Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Armies in Transition: The American, British, and Canadian Experiences
Abstract: What happens to armies after the war ends, the citizen-soldiers become civilians, and the colors are folded after the last parade? Historians have too long taken to heart Thomas Hardy's dictum that "War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading." There is a vast literature on the transition from peace to war, but comparatively little on the transition from war to peace. To most military historians peacetime armies have really been the prewar armies; chiefly of interest for the development of the weapons, doctrines, and organizations that proved decisive in the ensuing conflict. If critics believe that generals in peacetime do little but plan for war, then Ford Madox Ford's description of the peacetime experience as little more than "parades, social events, and spit and polish" reveals a far more common public stereotype.
This panel takes as its central premise for professional or standing armies, the end of hostilities initiates a long, painful, and remarkably consistent process of transition. This panel will explore how armies have shifted from war to peace from an international perspective, highlighting the commonalities and contrasts of the three distinct military organizations. It will take as a central premise the Anglo-American institutional narrative that the end of war inevitably marks the beginning of decline that witnesses the disintegration of the wartime force followed by a cascade of setbacks including draconian personnel and budget cuts, organizational turmoil, demoralization, recruitment shortfalls, civil-military discord, and inadequate equipment. Conversely, this narrative also holds that these same periods are sometimes eras of great innovation and adaptation in doctrine and equipment, of important organizational reforms, of visionaries approaches to future war. The panel will explore how three separate organizations?the British, American, and Canadian armies-- coped with the aftermath of war and how they transitioned from postwar to prewar war forces.
Brian Linn, Texas A&M University
Participant's Paper Title: The American Army in the Aftermath of War: Decline and Recovery
Participant's Paper Abstract: Shaped by the intellectual legacy of Emory Upton, the late 19th century US Army absorbed a distinct postwar narrative in which a complacent citizenry ignored the hard-won lessons of the last conflict, rejected the sage advice of their military leaders, and demobilized their war-proven forces, quickly rendering the nation all but defenseless. For the service, the aftermath of war began an almost incessant round of public indifference, budget cuts, reductions in force structure, equipment shortages, and social turmoil. In the 20th century this narrative was amended by army historians into one of successful transition. Beginning with Secretary of War Elihu Root's reforms after the Spanish-American War, the postwar "dark ages" were now seen as times of internal "renaissance" that would establish the foundations of later victory. Thus the post-Vietnam 'broken army' was reformed by 'prodigal soldiers' who laid the groundwork for the victory over Iraq. Implicit within this redemption narrative is that each postwar army was best studied as a prewar army, with the historian's task being to identify the concepts, organization, equipment, and leaders that proved successful in subsequent conflicts.
This paper provides an alternative interpretation of the 20th century US Army's postwar experience. Rather than viewing each postwar era as a precursor to the next conflict, this paper identifies the commonalities of the army's experience in the aftermath of war. These include the inevitable challenges of redefining missions, institutional reforms, professionalizing the officer corps, stabilizing the enlisted ranks, social experimentation, and interpreting the service's peacetime war to the public and its own members. During the process of responding to these challenges, the postwar "recovering army" transitions into a clearly identifiable "peacetime army" which will eventually become the "prewar army."
Ian Hope, NATO Defense College, Rome
Participant's Paper Title: The Canadian Army in Afghanistan: the generational nature of adaptation in peace and war
Participant's Paper Abstract: In Afghanistan in 2006, the Canadian Army faced unanticipated operational challenges. In adapting to these the Army relied more upon nearly forgotten tactics and procedures of the Cold War than upon contemporary doctrines or ideas. This paper will explain Canadian Army drifts between wars 1945-2011, with emphasis on how the "pre-war army" of the 1980s granted the newly constructed "peacetime army" of the new millennium the touchstone for adaptation in Afghanistan.
