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    Default Clausewitz and World War IV

    Moderator's Note

    Eighteen threads, many very small, a few large, have been merged into one, Just found a 2010 thread Applying Clausewitz to Insurgency and merged that in. October 2015 three threads merged in; one thread remains outside - as it is in a Members Only forum(ends).


    Armed Forces Journal commentary - Clausewitz and World War IV by MG Robert Scales, US Army (ret.).

    The essence of every profession is expressed in the writings of its unifying theorists: Freud for psychology, Adam Smith on economics, Justice Marshall on law, and — depending on one's preferences — Marx or Jefferson on governance. War is no exception. The 19th-century Prussian writer Carl von Clausewitz is regarded as a prophet whose views on the character and nature of war have held up best over the past two centuries.

    Periodically, changes in the culture, technology, economics or demographics induce movements to revise the classic masters. After the Great Depression, Keynes amended Smith, behavioralists supplanted Freud, Marshall gave way to Oliver Holmes, who eventually surrendered to the revisionist doctrines of Hugo Black and Earl Warren. The profession of arms, perhaps more than any other profession, has been — is "blessed" the right word? — by intellectual revisionists more frequently perhaps because armed conflict is the most complex, changeable and unpredictable of all human endeavors. And history has shown, tragically, that failure to amend theories of conflict in time has had catastrophic consequences for the human race.

    Changes in theories of war come most often during periods of historical discontinuity. Events after 9/11 clearly show that we are in such a period now. Unfortunately, contemporary revisionists to the classical master have not been well treated in today's practical laboratory of real war. In the moment before Sept. 11, 2001, the great hope was that technology would permit the creation of new theories of war. This view, influenced by the historical successes of the U.S. in exploiting technology, has been carried to extremes by some proponents of "effects-based and net-centric operations." These true believers visualized that sensors, computers and telecommunications networks would "lift the fog of war." They postulated that victory would be assured when admirals and generals could sit on some lofty perch and use networks to see, sense and kill anything that moved about the battlefield. Actions of the enemy in Iraq have made these techno-warriors about as credible today as stockbrokers after the Great Depression.

    Theory abhors a vacuum as much as nature, so newer revisionists have popped up in profusion to fill the void left by the collapse of technocentric theories of war. One philosophy proposes to build a new theory of war around organizational and bureaucratic efficiency. Build two armies, so the proponents argue, one to fight and the other to administer, and the new age of more flexible and adaptive military action will begin. Another group of theorists seeks to twist the facts of history into a pattern that brings us to a fourth generation of warfare, one that makes all Clausewitzian theories of state-on-state warfare obsolete. Thus Western states are threatened by an amorphous, globally based insurgent movement. The inconvenience of Middle Eastern states collapsing and reforming in the midst of a state-dependent terrorist environment makes this fourth generationalist assault on the master difficult to sustain, if not actually embarrassing.

    To be generous, each of these revisions contains some elements of truth. But none satisfies sufficiently to give confidence that Clausewitz can be amended, much less discarded. To be sure, networks and sensors are useful, even against terrorists, particularly in ground warfare at the tactical level. Armies should be reorganized to fight irregular wars more efficiently. And the influence of the state in irregular war must be revised to accommodate the realities of nonstate threats or, perhaps more accurately, not-yet-state threats; Osama bin Laden's first desire is for his own caliphate, or even emirate. But at the end of the day — and in light of the bitter experiences of recent years — it's clear that none of these rudimentary attempts at revision possesses the intellectual heft or durability to challenge the tenets of the classic master of conflict theory...
    Follow the link for much more. Hat Tip to John at the OPFOR Blog.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-30-2015 at 08:05 AM. Reason: Update note

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    Council Member zenpundit's Avatar
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    Default Errr....

