply meeting budgetary recommendations, an analysis of small state security potential and funding of smarter, more cost-effective contributions to the alliance is needed. Furthermore, using a few of NATO’s “minnows” as examples of how to make limited means count in the face of an expansionist Russia, it becomes apparent that the continued existence of the alliance is of paramount importance. Ultimately, conventional “hard power” alone is not an effective strategy for combating current Russian security challenge facing Europe. For the small, frontline states on NATO’s eastern flank, a focus on special operations forces and intelligence are a better use of limited resources.
The origins of U.S. Military Intelligence is the story of the efforts of two men, Dennis E. Nolan and Ralph Van Deman. Nolan, an aspiring teacher and decorated veteran of the Spanish-American War, caught the eye of General John J. Pershing while serving as his adjutant. That contact with Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, would lead to his selection as the first Intelligence Officer (G-2) on an American General Staff in the field.
As the U.S. and China compete to innovate in this domain, the relative trajectories of U.S. and Chinese advances in artificial intelligence will impact the future military and strategic balance. China’s ability to leverage these national strategies, extensive funding, massive amounts of data, and ample human resources could result in rapid future progress. In some cases, these advances will be enabled by technology transfer, overseas investments, and acquisitions focused on cutting-edge strategic technologies.
By 1974 a combination of the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War, inflation, and slow economic growth cast serious doubts on American power. The United States faced a constitutional crisis not seen since the Civil War, and the 895 days that followed were wracked with fears of decline. As David Rothkopf noted, “While few in the street would consider or articulate questions about American decline as academics might, people knew in their gut that something was deeply wrong, that this was not the America they had been raised believing in.”
It is oft quoted in numerous aphorisms and proverbs that we should learn from the past. According to Napoléon Bonaparte’s last maxim, in his Maximes de Guerre de Napoléon, one should “Lisez, relisez les campagnes d’Alexandre, Annibal, César, Gustave, Turenne, Eugène, et de Frédéric; modelez-vous sur eux; voilà le seul moyen de devenir grand capitaine, et de surprendre les secrets de l’art de la guerre” [“Read, reread the campaigns of Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Vicomte of Turenne, Prince Eugene of Savoy and Frederick the Great; model yourself on them; that there is the only way to become a great commander, and to obtain the secrets of the art of war.”]
Our historical image of Woodrow Wilson reflects this tendency. We label individuals and ideas as “Wilsonian” if they exhibit a utopian vision of the world as it should be based on a set of moral ideas that, often times, appear quaint or naive. Rarely in the twenty-first century do we believe that being “Wilsonian” is a good thing, though many argue that neoconservatives and liberal interventionists both share principles borrowed from the twenty-eighth president. Our vision of Wilson, top hat on head and moralistic 14 Points in his coat pocket, being hailed by the war-fatigued European countries, must be bookended by his return to America, hat now in hand, begging the nation to approve the League of Nations. In this way, his failure and his series of strokes conveniently play out as a Grecian tragedy with an American chorus passing judgment on a president consumed with hubris.
As many historians like to point out, 19th century Prussian military theorist and army officer Carl von Clausewitz’s (1780-1831) seminal work, On War, was not written to be a “how-to” manual about waging warfare, but instead as a timeless treatise on the nature of war. Yet, Clausewitz was a product of both his time and experience. As a result, some of the ideas and metaphors Clausewitz used to describe his understanding of war and warfare might have outlived their utility. This is certainly not to say On War or Clausewitzian theory no longer carries value, but instead suggests some of the concepts therein need reexamined in relation to the passing of time. One of Clausewitz’s more controversial concepts, the center of gravity, falls into this category. The center of gravity (COG) – a metaphor to define warfare between relatively closed systems – has been rendered ineffective in modern warfare. Modern warfare is embodied by the collision of opposing systems in pursuit of political objectives. Modern systems sense, adapt, and act, while simultaneously hiding and protecting their critical vulnerabilities, and operating for self-perpetuation. Doctrine, rooted in a linear, Jominian application of Clausewitz’s COG concept, lacks the agility – cognitive and physical – to match the dynamism of contemporary systems warfare. As a result, doctrine must break with an anachronistic application of a metaphor, which is suited for 18th and 19th century warfare, and instead address the realities of contemporary and future warfare by replacing the COG with a systems approach that accounts for an adversarial systems’ ability to sense, adapt, and act. In doing so, doctrine will become more responsive to the fleeting opportunities in warfare, resulting in a more meaningful use of force.
Is it possible to intervene in another nation-state and pushback against the weight of that nation-state’s history? Can the weight of history be sufficiently balanced by intervention, allowing for the creation of enduring conditions that protect the outsider’s strategic interests? Today, the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the constraints on resources and time, probably make this an unattractive policy option. Instead, managing not resolving, the threats that pose risk to strategic interests is probably a more reasonable policy approach. This means accepting that an intervention in the affairs of another nation-state is limited to advise, assist and enable; and that the intervention will be a long-term commitment that works with the grain of history to achieve incremental progress.
Historians, novelists, journalists, and filmmakers continue to examine the legacy of the Holocaust to draw lessons for the present generation. In the same way, it is important that we continue to examine the implications of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in order to draw out its lessons for the international system going forward. Let us hope that David Kilgour (ex-Secretary of State for Africa) is wrong when he states, ‘What we seem to have learned about Rwanda is that we have learned nothing about Rwanda’.
No tactical situation is entirely new, but none are ever entirely the same either. Applying theory to an original situation in an original way is the art, in both tactics and strategy. It’s also why tactical principles can never be immutable and are always subject to the play of probability. By understanding tactical theory, tacticians can train their minds to recognize the ways they can weigh the dice of probability in their favor.
For some Americans, especially those of a certain generation, the image of Japanese military tradition is one of caricature. We see cartoon samurai and Godzilla when we close our eyes and imagine Japan. But Japan has a warrior tradition that is among the most rich and storied in the world. Warriors and military leaders ruled Japan for 800 years until unconditional surrender and a new constitution brought that rule to an end. The story of what came after is one that has been largely forgotten or ignored by the United States and the West.
Theodore Roosevelt, a man who held the unique distinction of being both an historian and a president, once wrote of American history, “Mightiest among the mighty dead loom the three great figures of Washington, Lincoln, and Grant.” Roosevelt’s words would come as a shock to most Americans today. Although Grant’s reputation has undergone a rehabilitation in the last two decades, he hardly ranks among great American leaders in the minds of all but a handful of historians, and the popular conception of Grant as an inept drunk still lingers.
Over the past two decades the use of the word domain has attained wide acceptance in the military lexicon. Vague when described in doctrine, it exerts a strong influence by establishing the most basic boundaries of military functional identities. Despite the unquestioned usage of domain-centric terminology, the exact meaning of domain remains largely undefined without consideration of etymological origins. However, the word contains some built-in assumptions regarding how we view warfare that can limit our thinking. An ambiguous categorization of separate operating domains in warfare could actually pose an intractable conceptual threat to an integrated joint force, which is ironically the stated purpose of multi-domain battle.