Jena demonstrated war’s adaptive character when Prussia’s outdated system and tactics were defeated by Napoleon’s. Scharnhorst concluded that understanding and innovation in warfare required critical thinking –– the kind of thinking that questions the status quo, identifies problems, and forms solutions. His answer was a liberal education, and he and his successors broadened the Army’s technical education with the inclusion of civilian liberal arts and sciences. Jena demonstrated that executing orders was not enough; officers had to use sound judgment and critical thinking in the preparation, planning, and execution of military operations. Scharnhorst firmly believed in the benefits of higher level education and experimented with specialized learning venues when he established the Military Society in Berlin in 1801. This society fostered a free-thinking exchange of ideas and sought to develop judgment and reasoning. Modern-day comparisons might be found in The Strategy Bridge’s “New Model Mentoring” or the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum.
While the U.S. remains the single most powerful actor on the international stage, its influence and ability to react to the growing threat that transcends its own internal artificial boundaries and planning processes is not keeping pace with the evolution of the environment. With the rise of global near-peer competitors and regional powers with transnational reach, the U.S. military must become more flexible and adaptable at crossing multiple boundaries simultaneously if it seeks to maintain its competitive advantage. The only way to achieve this is to transform our current command and control structures to allow us to be a global power that actually acts and thinks globally.