Thursday, September 09, 2021

Our Military Failures are Intellectual Failures

Our military failures of the last half century have not been at the Tactical or for that matter the Operational level. They have been failures at the Strategic and POL/MIL levels,

We have to accept that there is something wrong with not just who we select as our senior uniformed and civilian leaders, but how we educate them, and how we designed the system they work in.

For today's post, let's just touch on one segment of the education portion; our war colleges.

As our war colleges started to focus less on their part in the practice of war and instead pursued the pleasures and practices of colleges, our military has been less successful at war and have adopted some of the worst vices of academia.

I'm not the only one thinking along these lines. Over at City Journal, Thomas Bruscino and Mitchell G. Klingenberg from the U.S. Army War College have a bit addressing this head on you should give a full read to;

In May 2020, the Joint Chiefs of Staff published guidance for the education of future senior military leaders that repeatedly emphasized the need for all senior officers to learn how to fight wars ... The Joint Chiefs issued their guidance because our senior-officer education system does not prepare its students for joint warfighting, which is enormously complicated.

At the war colleges, this cry for help has gone missing in a maze of bureaucracy and jargon. Educational standards take the form of vague word salads: “Senior leaders who lead complex organizations and think strategically and skillfully as adaptive and collaborative problem solvers to develop strategies to achieve national security outcomes.” Such “standards” are neither measurable nor focused on winning wars, yet educators congratulate themselves for meeting them, while graduates leave not even knowing what they don’t know.

Here is what we know: the only standard that matters is whether our military officers can prevail in war. As recent events in Afghanistan have demonstrated, we don’t meet that standard. 


Our war colleges must rededicate themselves to the task of instructing students in the problems of fighting and winning. They must teach graduates to reject simplistic analogies, aphorisms, and the latest “revolutionary” developments in warfare. They should teach diplomatic, economic, scientific, historical, legal, and other academic subjects only insofar as they contribute to warfighting. Above all, they must carefully study historical and contemporary conflicts of all types to gain a greater appreciation of the vast complexity of joint warfighting, and then apply it in practice—first, by crafting their own war-winning strategies and campaigns, and then by fighting them out, over and over, in war games and other exercises.

We have forgotten much of what we need to know. We will have to relearn it together.

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