Handgrenade December 2021

John T Kuehn's picture

The War on Terror and the Militarization of the US Navy

Handgrenade December 2021

A profession is an interesting thing to be a part of.  Usually one is a member of a profession that is itself represented by an institution or institutions, “societies’ rules of the game” as Douglass C. North, Nobel prize economist, has noted.

I provide this caveat as a means to understand the hypothesis that follows because I consider myself a naval professional in the service of the people of the United States (one does not shed one’s profession once one retires as an officer, at least not in my case).

A major element in professionalism, as my colleague from another of my professions (and friend) Brian McAllister Linn recently pointed out in a key article, is that the profession is self-policing.[i] That is my purpose with this Handgrenade.

The so-called War on Terror that began in 2001 changed many things, and in ways that people are still trying to figure out.  One of the ways it changed things was to accelerate a process that Andrew Bacevich has called “The New American Militarism,” and which he still believes to be a serious problem in the American polity that includes uniformed career officers.  Bacevich’s original work on this topic predated the War on Terror, but his latest edition found that the War on Terror did nothing to diminish the trends he identified as contributing to the phenomenon, that instead it accelerated and intensified those trends.[ii] 

The United States Navy was and is not immune to this problem.  Normally one transposes the idea of militarism to the maritime sphere as “navalism,” but the two phenomena are different in fundamental ways, although they share some attributes.  Navalism, overall, tends toward a global viewpoint and encompasses not just warships, but all activities that occur at sea, political, economic, diplomatic, a better way to view it in the current age is as maritime-ism.  Unlike militarism, it has much less to do with land-based threats coming from a uniformed military against a civilian political structure.  In order to suffer from militarism, the U.S. Navy would have to become more military, a process I call militarization.

The War on Terror contributed to militarization of the Navy via process that was opaque to many (especially those in the Army and Marine Corps), but also the public.  Of the services, it is the Navy that most American citizens are least a familiar with.  This is because it is concentrated in a few major port cities that many Americans never visit or if they do they don’t go near the Navy bases;, and not even the important ones like New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco (although this was not always the case).  The other reason is obvious, but must be stated, a large component of the Navy, the fleet if you will, is deployed out to sea, out of sight, out of mind except for the pat, de rigeur (and facile to my mind) images one occasionally sees of SEALs and aircraft carriers on TV or social media.

The first major reflection of the militarization of the Navy was its wholesale change of how its personnel looked.  As the Army and the nation struggled to man staff and provincial reconstruction teams, as well as to deal with a shortage of manpower for any number of traditionally “Army” jobs (force protection, provincial reconstruction teams in landlocked provinces, manning military detention facilities ashore for prisoners, etc),  more and more Navy folks had to acquire soldier-type uniforms, what I call “GI Joe” outfits, instead of the traditional navy garb one is used to seeing sailors and Navy (not naval, naval includes marines) officers in.   This program was called the Individual Augmentee (IA) program and required people from the US Navy to buy combat for land warfare style-uniforms.  However, instead of mandating this garb for these strictly augment-the-Army ashore assignments, the Navy turned these uniforms into what we call the "uniform of the day" in the Navy, first using the crazy "acqua-flage"  (blue-ish) uniforms which camoflaged sailors at sea from anyone trying to find them should their ship or aircraft go down.   So the Navy changed those uniforms to greenish ones that are hard for average Americans to distinguish from Army and Marine uniforms, but will get the sailor a "thank you for your service" at the 7-11 or in public.

Before long the American public couldn’t tell a marine from a sailor from a soldier (or an airman for that matter).  Clothes make the man (or woman), and so it may seem a small thing, but sailors now looked like soldiers and should it surprise anyone that they started to act like soldiers, especially since they were being asked to do soldier-type tasks in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa (among other places).  Their identity changed, slowly in some cases, not so slowly in others; and with this change in self-awareness and with how they saw themselves.  Specifically, since they were doing fewer and fewer tours on actual warships, they started to act more military. What should have been a short term expedient, because of the War on Terror, became a long term identity transformation for the personnel in the U.S. Navy.  This was directly related to the length of the campaigns in the War on Terror.  The Navy still wears these silly uniforms, that are completely out of place on a ship, or the Naval War College for that matter, today (although thank God the students at the Naval War College still mostly wear civilian garb as do those at Naval Postgraduate School).