    In the moment before Sept. 11, 2001, the great hope was that technology would permit the creation of new theories of war. This view, influenced by the historical successes of the U.S. in exploiting technology, has been carried to extremes by some proponents of "effects-based and net-centric operations." These true believers visualized that sensors, computers and telecommunications networks would "lift the fog of war." They postulated that victory would be assured when admirals and generals could sit on some lofty perch and use networks to see, sense and kill anything that moved about the battlefield.
    I'm pretty sure that Art Cebrowski never put it that way and that he was primarily ( and sensibly) concerned with systemically maximizing a comparative advantage in high tech possessed by the United States. Nothing wrong with that and a major reason why no state desires to go toe to toe with the United States in a conventional war. At no point that I'm aware of did Cebrowski ever say that network-centric warfare would be a blank check for American omnipotence or shag shadowy terror cells out of a civilian populace.

    Every theorist has disciples who are so enamored of the strengths of their cherished ideas that they develop blind spots.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Clausewitz as an Oracle

    n the moment before Sept. 11, 2001, the great hope was that technology would permit the creation of new theories of war.
    And in 1992 MG Scales leaned that way himself as we wrote Certain Victory--against the recommendations of some of us--and later in writing Yellow Smoke. I remember reading passages that praised "just in time logistics" as the way ofthe future and declarations that "reach back capablities would mean that intelligence and other administrative functions" could best be done from the rear.

    As for Clausewitz et al, classical studies are great and everyone here knows that I believe in studying history as measure of reality. But Clausewitz was not Moses and as far as I know he didn't speak to a burning bush. General Scales sees anything related to EBO as heresy; he has his points in that debate but so do EBO proponents.

    At the tactical level, effects can and do work if the interoperative system of assessment and intelligence work closely, especially in a COIN environment where non-lethal is often the means of choice.

    Best
    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tc2642
    Theory abhors a vacuum as much as nature, so newer revisionists have popped up in profusion to fill the void left by the collapse of technocentric theories of war. One philosophy proposes to build a new theory of war around organizational and bureaucratic efficiency. Build two armies, so the proponents argue, one to fight and the other to administer, and the new age of more flexible and adaptive military action will begin. Another group of theorists seeks to twist the facts of history into a pattern that brings us to a fourth generation of warfare, one that makes all Clausewitzian theories of state-on-state warfare obsolete.
    I am rather perplexed by this, Clausewitz, never said that 'State on State Warfare' was the be and end all of war theory, neither is 4GW diametrically opposed to Clausewitzian theory, in fact I believe the two theories are rather complementary to each other. Anyone who reads, 'Unrestricted warfare', will see how a state can conduct 4GW against another state.

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    Smile State 4GW

    Tc I have read "Unrestricted Warfare" and concur with your line of thought as far as you expressed it. 4GW can be used to supplement conventional strategies, or used in place of them. I think both the U.S. and USSR employed elements of 4GW against one another, but they were always ready to ramp it up to mutual assured destruction, so in effect the MAD strategy as strange as it sounds had a moderating effect. I think this is where the non-state and state actor employing 4GW differ.

    The State actor has centers of gravity that are vulnerable to conventional military attacks, especially by a superior hostile military force. This means State actors will “normally” employ 4GW with a measure of restraint, because they likely do not want to escalate the conflict to the point that they are on the receiving end of conventional military strikes against their security forces and economic infrastructure. Libya was a perfect example of a State employing 4GW that crossed the threshold and was severely punished.

    Iran is using 4GW against Israel via a number of surrogate groups. Personally I think Israel is pursuing the wrong strategy to counter it, although there are very few, if any, good options. Maybe the best option is to punish the State sponsoring these attacks? Iran is playing an incredibly dangerous game of brinkmanship with their activities directed against Israel and the U.S., and thumbing their noses at the West with their alleged nuclear program. I won’t discount the complex problems associated with attacking Iran, but allowing a State to play 4GW at an increasingly dangerous level without any response may be more dangerous.

