Small Wars Journal

This is another type of warfare...

President John. F. Kennedy - Remarks at West Point to the Graduating Class of the U.S. Military Academy, 6 June 1962

Hat Tip to Buck Elton


From Spain: JFK, Galula and others were (and stay) right

Jorge Aspizua Turrión

Ken White

Sat, 03/15/2008 - 11:43pm

Why be tired of it? It's as American as the ol' Apple Pie. The Army and the people in it are simply a reflection of the society from which they come. Good folks and bad ones, smart ones and dumb ones, crooks and liars, politicians -- just people. Just like a relatively similar sized group of pure civilians...

Tom Paine started us on hyperbole. P.T. Barnum added to the stock. William Jennings Bryan. Rob Reiner. It's American. :D


Sat, 03/15/2008 - 7:28pm

Just tired of this sort of hype/Koolade. Agree with all that you say.

Ken White

Sat, 03/15/2008 - 7:14pm

You may have missed the firs post here by him, in that one, several folks in comments addressed the fact that FM 3-0 was not at all revolutionary; historically speaking.

All should realize that from his perspective -- entering the Army after COIN went on the 'Do Not Discuss" list for the Army -- the document can be seen as at least a minor revolution from what he's been told for the past 30 years.

Perspective is important.

Publishing Doctrine every seven years or so isn't a problem; war doesn't really change that much and if there's one constant in it over the last 220 years it is that the US Army doesn't pay all that much attention to their Doctrine -- or to 'blueprints.'

The guys on the ground think, generally figure it out and come up with the right solutions and the Doctrine follows along a little later. What both 3-0 and 3-24 did was codfiy what was already being done, no more.

Armies don't do revolutions well, they're too conservative by nature and are reluctant to discard things that have been proven to work for new ideas. It took over seven years for the US Army to figure out they were wrong in Viet Nam and start correcting; this time it took only about 18 months; that's progress...

Nope, no revolution, just evolution -- and that is happening, it's just a slow process.


Sat, 03/15/2008 - 5:40pm

I am just reading what he says. He speaks of revolutionary doctrine? I am not buying it. The new FM 3-0 reflects logical incrementalism with respect to prior editions. Perhaps the problem is thinking we can have a so-called "blueprint" (an architectural engineering metaphor) for the Army. I do not think architectural engineering is a very good metaphor for the way the Army has to address complexity. Publishing doctrine every 7 years or so is perhaps an outmoded way of "adapting." Maybe we do need a revolution, but 3-0 is not it.

Ken White

Sat, 03/15/2008 - 5:29pm

Actually, what that speech can tell you is that idealism unconstrained by reason is dangerous...

Persistent war has indeed long been with us -- however, during the very artificial construct that was the Cold War, such war was masked by the overarching super power contest and the proxy effect. Our flawed reaction to Viet Nam caused the Army <b>and the entire Nation</b> to concentrate on land war in Europe as an existential threat. That focus led to development of the so-called Weinberger Doctrine which had massive popular, legislative and senior officer support. The fact that the doctrine was terribly flawed was obscured by the fact that so many <i>wanted</i> to believe the promise offered; no more Viet Nams.

That 'Doctrine" was a civilian politician's construct. It got broad support because Congress doesn't like to pay for wars and the Senior Officers of the Armed Forces preferred to concentrate on the most significant threat and ignore a far lesser threat which promised only dirty, tedious and long term thankless effort -- effort that they suspected (correctly) that a fair number of the 'American people' did not have the patience to tolerate. Bureaucracies are self protective; Congress has built DoD into a bureaucracy because that makes it easier for them to manipulate.

More idealistic fantasy dashed on the rocks of reality.

You say: <i>"...Professional military folks have to rise above the "strategic communications" of like-minded flag officers and think and critical reason for themselves (as they have always had to do)."</i> Not only have they had to do it, they've generally done that though you may have been unaware of the fact.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on one's point of view, we have civilian control of the military and the tone and tenor of public pronouncements by that military are very closely watched. For the first time in many years, they are able to speak out instead of biting their tongues. Given the fact that Presidents Carter, Bush 41 and Clinton fired people in uniform for speaking out of turn and that military forces once burned become very cautious, it is to me quite understandable that there was long a reluctance to speak publicly. I personally believe it is a good thing that they are now speaking out. Even if I disagree with what they say, I appreciate the fact that they are willing to say it.

Free speech and all that. Supposed to be a tenet of a free nation...

The Army has now acknowledged they erred in trying to ignore persistent war and they are addressing the problem, thus LTG Caldwell's appearance here among other places. Perhaps the simplification is not on his or that Army's part but rather in the minds of some beholders.


Sat, 03/15/2008 - 2:13pm

What this speech should teach us is that (unlike LTG Caldwell's remarks on the "new" FM 3-0 would lead you to believe), is that "persistent war" and "the long war" has always been with us. That is why I think his and other flag remarks in other parts of this blog and the media are misleading. Professional military folks have to rise above the "strategic communications" of like-minded flag officers and think and critical reason for themselves (as they have always had to do). If we think critically about what President Kennedy said so eloquently 46 years ago, we might conclude that our reference to the "Cold War is over" that is supposed to signify a new world order, we might be more mindful of the fallacies of this sort of simplification.