But there is more.  In becoming more and more like soldiers, the personnel, especially the officers, in the Navy began to adopt the cultural biases of soldiers and generals, and not those of sailors and admirals.

Should it surprise anyone that the public thinks the Navy is really a bunch of land-based assassins from a Call of Duty video game who look like the SEALS?  That the ethos of Navy would change from one of expertise at sea to expertise in large staff processes and learning soldier instead of sailor skills?  That these same sailors would become less and less proficient in sea-based tasks like basic seamanship, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, maritime counter-targeting and counter-surveillance, maritime surveillance (due to supporting forces ashore and not looking for subs, aircraft, and ships at sea)?  That they would acquire the wrong weapons systems or place value on maritime force packages used for mostly land wars (aircraft carriers) and defer to the judgment of Defense contractors for what sorts of ships to buy?

The impact of the War on Terror on the Navy has been profound, and on balance, negative. But we may have not seen the worst of it. Are there admirals out there who favor the overthrow of the current government, and are willing to support forces that might do so via un-democratic processes?  Wasn’t the Q-anon shaman just convicted of insurrection last January a former Navy man? What about the murderers that a previous President pardoned, wasn’t one of them a SEAL?  I personally was contacted in 2020 to sign a petition in support of Donald Trump’s campaign signed by over 100 admirals, many of them retired, many of whom I once respected.

True, these are only anecdotes, small pieces of evidence, but one of the things that naval historians need to examine more honestly is how not having a peer competitor at sea for at least 30 years has combined with a 20 year long war with the U.S. Army as the pivotal service to change the ethos and culture of the  U.S. Navy.  And not for the better.

John T. Kuehn, Commander, USN (retired, 2004).

 (who has never owned or worn a GI-Joe uniform, although he did wear a “poopie” suit –a 1950s solid olive green outfit worn by Beetle Baily--for one week at Aviation Officer Candidate School in September 1981.)


[i] Brian M. Linn, "Samuel Huntington, Professionalism, and Self-Policing in the US Army Officer Corps,"

Parameters 51, no. 3 (2021), https://press.armywarcollege.edu/parameters/vol51/iss3/9 (accessed 11-19-21).

[ii] AndrewJ.  Bacevich,  The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Oxford University Press, 2013), passim.

"The naval profession, if you can call it a profession, is engineering. It isn’t a profession actually, because in a profession you have certain responsibilities; you can’t be dictated to in carrying out your professional duties. As long as a man will accept dictation in a technical matter, he is not a professional person. So the Navy is not really a profession.

I tried to say this in a speech several months ago. I didn’t mention the Navy in the speech, but I hoped there were some naval officers who read it who would be astute enough to realize that I was really addressing myself to them. The Navy is trying to run engineering matters on a military basis — by ordering things to get done. You can’t do that. The only people who can work that way are hacks. Professionals won’t do it. That’s one of the main things that is wrong with research and development in the military."

- Admiral Hyman Rickover in a 1959 testimony to Congress, “Organization and Management of Missile Programs.”

From: https://books.google.com/books?id=L2R0-e0gBq8C&pg=PA624&lpg=PA624&dq=%22...

Insightful post. I imagine that this militarization has lead to a split inside the Navy as well, between those embracing militarization and those committed to Naval culture and traditions.
It has always seemed to me that the SEAL community was fully militarized, and self-identified more as soldiers then sailors. But that community is tiny, despite its outsized public exposure. A split involving larger factions of the Navy would be far more damaging.
And how does this impact the older Navy divisions of Surface Warfare, submariners, and Aviation?

