Charles Dickens fans should note that this article is not about one of your favorite Victorian novels. Rather, it examines the case of Admiral Horatio Nelson, Baron of the Nile, and how his expectations of what his military operations might accomplish often matched the results. Secondarily, this characteristic of great expectations aligns nicely with attributes in Carl von Clausewitz’s exposition of military genius in On War. Finally, both Nelson’s approach, and Clausewitzian examination of the concept of military genius have a direct bearing on how officers command at sea.
The strategic demands of a great power war with a peer-adversary—the high-end conflict—will inevitably push decision-makers to the pale of that which is ethically permissible. We have seen it in the two great wars of the 20th century. In the next great power war—and one hopes it never comes—western states will put their strategic and operational capabilities to the test. But such a war will also test the moral will of their citizens—the people in whose name the killing and dying will take place.
When one picks up "The Free Sea: The American Fight for Freedom of Navigation" by James Kraska and Raul Pedrozo, they will soon find themselves asking if this book is a diplomatic history, a history of the merchant marine, a naval history, or a political history. The Free Sea is, in fact, all of these.
The professionalism of Western militaries is ripe for another discussion. The practitioners who make up the profession of arms—and those that study and teach them—owe it to their citizens, their governments, and themselves to shape their forces, and educate their professionals, in preparation for the future. It is their duty to ensure they are prepared to ethically and effectively achieve the military objectives their leaders lay before them, no matter the adversary or the context of the conflict.
Integrating the US Military is not a state-of-the-field type of book. It is, rather, a challenge to those of us who ply our trade in this profession to make the connections necessary to the larger issue of the role the American armed forces play as a reluctant social reform apparatus. In their insightful conclusion, the editors of the volume recognize the traditionally conservative organization has always been at the forefront of change—whether racial, gender, or sexual.
All branches of the armed forces have recognized the need for language and culture awareness training as important for military operations, and each service now has a language and cultural awareness training center designed to teach these critical skills. While these language and cultural initiatives are a step in the right direction, they are simply not aggressive enough to counter the rise of influence operations, or actions designed to produce a desired outcome on a target audience, which are becoming more prevalent as information and technology continue to reach more of the world’s people.
In the end, Arginusae was important not just because it was the last Athenian victory in the war, or because it was a shameful event in the history of Athens, but because of the hostility it caused towards Athenian democracy. The book closes with a brief look at the end of the Peloponnesian War and the damage done by Arginusae to the reputation of Athens in the millennia since the battle was fought. This book makes it eminently understandable how great that tragedy was.
Russian strategy in Syria and the broader Middle East consists of supporting what it considers legitimate institutions through extensive foreign aid programs, including economic and security assistance, political support and, as seen in Syria, direct military intervention. However, there are caveats to this strategy that include history, policy goals, and the ability to exploit lack of foreign attention to Russian activities and capabilities.
The economic, social, and technological trends of the Information Age will undoubtedly have a big impact on the way that militaries fight. Yet, two things do not change: the nature of war, and the need to win. To win, militaries must move beyond the old methods of the Industrial Age. There is a need to develop capabilities in a more cost-efficient and operationally effective way. Militaries must leverage the power of networks, remain open to new ideas and continue to improve how they develop their people.
Emotions are abundantly present in contemporary warfare, and various non-state actors, in particular, use acts of terror to invoke fear in target audiences. The same emotion is also central to the successes or failures of deterrence. Various intra-state conflicts in Central Africa are waged for the most emotional of causes, usually a mixture of greed and grievances. It seems the role of moral factors has actually expanded in modern warfare due to the influence of real-time mass media on public opinion. Despite their abundance, emotions are largely ignored by students of strategic studies.
Israel’s success in overcoming its imbalances in 1948 provides important lessons for the development of national strategy. Israel’s victory demonstrates how capable leadership can unite competing interests to create a professional military in a short period of time, how diplomatic and military efforts can complement each other, and how military principles such as mass and space can be manipulated. The 1948 war also helps the observer understand Israel’s strategic thinking in later conflicts and highlights the importance and possibilities of military organizational reform.
A new science of human behavior has emerged over the past two decades. This new science has linked together the research of neuroscientists, cognitive and evolutionary anthropologists, decision theorists, social and cross cultural psychologists, cognitive scientists, ethnologists, linguists, endocrinologists, and behavioral economists into a cohesive body of research on why humans do what they do. Research in this field rests on two propositions about the human mind. The first, that the mind is embodied; the second, that it is evolved.
Dynamic force employment presents an opportunity to fundamentally change the way the U.S. military allocates forces to respond to crises, and proactively take advantage of global strategic opportunities. Rapid and variable deployment of ready forces can deter conflict and foment confusion and paralysis in adversaries, making it a powerful tool to be wielded in global competitions with China, Russia, and others.
The adversaries of today are still human, and the threats of today may not be so conceptually different from those of the Cold War. By looking back at how a previous generation of strategists considered and communicated their strategic challenges in context, we may be able to gain insights into how to address these modern threats. 21st Century Power: Strategic Superiority for the Modern Era is a useful resource toward that end.
A successful cyber doctrine must epitomize Clausewitz’s argument in favor of an active or attack-based defense, found in a relatively unknown but rich section of On War entitled “Methods of Resistance.” The chapter opens with a compelling reminder that the advantage of the defense is its defining purpose is to ward off an attack, and this warding off has as its principal strength the idea of awaiting.
The activities of the Army Service Forces rarely garner attention in ongoing debates about warfare. Perhaps this is because modern conflict, unlike World War II, does not rely on massive firepower and highly centralized command structures. However, the management rules conceived by General Brehon Somervell are no less relevant and applicable to today’s military procurement and logistical challenges than they were over 75 years ago.
For many years, the world hummed a sweet, optimistic tune about the benefits of globalization. Pundits like the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman noted the cascading advantages of an increasingly interconnected world with little appreciation for its uneven benefits. Despite living in a world evermore interwoven, the growing divides between globalization’s winners and losers are expanding. These so-called losers are becoming more vocal. They’re asking, “What about us? What about all the plans that ended in disaster?”