After suffering identifiable evolutions as a "peacetime army" in the late 1940s and 50s, the Canadian Army in the 1960s adopted an enduring organization, doctrine, and personnel practices that marked it as an army combat ready for conventional war in Europe. However, the post-Cold War security environment rapidly produced institutional confusion. Efforts by politicians and military leadership to transform the Army into an institution optimized for peace and stability operations diffused operational focus, created doctrinal uncertainty and invigorated service and branch infighting. While various visions of a "peacetime army" emerged, all were commonly constrained in purpose and capability, and wonderfully contemporary in emphasis on identity-consciousness and humanitarian utility. The annoyances of September 11th 2001, of Kandahar 2002 and Iraq 2003, did not deter leaders from forcing a realization of the vision. Deployment of forces into Kandahar in 2006 brought the partially achieved "peacetime army" into an environment considerably different than the Stability Operations modality to which the force was conceived, structured, trained and equipped.
Robert Citino, National World War 2 Museum
Douglas Delaney, Royal Military College of Canada
Participant's Paper Title: Civilian-driven Military Reform: The British Army in the Edwardian Era
Participant's Paper Abstract: Army reform often requires the stimuli of bad war experiences or bolts from outside military circles. The British Army of the Edwardian era got both. It may have won the South African War (1899-1902), but it had done so clumsily and in a way that exposed many weaknesses and inefficiencies that no soldier at the top seemed capable of fixing. Putting things right required significant civilian intervention. A royal commission under the 9th Earl of Elgin concluded that the 250,000-man contingent that had assembled to defeat the Boers was not so much an army as it was a disorganized aggregate of disparate battalions from across the empire, and it compared most unfavourably with continental armies that were big, operating with standard organizations and procedures, and using general staffs to guide them. One of Elgin's commissioners, the politically well-connected 2nd Viscount Esher, soon made recommendations that led to War Office reorganization, the decapitation of the old army leadership, and the creation a modern general staff. It subsequently fell to a third civilian, Richard Haldane, secretary of state for war (1905-1912), to implement the rest Esher's recommendations, which included extending the general staff to the rest of the empire, making arrangements to create a viable expeditionary force, standing up a Territorial Force that could perform home defence duties and generate second-line expeditionary contingents, and convincing the dominions to forge their military forces in the British mould. And all of this had to be done with drastically lower military estimates, as naval arms races and social welfare programs took up the bulk of British government expenditure. This paper explains role of civilians in fixing military problems that had been exposed during the South African War and making the armies of Britain, India, and the dominions compatible.
Bryon Greenwald, Joint Forces Staff College
Gian Gentile, RAND Corporation
Participant's Paper Title: 'The Song Remains the Same:' The Problem Between the U.S. Army and the National Guard, 1903-2013
Participant's Paper Abstract: As the US Army begins the transition from the Iraq-Afghanistan wars, a two centuries old question has reemerged: who is its political master? For the Regular (or Active) US Army, the Constitution divides authority between the POTUS as commander in chief and Congress as the source Regular Army's budget. But who is the political master of the National Guard? For decades, military reformers have debated whether the Constitution makes the Guard the Regular Army's wartime reserve, or whether it grants the Guard a distinct identity through the "militia provisions." History has played, and continues to play, a key role in this debate. The Guard's symbol is the Minuteman, indicating their self-identification with the militia. But they have also insisted on being the Regular Army's primary reserve. Their legal allegiance is also confused. When called into federal service as "militia", POTUS and Congress are the Guard's political masters just as they are for the Regular Army (and the U.S. Army Reserve). But the Guard has a third political master in the governors of each respective state and territory of the U.S.
This short paper will lay out the history of the National Guard's uncertain relationship with the Regular Army. It will start with the Root Reforms that produced a revised militia act in 1903 (aka the Dick Act) that took an initial step at transitioning through federal statute the National Guard into the wartime Regular Army. It will end with the controversial 2013 Aviation Restructure Initiative that took away the Guard's attack helicopters and threw their wartime role into doubt. The paper will discuss the relationship between the Regular Army and the National Guard, with a special focus on how the Guard's political identity has transitioned from militia to Regular. This has been the essential problem, or song, that remains unanswered.

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