Fascinating Rickover quote from Marcus Jones. I take Rickover's point about the centrality of engineering to the Navy's mission (and his focus on R&D), but I wonder whether the Naval profession writ large is rather the projection of national power on the seas, the dominant aspect of which is the capacity for directed violence. The professional aspect, in other words, is the controlled exercise of violent power, so the essential ethics of the profession have to do with the control and application of that power?

In that respect, it seems all the services have a similar structure insofar as they have particular means (forms of engineering) that comprise their particular capacities for violence, and those means are in the service of their respective projections of national power.

I think this also implies that military force, while it does rely on the ability to calculate in technical matters, is an art in the sense that it ultimately relies on judgments about what course of action to take in a given situation. The recent H-War discussion on the viability of cold war naval strategy was a good example, I thought, of interrogating such judgments.

(I feel compelled to add here that I've been reading H-War since the mid-'90s, and it has been and continues to be first-rate in the quality of its members' engagement and intellectual generosity with each other.)

The uniform changes that John noted in his militarization essay have been costly. One account I read suggests that the Navy has spent over $200 million on uniform changes since 2008 when the drift toward "war on terror" camouflage for all started in earnest. Up until the early 2000's the US Armed Forces had a joint camouflage uniform with different services just using differently-shaped hats. The Marines began the uniform change effort with their switch to digital camouflage, but then all of the other services made similar changes. The Navy's have been especially poor, with the first Navy digital uniform being retired as a hazard to sailors. It is impossible to see a man overboard in that blue/black/gray pattern and it also turned out to burn very well if set on fire. The current Navy camouflage costume looks equally foolish with sailors in the Pentagon kitted out in camouflage that belongs in Southeast Asia. Just silly.

My take, Paul, is that the community most militarized in this respect are the surface warfare types. After all, it was Admiral Mullen, a surface guy, who got the ball rolling in this regard.

Aviators have flight suits and the who knows what the sub guys wear when they go sinker, but probably not the exact combat uniform that folks have to wear on the surface. Many of them still wear the dark blue jumpers, with tennis shoes for quieting.

My understanding of uniform regs is that the uniform of the day need not be consistent other than winter uniforms in winter and summer uniforms in summer. The Navy still has many class B and even C uniforms that need not look like the wearer is ready for combat in the Central Highlands of Vietnam as they walk down the halls of the Pentagon or shop at Hyvee or some other grocery store. It used to be that organizational clothing was not worn in public unless specifically authorized (at least in the Navy). Now folks wear it everywhere. In 1993 I was not allowed to wear my flight suit out in town when I was stationed in Jacksonville.

vr, John

Just silly - indeed. Let's not forget the AF and their "Airman Battle Uniform" ...... now consigned to the dustbin in favor the the OCP.

Marcus Jones' post is fascinating. It goes back to this tension between "strategists" and "mechanists" in the US Navy Officer Corps that Scott Mobley catalogs so well in his excellent monograph _Progressives in Navy Blue_ (Naval Institute Press, 2018). IN other words there are competing visions of professionalism in the Navy. One faction/culture sees itself as naval professionals in the conduct of peace, war and policy...eg. strategists, and the other as technocrat professionals. There is another smaller third group, and Mobley describes it too, the guys who see themselves as both, the Bradley Fiskes, the Wainwrights, the William Pratts, the Elmo Zumwalts, and dare I say it...the John T. Kuehn's (engineering msaster's degree with usage in electronic warfare systems design, Naval Postgraduate School, with distinction).

Of course not everyone can be an autodidact or savant or whatever (a Da Vinci)...and that it is not even necessary for one to view oneself as a member of more than one profession. But how a culture sees itself, and what the main attributes of the culture should be are keys to understanding the dynamic and the tension.

