When Gerhard von Scharnhorst arrived in Berlin in 1801, he had an ambitious reform agenda on his mind. He was appointed to helm the Military School for Young Infantry and Cavalry Officers in Berlin, better known as the Kriegsakademie. Scharnhorst’s aspirations went, however, much further.
Without the right mindset, even the most tactically competent force becomes vulnerable to strategic missteps, and, in the worst case, strategic defeat. Although we can never predict the future with perfect accuracy, we can benefit by trying to understand the parameters and to build a mindset in the force that will help the future leaders address the challenges they will likely face. If soldiers can progress beyond learning what to think and how to think, and learn how to approach thinking, they will be better able to overcome the novel and complex adaptive strategic problems of that future, whatever they may be.
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.