Thinking about the Present and Future of US Military Power Projection

Defence-In-Depth

This is the third in a series of posts from a recent research symposium organised by Dr Ellen Hallams on ‘The Reconfiguration of American Primacy in World Politics: Domestic and International Challenges.’ In this piece, Dr Jeff Michaels explores the role of the military in US foreign policy.

DR JEFF MICHAELS

One of the great ironies of so much of the commentary about US defence policy, or that which deals with its global implications, is that so little is understood about what the US armed forces are, and are not capable of, much less what they are actually up to, despite the enormous amount of evidence available about them.  Whereas during the Cold War, the limited amount of evidence about the Soviet military, much of it highly suspect, forced scholars and intelligence analysts to develop critical methodologies for interpreting it, contemporary analysis of the relatively ‘open’ US military system suffers from a…

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WHY THEORY?

Defence-In-Depth

Kant_-_SIL14-K001-05a

by DR DAVID P HOUGHTON

As a student or even a scholar, you may be wondering why we study theory at all. Surely we can get along quite happily without abstract discussions, academic digressions and high-sounding jargon? What do these have to do with understanding? Academics in particular often sound like they are deliberately intending to mislead or to obfuscate. ‘Epistemology’? ‘Ontology’? ‘Social constructivism’? What on earth are those? It makes you think of the 1980s movie Crimson Tide, where the traditional old man of the sea played by Gene Hackman engages rather tentatively in an academic discussion of Carl von Clausewitz with the Harvard-educated Denzel Washington. ‘I studied engineering at the Naval War College’, Hackman tells Washington’s character, implying that he never much bothered with theory or with the musings of long-dead Prussian officers (by the way, the discussion of Clausewitz in the movie is highly inaccurate, but…

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German Defence of the Western Front, September-October 1915

Defence-In-Depth

by Dr ROBERT T. FOLEY

For most in Britain, September 1915 is best remembered for the battle of Loos, which saw the first British use of poison gas and the first extensive use of Kitchener’s ‘new army divisions’ in battle. It is also remembered as a great ‘what-if’ of history, as British successes at Loos offered a tantalizing possibility of effective breakthrough for the first time since trench warfare had set in on the Western Front in late 1914. The battle might also be remembered for its high casualties, with the twelve British battalions suffering 8,000 casualties in just four hours of fighting on 25 September. As my colleague, Nick Lloyd has written in his book Loos 1915, the casualty rate for British divisions engaged on this day was equal, if not greater, than that of the better-remembered first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916.

For…

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Antietam plus 103 years

The Strawfoot

The Cornfield at Antietam as it was in summer 2012 The Cornfield at Antietam as it was in summer 2011

I could not let the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam go unnoticed. It is one of my goals to attend a battle anniversary there sometime in the coming years. Usually we go to Gettysburg the week prior to the anniversary of that battle, intentionally avoiding the crowds of July 1-3. The Antietam remembrance seems more lowkey and doable. We have a friend who was ranger there for years before taking another ranger post in Washington D.C. He always spoke of the big crowds who show up every September 17 for the extended battlefield walks.

Antietam Day 1904: Not that many years ago the men who once fought the Army of Northern Virginia remembered their feats Antietam Day 1904: Not that many years ago the men who once fought the Army of Northern Virginia remembered their feats

Antietam Day was a big deal here in Brooklyn for decades after the war. This is not surprising given the number of New York…

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Operational Art and the Operational Level: The Case for the Defence

Defence-In-Depth

The operational level of war and the operational art are key concepts of Western military doctrine and consequently form important areas of study in staff colleges around the world. To stimulate discussion and debate about these important ideas, authors from the Defence Studies Department are exploring the continued utility of these concepts. In this second post, Dr Stuart Griffin argues that these concepts are still relevant.

By Dr STUART GRIFFIN

In the first of these posts on Monday, my friend and colleague Dr Robert Foley presented the case for the rejection of the concepts of operational art and the operational level of war. Robert discussed the origins of the concepts, their meaning, utility and the changes in the character of conflict that have made them obsolete. Here, in my reply defending the continued relevance of both, I will agree with his assessment of the shifting strategic context and the…

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Operational Level and Operational Art: Still Useful Today?

Defence-In-Depth

The operational level of war and the operational art are key concepts of Western military doctrine and consequently form important areas of study in staff colleges around the world. To stimulate discussion and debate about these important ideas, authors from the Defence Studies Department will explore the continued utility of these concepts in two posts. In this first post, Dr Robert T. Foley argues that these concepts are no longer relevant.

by Dr ROBERT T. FOLEY

A recognition of the ‘operational’ level of war, and with this the concept of ‘operational art’ have become key components of Western military doctrine. The US Department of Defense defines the operational level as: ‘The level of war at which campaigns and major operations are planned, conducted, and sustained to achieve strategic objectives within theaters or other operational areas.’ It defines the related operational art much more broadly: ‘The cognitive approach by commanders and…

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The Worrying Talk About ‘Soft Power’

The worst thing about “soft power” is its attractiveness to those who don’t understand what “power” is in the first place. “Soft power” isn’t power at all, but the expectation that others will do what you want just because you want it.

Defence-In-Depth

DR DAVID P HOUGHTON

One of the most troubling concepts to appear on the scene in recent years is Joseph Nye’s much-popularized notion of ‘soft power’. Without a doubt, there is something rather vague that one can conveniently label soft power, defined as ‘the power to attract’. All nations have an appeal to someone, and the stock of this appeal is supposedly of some use to somebody in international relations. It would be wonderful if we could get states to do what we want because they already want to do it, although this is usually either the case or it is not; it is hard to create soft power out of whole cloth, so we are generally stuck with the hand we have been dealt.

This kind of power – if indeed, we can truly call it that – is often based on foundational myths. An example is the ‘soft…

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