I find it fascinating, for example that anyone would dismiss the utility of EITHER understanding the calculus of Liebniz OR the utility of history as articulated by a Marc Bloch or a John Lewis Gaddis. But that is just me.
What I do know is that in a recent workshop, mostly with those viewing themselves as members of the culture of the technocrats (with honorable exceptions) and mechanists, an admiral declared up front that the Navy had too many "liberal arts officers" and that was why the Navy programs acquisitions were so screwed up and by extension the Navy so screwed up. I was stunned. My own view is that the problem is the exact opposite. Why must we choose? Can't we have our cake and the oven too?
Why not go with the CP SNOW Two Cultures (at least) approach? If you haven't read Snow and you read these handgrenades, you are behind. But college undergraduate classes don't assign Snow anymore, certainly not in engineering programs.

All the best, John T Kuehn, Cultural Pilgrim


Why not go with the CP SNOW Two Cultures (at least) approach? If you haven't read Snow and you read these handgrenades, you are behind. But college undergraduate classes don't assign Snow anymore, certainly not in engineering programs. 

John, you know better than to make broad stroke assertions without checking the evidence.  A google search for CP Snow on syllabi brings back a lot of hits (not all classes, but quite a few).  They do seem to be teaching it to undergraduates.


(The search syntax was:  snow "two cultures" syllabus site:edu )

David, Fair critique, one should ALMOST never make an absolutist assertion.
but I will mildly challenge its substance (but not its intent).

We all know google hits are a fairly imprecise way to make "broad stroke assertions" about just about anything. For example, one might assume if one plugs in John T. Kuehn into the google search engine that one is looking at someone fairly well known to a great many people....1.3 million hits, However, that is certainly not the case.

After all, I only have about 900 Twitter followers, which is pretty lame.
So there is some dissonance in this sort of quickie research.
What I do know is that Snow was never assigned in any of my undergraduate course or those of my kids, nephews, friends, and cousins. IN fact, I did not read Snow until 2000 when my Dad sent me a copy while I was at sea in the Persian Gulf. And I was a liberal arts major as an undergrade in a major state universities, LSU (freshman year) and Miami University (Ohio).
and many of them are for other John T. Kuehns, a dentist in Pittsburgh for example.
Also, I did a survey here a couple years ago in this hallway full of history Ph.D.s. I was the only one who had read Snow. Of course all that might support is a hypothesis that military historians are given to avoiding courses that might have one read Snow. Finally, I have asked, willy nilly and not in any disciplined or consistent way, over the years my own students here if they have read Snow. I usually get the stunned mullet response. It usually comes up in a discussion of culture. I DO include The Two Cultures in my end of year list of stuff I recommend they read at some point in their lives.

Bottom line, we are both guilty. Me for my anecdotal approach, and you for the Google error, as I call it.

Speaking of internet research using search engines and various ways of collecting data--go to Twitter @jkuehn50 and take the poll I just posted on Snow.

best, John

We all know google hits are a fairly imprecise way to make "broad stroke assertions" about just about anything

Of course, which is why I'm not really taking much of a position except that your broad assertion needs much more in the way of evidence.

In any case, this is wandering off military history, so let's just leave it at that.


Stalin's Cold War Military Machine: A New Evaluationhttps://www.history.navy.mil / research / library / online-reading-room / title-list-alphabetically / s / stalins-cold-war-militar... - 568k - similar pages
Nov 2, 2017 ... 41. Roman Kolkowicz, The Soviet Military and the Communist Party, Boulder: Westview Press, 1985, 71. 42. Kolkowicz,

[PDF] Revising the SIOP: Taking War-Fighting to Dangerous ... - JSTORhttps://www.jstor.org/stable/2538751 - similar pages
war, programs for the assignment of all U.S. strategic weapons systems to ... quirements and Analysis Working Group to study the problem of locating ... Evaluation, Defense Agencies (Supporting Data for DNA Fiscal Year 1986 ... ment," in Bernard Brodie, Michael D. Intriligator, and Roman Kolkowicz, eds., National Secu-.
[PDF] The Emergence of Cooperation: National Epistemic ... - JSTORhttps://www.jstor.org/stable/2706953 - similar pages
als and the Nuclear Deterrence System," in Roman Kolkowicz, ed., The Logic of Nuclear Terror ... abundance of weapons and the practice of arms control. ... epistemic communities, such as the Pugwash group in the security field,12 is ... Evaluation of the Decision to Deploy an Antiballistic Missile System (New York: Signet, ...