    A State actor employing 4GW is worrisome, but they seem to have some constraints, even the extreme ones like Iran. Non State actors on the other hand will employ 4GW tactics/strategy to the extremes possible because they do not have centers of gravity that are vulnerable to conventional military attacks, thus their risk assessment does not persuade them to only push so far then stop. This was validated today with their latest plot uncovered for non-state actors to employ 4GW to murder up to thousands of civilians by blowing up a number of commercial airliners. If a State committed an attack (a crime) like this there would be a very, very severe price to pay, but a non State organization executes an attack like this secure that we can only escalate the conflict so much, and if we escalate carelessly we’ll play into their hands. If we don’t respond we’ll play into their hands. These people won’t hesitate to use WMD against our citizens, and since conventional war fighting theories do not apply against this type of enemy, I would hope MG Scales would be open to additional methods to frame and address the problems we’re facing, which EBO is only an attempt at. It is a far from perfect attempt at doing so, but it does have some merits that should be pursued. None of us can afford the luxury of being myopic in our use of strategies. Very loosely paraphrasing Bruce Lee’s philosophy, he stated that “the usefulness of a cup is its emptiness, so empty your mind of the traditional dogma, so you can learn”. Maybe the paraphrase isn’t even close, but you get my point .
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 08-11-2006 at 06:00 AM.

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    Council Member Tc2642's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore
    None of us can afford the luxury of being myopic in our use of strategies. Very loosely paraphrasing Bruce Lee’s philosophy, he stated that “the usefulness of a cup is its emptiness, so empty your mind of the traditional dogma, so you can learn”. Maybe the paraphrase isn’t even close, but you get my point .
    Definitley, I always think that there is a divide between "traditional" camps of thought, usually defined along Clausewitzian lines, and the "non traditional", with the likes of 4GW, netwar, etc. What seems to have happened is that Clausewitizians have seen works like "The Transformation of War" and seeing Creveld's misinterpretation of the "Remarkable Trinity" seem to associate all 4GW theorists as falling into the same trap, and on the other side of the coin, the 4GW theorists seem (in some instances) to have viewed Clausewitz in a far too dogmatic fashion and seemingly state centric (again some Clausewitzians may also be guilty of this fault)

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    Default Absolute War

    For the record, Clausewitz defined Absolute War in two ways, one of which was "peoples war," akin to that which he was familiar with in Spain from 1808. Based on this definition, this would mean that Iraq is an absolute war.

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    Default Absolute?

    Quote Originally Posted by Strickland
    For the record, Clausewitz defined Absolute War in two ways, one of which was "peoples war," akin to that which he was familiar with in Spain from 1808. Based on this definition, this would mean that Iraq is an absolute war.
    The other part of Clausewitz's idea of Absolute war is based in philosophy and pure theory, because Clausewitz used the "absolute" in a Kantian ideal sense of the word, being that in theory there is an ideal absolute but we live in reality and therfore cannot achive this ideal.

    There is a good piece by Bruce Fleming which I have recently scanned through called "Can Reading Clausewitz Save Us from Future Mistakes?" which gives a good insight, I have read most of On War but the text can be very confusing and is contradictory in parts, even so I do believe that Clausewitz's theory of war is still unsurpassed and still relevent today.

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    Default Clausewitz

    I recently attended a lecture by Dr. Sumida (University of Maryland Prof.) concerning Clausewitz's On War. His book, one that he has been working on for 15 years, is due out later this year, and asserts that Peter Paret and Mike Howard were off-base with their assertions in the 1976 translation and accompanying essays. Mike Howard is actually helping him with this work, whicch should be the most definitive study and translation in English yet. The work will teach you how to read Clausewitz, and what it means.

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    Council Member zenpundit's Avatar
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    Default The German disease...

    should be the most definitive study and translation in English yet. The work will teach you how to read Clausewitz, and what it means
    .

    There must have been something in the water in Germany to produce such a large body of philosophers whose thinking powers were inverse to their writing skills. Clausewitz is far from the worst in that regard. There's also a few exceptions but those philosophers were also poets.

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    Default His wife found the manuscript of the book and had its published

    In fairness to Clausewitz, his manuscript was apparently not finished at his death. That suggest that he was not around for the editing process. Nevertheless, he still managed to communicate some insightful things about war.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merv Benson
    In fairness to Clausewitz, his manuscript was apparently not finished at his death. That suggest that he was not around for the editing process. Nevertheless, he still managed to communicate some insightful things about war.
    Exactly. "On War" was still a work in progress when he died. From what I recall, only the first four books (parts, whatever you want to call them) were really "done" when he died. Still...it's a work that has never really been equalled or surpassed.

    And for those who complain that Clausewitz was in places contradictory, he was writing about one of the most complex and contradictory events in human experience. Maybe he just captured its essence well....

