The Roots of Military Doctrine: Change and Continuity in Understanding the Practice of Warfare - US Army Combat Studies Institute Monograph by Dr. Aaron P. Jackson. Foreword by COL Thomas E. Hanson, Director, Combat Studies Institute:
During the 1980s a fable circulated within the US Army concerning Soviet planning for a potential war with the United States. In the most common version, a Soviet general is alleged to have declared in frustration, “It is impossible to plan against the Americans because they don’t follow their own doctrine.” Many readers of this book will have heard (or said) that “doctrine is only a guide.” Indeed, the tactical agility demonstrated by the US Army on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan is due in no small part to a cultural imperative that prizes solutions above all else.
While not disputing the value of unorthodox solutions to difficult challenges, the organizational culture that underpins this perspective has resulted in a widespread lack of knowledge of Army doctrine by company and field grade officers and mid-level and senior noncommissioned officers. Recognizing this, the Army has dramatically re-engineered its doctrine to distill the timeless principles into a series of accessible, easily read documents. This process has led to a larger discussion of what should and should not be called “doctrine,” and has also included discussion of how we as members of the profession of arms conceptualize warfare. Unfortunately, this conversation has not yet included the bulk of the Army’s mid-level leaders.
Dr. Jackson’s monograph is an excellent contribution to remedy that shortfall. Its greatest value lies in the fact that it forces the reader to reconsider basic assumptions about the purpose and utility of doctrine, and what a nation’s military doctrine says about its military institution. Jackson’s arguments are well reasoned, his assertions are provocative, and his conclusions are profound. After reading this work, your view and understanding of doctrine will be powerfully enhanced, and will lead to lively discussions at every level.