Prof. Kuehn has brought into focus another of his very fine
and important concerns; had, in mind to post the above online references upon a topic of both interest and in current history
quite likely as Prof. K mentions now, relevant to historians and writing history from more recent US military experiences.

With some trepidations, am entering here as part to this discussion brought forward very in completed thoughts but felt directly related to the points being made by members.

Not having like other members a lifetime of direct participation and having missed the last 20 yrs. of experiences in US military history, yet in ways still having a lifetime of related experiences and history, the academic meaning to a Historians efforts seem central to those points being made by Prof. K and others in this December posting. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. We used to call Prof. Kissinger, Prof. K but his rewards belong to another era and might remind members that both Pres. Nixon and Prof. K were able to reach their career positions with backgrounds both Navy and Army. They were not alone in this historical contribution to American meanings.

Aside from this rather long intro, there does appear that appearances are substance in direction and importance to military history and American military history in particular; concerning appearances and substance given trends and experiences being mentioned as most recent history by several here.

In many ways have always considered our family a 'Navy' family cause of the 20th Century US military history. But that is not a totality as members have been part of both Army and Air Force histories. This question of uniforms from the 'war on terror' raises issues. At one point in US history an unified forces
plan was advanced during post WW II period to History. It was happily rejected by others when the time of its advancement took place. Am saying this cause there are relevant and important issues of concern for the customs and traditions of services, such as the US Navy has known and does offer as contributions to a military profession and career.

These factors do shape the meaning of military organizations and life, lives. Which brings us to the two online references included.

The Noblest Roman:
Both references included mention Roman Kolkowicz. Had one time met Prof. Kolkowicz as a referral from my own academic experiences. He was serving on the WESEG group then, the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group, advisors to the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon during late 1960s. It was to discuss possible employ with his Group. He, like his professional colleagues, was one of a generation, civilians and academics, who were drawn into the military history as result of WW II and the Cold War history. These particular references refer to some of his writings about most important subject the historical practice and significance from Soviet Military history, wherein the Communist Party had practiced placing political offices of equal rank to their military offices to ensure the military conformed to those goals and purposes of the Communist Political Party in its rule.
Without further dwelling upon this vital topic, its existence demonstrated one of the most significant differences between Western Democracies military histories, US military history, and the dictatorial approaches to rule over peoples and their imposed ideologies upon people, enemies and lives.
Political Officers have never been part of the US military organization and history to conform military decisions and objectives, goals. [Eisenhower is said to have pointedly insisted upon the separation of military decisions from political decisions in WW II.]
Not so with reported Communist Govts. practices. This represents a real threat and danger to how and why military decisions and conduct take place, particularly on the internal situations of countries and people, including the US as a Democracy.
Only the tip of an iceberg this few lines. Too proceed, mut disagree with the objection to Liberal Arts within the military as part and parcel of educational and degree practices, in brief. The service academies turn out professional engineers degreed as engineers as they should. But having a required academic course load including work in the liberal arts and political subjects is both healthy and consonant with the goals of Free Society and Free Govt.

Treachery of Politicalization:

Recent political history in the US that has ignored and attempted to override these customs and policies, practices of US military history are more than suspect. They are to wit, outright dangerous and those recent political movements who have attempted to reject these customs and decisions historically are to be regarded as possibly if not outright treacherous to competence and achievements of professional US military practices and history. In this regard, would agree in degree with Adm. Rickover[USN] in part. Also agree the surface warfare are more likely to militarize the service when Paul Turpin's understanding of warfare is most professional and consistent with the Navy and Services needs to strike a 'right' balance between professional military life and engineering as the core to Military meaning and History.

Probably gone on much too long here but these are valued and valuable matters of truly significant importance both to the History of the US and its Military Services. One final point, during the American Civil War, there were a number of Flag offices who were political and not Academy professionals.