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    What do you think about Jomini then?

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martin
    What do you think about Jomini then?
    I think Jomini focused more on the "meat" of conflict as opposed to the theoretical grounding behind it. His decisive battle concept has to a degree (in my view, anyhow) hindered intellectual development on the part of some writers and military leaders. The first sections of "Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife" has some interesting observations regarding the differences between the two theorists, and I tend to agree with the author in many areas. Jomini seemed to focus more on Napoleonic events while Clausewitz was trying to look beyond that and explain a much larger event.

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    Council Member Tc2642's Avatar
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    Default New Book

    Quote Originally Posted by Strickland
    I recently attended a lecture by Dr. Sumida (University of Maryland Prof.) concerning Clausewitz's On War. His book, one that he has been working on for 15 years, is due out later this year, and asserts that Peter Paret and Mike Howard were off-base with their assertions in the 1976 translation and accompanying essays. Mike Howard is actually helping him with this work, which should be the most definitive study and translation in English yet. The work will teach you how to read Clausewitz, and what it means.
    Does this mean I will have to spend another two years annotating, underlining and making notes on "On War" again.

    Do you know when the new book is out?

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    Default Clausewitz in Wonderland

    9 September Real Clear Politics commentary - Clausewitz in Wonderland by Tony Corn.

    "Amateurs talk about strategy, professionals talk about logistics." In the five years since the 9/11 events, the old military adage has undergone a "transformation" of its own: Amateurs, to be sure, continue to talk about strategy, but real professionals increasingly talk about -- anthropology.

    In Iraq as in Afghanistan, real professionals have learned the hard way that -- to put it in a nutshell -- the injunction "Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself" matters more than the bookish "Know Thy Clausewitz" taught in war colleges. Know thy enemy: At the tactical and operational levels at least, it is anthropology, not Clausewitzology, that will shed light on the grammar and logic of tribal warfare and provide the conceptual weapons necessary to return fire. Know thyself: It is only through anthropological "distanciation" that the U.S. military (and its various "tribes": Army, Navy, etc.) will become aware of its own cultural quirks -- including a monomaniacal obsession with Clausewitz -- and adapt its military culture to the new enemy.1

    The first major flaw of U.S. military culture is of course "technologism" -- this uniquely American contribution to the phenomenon known to anthropologists as "animism." Infatuation with technology has led in the recent past to rhetorical self-intoxication about Network-Centric Warfare and the concomitant neglect of Culture-Centric Warfare. The second structural flaw is a Huntingtonian doctrine of civil-military relations ideally suited for the Cold War but which, given its outdated conception of "professionalism," has outlived its usefulness and is today a major impediment to the necessary constant dialogue between the military and civilians.2

    Last but not least, the third major flaw is "strategism." At its "best," strategism is synonymous with "strategy for strategy's sake," i.e., a self-referential discourse more interested in theory-building (or is it hair-splitting?) than policy-making. Strategism would be innocuous enough were it not for the fact that, in the media and academia, "realism" today is fast becoming synonymous with "absence of memory, will, and imagination": in that context, the self-referentiality of the strategic discourse does not exactly improve the quality of the public debate. At its worst, strategism confuses education with indoctrination, and scholarship with scholasticism; in its most extreme form, it comes close to being an "intellectual terrorism" in the name of Clausewitz...
    Much more at the link - the above was only the intro...

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    Council Member aktarian's Avatar
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    Interesting read but I sense some deep hatred toward clausewitz. I wonder why.

    Some points:
    -He largely ignores Clausewitz's "war is continuation of policy with different means" dictum. Which can be translated into "if you don't have clearly defined long term political goals military actions don't matter". and I think this is main problem in Iraq as golas of "making Iraq democratic" and such are not defined what exactly that means and can mean anything or nothing.
    -The article gives the impression that US military is like medrassah where only Clausewitz is taught. while I don't have any first hand experience with such institutions I seriusly doubt this is the case.
    -author argues for abandoning Clausewitz. I disagree. He is still relevant though it's necessary to define works that are relevant as well. If you identify guerilla/insurgency/LIC as "next thing" then Mao, Che, Lawrence etc are relevant but Clausewitz should not be ignored. Specially military-policy relations which are extremly important in such conflicts

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    Council Member CR6's Avatar
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    A lot of post-Vietnam American military thought is informed by the ideas of Clausewitz.