Do hope this touches upon some of the matters of concern and import to this subject under discussion. Would agree with Prof. K. also, that Flag Officers who are retired, while having their own political rights in a Free Society and Democracy should be because of their achievements professional, be concerned about their contributions politically that reflect upon their own personal accomplishments and the meaning of these to the US military and its History. One hopes so.

Wyatt Reader MA
Instructor(Life)-Political Science
US Navy Staff(ret.)
Note: Had wished to display the Flag of US Naval Infantry with this posting but system does not allow for same. US Naval Infantry has traditionally been the practice for US Ground Force of Navy in Ports as distinct from Army controlled units, believe this correct, as far my own awareness extends].

All: I normally do not add to my post with an entirely new branch, but this came up in a discussion with one of my colleagues as a result of my spending much of the week hearing US Army majors define and give examples of "mission command."
It occurred to me that the mission command they described did not reflect the mission command the US Army believes itself to have. That the Napoleonic model of mission command is what they have==limited mission command by force of circumstance to allow corps commanders some latitude and initiative at their level (and in turn their same approach with their divisional commanders, especially in distributed operations in places like Spain or Russia). Top down from the higher operational levels and under strict control by Napoleon is more what the US Army has today if it honest with itself. And then I blurted out, "The Navy has more a more mission command-oriented culture than the other services." Centralized planning, decentralized execution is almost mandatory at sea because of the vast spaces involved and in the past the absolute difficulty with communications, especially in the Cold War age of Emission Control (EMCON) that prevented higher from micro-managing lower echelons.
For example, as an EP3 mission commander, once I took off from Atsugi in Japan or Cubi in the Philippines, my pilot and I had absolute control over what we did and how we did it for the next 8-12 hours flying against the Soviets. We went where we thought it most beneficial, higher be damned. It was the same story in the ES-3. I made the recommendations and any command authority acceded to my understanding of the environment, I was the guy with the big picture on station at 28,000 feet (EP-3) or 37,000 feet (ES-3).

However, I was wrong. After further thought I think the US Navy is a lot less like that Navy I came from all those years ago. That we are looking more and more Napoleonic when an aircraft carrier commander makes a decision based on the reality on the ground in Guam with a ship under threat of COVID and is then second guessed by a lot of careerists above him and then relieved of command. Or a CO is so worried about what his seniors thinks that he puts his ship and crew in danger... kowtowing to his nominal boss who is often ashore. And then makes the same mistake with the subordinates beneath her (or him). So that they do not do the right thing and introduce time lags into decision making trying to make sure they are making the same tactical decision the boss would.

As a Flag tactical action officer (TAO) on the John F. Kennedy (CV-67) I could launch fighters and bombers without my embarked admiral's permission if he was unavailable or if, as per his standing orders, time was too critical for asking him. I had weapon release authority. And I did so, during Desert Shield in the Red Sea. And all as an 0-3. I was able to launch a message back to CINCPAC one night in Dubai ten years later when I could not get my skipper and the issue was urgent because it involved the sexual harassment of female sailors ashore by taxi drivers that could have caused an international incident. I even had the chief of staff of the embarked admiral ensure that they would not have any problems with the message. I got "counseled" by the XO (then Captain Ted Branch), and then he said, "...but you did the right thing, just try harder next time to call the skipper." I did not have a career to ruin any more at that point.

This is all my way of saying, I don't hear many stories like that anymore, guys like me rarely make it to commander (0-5) anymore if we anger our careerist COs even though we made the correct tactical or moral decision. I think this is another feature of the Navy's militarization, the erosion of its once vibrant culture of bold initiative and moral courage.

John T. Kuehn

Find much worthy of consideration in this related recent history and its analysis.

One of the strengths to US Navy practice, and a more general understanding of US military practice is/was the allowance of tactical authority and discretion within the boundaries for issued strategic orders and plans.

Do not know about current practices or US Army per se but in the heat of war operations such seems the desired practice and understanding.

There may have been some German WW I practice, that same, did get them into difficult or wrong situation but been awhile since looking into these detail history events.