    American officers first turned seriously to Clausewitz in an attempt to understand the failure of American policy in Vietnam. Christopher Bassford illustrates this point with the example of the official 1981 Army War College Study on American policy towards Vietnam, On Strategy, authored by Colonel Harry G. Summers. Using Clausewitz’s concept of “the trinity of army, government and people” to demonstrate that the United States had violated Clausewitz’s logic and became involved in Vietnam “without first being clear what (was) intended to be achieved by that war and how (it was to be) conducted.”

    On Strategy is an example of the fruit of the armed services’ consideration of On War in the years after Vietnam. As early as 1976, Admiral Stansfield Turner introduced the book to the curriculum of the Naval War College. The Air War College and Army War College followed suit in 1978 and 1981 respectively. As America’s military leaders examined Clausewitz’s theories, his words soon found their way from the seminar rooms of war colleges to the maneuver areas of combat training centers.

    At the same time that American war colleges were examining Clausewitz, the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), under the leadership of General Donn Starry, was at work developing a doctrine that would allow American forces in Europe, along with their NATO allies, to deal with the threat of the second and third echelon forces of the Warsaw Pact in the event of a conflict against the Soviet Union in Western Europe. The existing doctrine of active defense made no provision for dealing with the battlefield in depth and oriented on terrain rather than enemy forces. General Starry turned his lower ranking “action officers” at the TRADOC installations of Forts Monroe and Leavenworth to develop a doctrine “where the orientation is on the enemy, the action is fluid, and independent action and maneuver could lead to the collapse of the enemy.”

    The resulting “AirLand Battle Doctrine”, enunciated in FM 100-5, Operations, contained several of Clausewitz’s concepts. According to Romjue, “Clausewitz's idea that ‘when we speak of destroying the enemy's forces . . . nothing obliges us to limit this idea to physical forces: the moral element must also be considered’" informed AirLand Battle’s offensive tenant of maneuvering strength against weakness through “initiative, depth, agility, and synchronization.” Likewise, the defensive concepts of protecting oneself through a “shield of blows” is included in FM-1005, as well as Clausewitzian notions of friction and military action (i.e. war) being the continuation of policy by other means. FM 3-0 retains much this flavor IMO.

    So, even if they haven't read On War, a lot of American officers are exposed to Clausewitz through doctrine.

    The idea of professionals talking "anthropology" has some merit, but I am unsure of the level of anthropology we can teach to our leaders and troops. Lawrence spent much of his pre-war adulthood on the Arabian penninsula, and was the right man in the right place for the uprising. His success had little to do with officer PME.
    Last edited by CR6; 09-10-2006 at 12:05 PM.
    "Law cannot limit what physics makes possible." Humanitarian Apsects of Airpower (papers of Frederick L. Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

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    Council Member Ironhorse's Avatar
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    Default The Prussian gets a bad rap

    Wow. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

    I have a soft spot in my heart for old Carl, dialectic approach and all. At one level, he provides a thorough taxonomy. At another, I find his truisms to be generally true. More like the Encyclopedia Britannica than <pick your favorite scholar/pundit with an axe to grind>. And he wrote as excellent historical analysis, not trying to displace Nostradamus or Jean Dixon.

    Clausewitz's shortcomings stem less from him than from our own reckless application of his subtle nuances into steadfast bumper-sticker principles. Since he presents the pros and cons of just about all conflict, it is painfully easy to grab a sound bite from him saying whatever you want. And I'm not even one of those "read him in the original German and split hairs about translation" geeks.

    Indictments in Tony Corn's commentary re expecting a clean, over-simplified, technological fix to all problems are viable. Symptomatic of American culture today. We've had it too good for too long, and are getting weak. We do, however, have a generation of young warriors who have seen the ugly side of things. I pray that, as they rise in rank, they will apply well the cold hard truths they have learned.
    Last edited by Ironhorse; 09-10-2006 at 03:55 PM.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default A very interesting read

    Thanks for posting this. I think I am going to assign it as required reading for my 3rd year theory students.

    Aktarian, you noted that

    He largely ignores Clausewitz's "war is continuation of policy with different means" dictum. Which can be translated into "if you don't have clearly defined long term political goals military actions don't matter". and I think this is main problem in Iraq as golas of "making Iraq democratic" and such are not defined what exactly that means and can mean anything or nothing.
    I'm not so sure that he ignored it so much as tried to reformulate it. Certainly that dictum can be interpreted as a requirement for a clear engineering plan for goals. It also should be interpreted that way when it comes to planning specific operations such as OIF.

    I think what Corn is trying to do is to look at the next level or two above operational planning - i.e. geo-political strategy. As such, I think it is probably a very useful conceptual exercise to avoid black box conceptual thinking. If we treat "war as a continuation of policy" and "policy as a continuation of war", both "by other means", then it may be possible to set up and train for multiple operational situations. By way of example, if we can train people to recognize when to shift from conventional to COIN, that increases operational flexibility.

    CR6, you ended your post with what I think is a really interesting observation.

    The idea of professionals talking "anthropology" has some merit, but I am unsure of the level of anthropology we can teach to our leaders and troops. Lawrence spent much of his pre-war adulthood on the Arabian penninsula, and was the right man in the right place for the uprising. His success had little to do with officer PME.
    Certainly Lawrence got his "training" by doing - and that included his anthropology (he had no formal training in it). Holding him up as an example of what can be done with appropriate cultural knowledge is a good idea. Using him as an example of what an Anthropologist could do to help out in operations is, I'm afraid, a mistake.

    Let me expand on this a bit. I am an Anthropologist and I have taught courses in the history and theory of Anthropology. There are certainly some good examples of Anthropologists working well with the military - Ruth Benedict's analysis of Japanese culture, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, that became the US occupation plan for Japan at the end of WWII is an example. I think more germain examples would be The Nuer by E.E. Evans-Pritchard or Montaignard Tribal Groups of the Republic of Vietnam, US Army Special Warfare School, Fort Bragg (2nd Ed. 1965). One little known, and rarely mentioned, fact is that during WWII, over 60% of people with Ph.D.'s in Anthropology in the US were working either for the military or for the State department. There are an aweful lot of really good works produced from 1939-1946 or so that deal with using Anthropology in a political military situation.

    If we come into the recent present, however, we find a very different story. In 1968, Project Camelot blew up in the news and led to a reaction against using Anthropology within the military. At the 1968 meeting of the American Anthropology Association, a new code of ethics was created (see Handbook on Ethical Issues in Anthropology Chapter 1 - http://www.aaanet.org/committees/ethics/ch1.htm - for some of the history on this). Probably the most import effect of this debate was to influence an entire generation of Anthropologists away from anything to do with the military. Indeed, I have been at conferences where I have been told by a senior professor with a completely straight face, that the military are "a bunch of fascists who are even worse than their capitalist exploiting bosses". The message is quite clear - don't have anything to do with the military and don't have anything to do with businesses. The Corn article talks about Clausewitz being the "scripture" of the military - for Anthropology, the "scriptures" became Marx, Gramsci, and Foucault.

    What I am trying to get at here is that, as an institution, Anthropology in North America is pretty strongly opposed to the military. There are very few Anthropologists who are willing to work for the military - it's professional suicide. This situation is slowly changing, but it is going to be difficult to find Anthropologists who are willing or able to work with the military (I exclude myself from this generalization since I am already unpopular for working in the area of business (Organizational Culture) and I'm too interested in military history for most of my colleagues).

    All of this is a round about way at trying to answer CR6's uncertainty about "... I am unsure of the level of anthropology we can teach to our leaders and troops". I am quite certain that enough Anthropologists can be found to work with the military on training to give a pretty good structural grounding in the theories and methods in order to conduct analyses. What will probably be missing, at least for the present, is the area specialists who can flesh those structures out into operation information such as that which shows up in Montaignard Tribal Groups of the Republic of Vietnam. And, in all honesty, that is probably exactly the type of analyses that are needed.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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