If it is truly going to a Napoleonic system, quite possibly more thorough reviews are needed to determine historical and current practices as to their superior or inferior consequences for successes and failures.

The practice mentioned of tactical freedom is more congruent with previous understanding, ie, history.

Certainly would agree with this posting as to its desireability and more recent history domestically indicates this can be true.

I wonder if the correct analogy for strict, centralized, top-down control is not the Napoleonic system but the Soviet system. Napoleon, after all, did not have the modern communications that enable leaders at a very high level to reach down to intervene at the lowest tactical level. I have heard US Air Force pilots complain that after 1991, ironically, "the US Air Force became the Soviet Air Force" because their every decision in the cockpit was micro-managed by ground controllers in the CAOC.

Such a system can "work" if the enemy has no capability to interfere with US communications, but potential future adversaries have been carefully studying how to do exactly that. Furthermore, the system works best if the enemy is so inferior that he is largely reacting to you, and you rarely have to react to him (as was the case from 1991 to now). If the enemy is swamping you with high-speed missiles, there's no time to "phone home" and ask what to do.

Napoleon is the prototype of command and control because it provides a common example that every student of military history should be familiar with and in a context that they will also recognize. The Franco-Prussian/German dynamic between the 1730s and 1945 presents enough examples of pretty much every military principle, positive and negative, that it remains the standard for such in Western military curricula. There are probably better examples for every one of them, like Soviet C2, but the background knowledge required to appreciate them means the old standards will remain superior.

Age of Drones might facilitate such direct ground to air remote direct communications but its practice, by Germans in the pre-Drone era of WW II with the C in C dictator making the tactical decisions by his interventions as they have been said elsewhere, did not seem to work.

Might this history be instructive as well as the Soviet principles and practices ?

Jonathon Abel's comment on why the French/German rivalry remains our historical go to for these examples is insightful, I'd like to have every U.S. military science PME instructor realize this. But for military historians, shouldn't we be concerned that Western military curricula is so myopic? Especially considering that none of our most likely challengers resemble France or Prussia/Germany, nor do they share a similar Western culture background.

Admittedly, Soviet/Russian military history can be just as myopic. But I believe we really need to expand our knowledge beyond our current common examples.

Western military studies/PME are certainly myopic, but for a good reason. I'd love to study armies like the Spanish or Ottoman, just as students of current affairs should be immersing themselves in Iranian/Russian/Chinese languages, cultures, and histories. The barrier is the same in both cases: students (and frankly, most instructors, myself included) simply don't have the context or historical background to have intelligent discussions on topics that they're not already somewhat familiar with. Is it worth the time and effort to build survey-type courses to provide a baseline education before discussion can begin?

Further, simply learning the basics of a language/culture/nation doesn't impart understanding. One of the faults of modern analysis is to assume homogeneity across a group and that a tip-sheet can bring true understanding. Spike Lee refers to "The Black Monolith" as an example of such a fallacy. Responsible instructors in every discipline should be careful to point out that models and sweeping generalizations are useful only as foils in many cases.

The “big war” v “little war” construct has always been a shadow over American military culture, thus military development, thus military history. For example, General Sheridan, in 1876, did not want to be fighting American Indians. He wanted modern parade ground formations that could beat a European enemy in a stand-up fight with maneuver and firepower like, well, the “good old days” of the Civil War. Lakota, Kiowa, Cheyenne and such were, however, all he had. This filtered down to his officer corps. Most of them had extensive combat experience in the most modern of wars (for their time) who longed for the sense of purpose and direction such a war brought. At the same time an entire generation of young officers were coming up in a world where they (and their decisions) had immense meaning both regionally and maybe nationally. The youngest of them would rise through the ranks free of that civil war influence, command during WWI, and create an army like nothing before it in the U.S. The junior officers of WWI would bring forward their culture to WWII and so on.

Push that forward a bit and you can see it repeated over and over. The captains (O-3) of WWII struggled mightily as colonels with the lack of strategic purpose found in Vietnam. The colonels of GWOT, when they dreamed of the lighting war and exact purpose of Operation Desert Storm they fought as company commanders, seemed adrift in the grinding meandering of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, those more senior soldiers came up in a time when military had a culture focused on a singular enemy…a European (read Soviet) monolith that had land, air, and sea capabilities nearly equal to our own. And just like Sheridan’s old civil war buddies they watched a generation of new officers come up with an entirely different view of war.

Just as the late 19th Century Indian Wars forced a shift in American military culture so too did the GWOT force the shift we are seeing today. Young O-4’s don’t see a purpose for the mission command concept that defies logic to them. War, for them, isn’t about strategic focus but gentle shifts in local and regional synergy. But that kind of thing doesn’t make for career generals and admirals and it won’t feed critical weapons systems development and it won’t lead to higher and higher military budgets. When these rising officers imagine a war with a peer competitor they don’t imagine massed armies slugging it out across broad fronts (imagine China); they see picking and scratching at their peripherals until they give up…hardly the work of a Sherman or Eisenhower!

Look over toward the navy and it is even more pronounced but for different reasons. I feel (and that is all it is, a feeling) that the modern US Navy is adrift with no strategic anchor. Is the navy just a tactical air force or a special operations support force? Do modern destroyers and cruisers protect carriers or do they engage in commerce raiding? Does the navy even have submarines anymore? (OK, I’m joking, but the “silent service” has been really silent lately). I can’t imagine how difficult it is to develop tactically and strategically proficient LEADERS in a culture like this.

This military cultural shift is one of the most remarkable things I have seen so like all good academics I fall back to my focus of study to find examples (and thus my opening paragraph). So, when your students struggle with examples and studies from the past give them a break and suggest they look further back in our own history as well as turning to global examples.

All true and somewhat obvious - different wars, times and challenges throughout history. Yes, finding an enemy dumb enough to challenge us (the US) on a conventional battlefield plays to our strengths; the speed and finality of the outcome is much more professionally satisfying than getting stuck in low-level conflicts much harder to resolve. Professional soldiers have to deal with the reality of their era and the challenges our government decides to engage us in. What we have not done well is prepare our Armed Forces for those population-centric conflicts which we cannot buy or shoot our way out of. Longing for only certain types of conflicts has been shown to be unrealistic and frankly professionally immature. The basic problem is that we go back to an entire systemic focus on conventional war and only give lip-service to preparations for other ones. We need to accept the reality of the world and embrace unconventional conflict as well as conventional. If I can be so bold, I will suggest an article by me just published in the December issue of Army Magazine where I tried to outline for the US Army a better way to do just that (give equal balance to preparing for unconventional war).

" Is it worth the time and effort to build survey-type courses to provide a baseline education before discussion can begin?"

Yes, absolutely. The difficulty of looking to non-Western examples is irrelevant to its value.

Noted how each generation has shifted into the next. Each generation then, might be said to have to 'learn' both strategy and tactics suited to those situations found by their generation ?

Certainly sounds like such and comparisons between generations as history searching for prior historical generations same or similar meaning relate ore directly.

Do computers and their data banks make such a searching, if correct, easier to find answers; or, is it still experiential ?

One further matter how does the historical difference of Democracy as a participant effect the meanings vs. more traditional historical non-Democracy participants in wars ?

You most certainly should be so bold as to suggest your work on unconventional war.

This type of war was central to the focus of the 1960s. Superpowers and emerging Communist China were highly concerned during the decade; Vietnam, was a product of that pivot in understandings to war and its history as Govts. were searching for ways to conduct their hostilities without triggering a nuclear outcome. It was the attempt to both end-run around nuclear war and[even if some do not like the fact] an experiment, testing if you will of abilities and will to solutions which could gain both advantages and successes in war and history to the Cold War.

Did some secondary research as a student into the 'fashion' of that era, called 'guerrilla war'. Have posted a few thoughts in earlier years on Hwar also re: same.