Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Young Scholars Panel - Professional Military Perspectives on Doctrine, Technology, and Innovation
Abstract: Stretching from the early American frontier to the frontiers of space, this panel examines three distinct aspects of military doctrine and advanced technology, their impact on innovation, and what they mean for future military effectiveness. All three papers are distillations of war college masters theses written thematically in support of the study of military innovation and change. The students are senior military officers studying under the supervision of a senior faculty member and long-serving SMH member at the Joint Advanced Warfighting School. The first paper examines primary source doctrinal publications from the Colonial Period to highlight the dilemma faced by Continental Army leaders as they attempted to transform a rabble of untrained volunteers into a functioning military force along European lines. The second paper builds upon the first in analyzing how advanced communications technology helped or hindered the art of combat command in the 19th and 20th Centuries. It then explores the effect in recent conflicts of Strategy Hyper-Presence and how "helicopter" commanders have lost art of battle command. The third paper expands the doctrinal and technological outlook of the first two and examines the historical use of military force to support commercial ventures abroad. After highlighting examples from Ancient Greece, Pax Britannica, the American westward expansion, and the ongoing Chinese economic-military ventures, the paper postulates that the potential for commercial space exploitation is rapidly outpacing existing international agreements, national economies, and the physical means to protect it. These papers expand the boundaries of thinking on military innovation, adaptation, and change as well as highlight the appreciation of historical perspective present in today's military. JAWS faculty members (also SMH members) will chair and comment on the papers.
Bryon Greenwald, National Defense University
Mark Olsen, National Defense University
Participant's Paper Title: Line and Rabble: Drill, Doctrine, and Military Books in Revolutionary America
Participant's Paper Abstract: This paper highlights how and why Americans and their eventual British foes adapted European military theory for use in North America during the American Revolution. Military literature published in the nascent United States sought to meet two divergent needs: provide a broad and sophisticated body of knowledge needed to confront a fully modern, eighteenth-century foe and simultaneously develop simple methods needed to train large numbers of unskilled prospective soldiers in the basics in infantry combat. After a slow increase over the previous century, military publishing exploded in the late 1760s and early 1770s. Some of these books endeavored to meet the demand for a more expansive military lexicon with publications on artillery, field engineering, partisan warfare, and the art of war. However, the majority of books focused on the basic of infantry tactics. A close examination of military writing published in North America during the period will highlight the divergence between war as conceptualized in doctrine and war as it actually unfolded. The difference is generally stark.
Actual military adaption occurs as an output of the interplay among the cultural conception of war, the doctrine intended to guide the execution of the war, and the actual conduct of war. American military leaders ardently wanted to fight and win a conventional war against the British Army. This cultural preconception compelled the United States to adhere to the military methods of Enlightenment Europe. The only way to succeed in that task was to learn to fight like a professional European army. This concept of war as battles between trained, standing armies imposed strategic, operational, tactical, and doctrinal constraints. A close examination of the primary sources of military doctrine from the period will illuminate the three-way tension among doctrine, American cultural concepts of war, and war's actual execution.
Ian Bennett, National Defense University
Participant's Paper Title: Tool or Crutch: Advanced Technology, Strategic Hyper Presence, and the Lost Art of Command
Participant's Paper Abstract: Nothing is more complex than commanding in combat. The requirement to out think the enemy, marshal resources, communicate plans coherently, and lead forces under arduous circumstances often vexes even the most stalwart individuals. Historically, at the operational and strategic levels, the distance between echelons has adversely affected communications with subordinate leaders, exacerbating the complexities of coordinating formations in combat. To overcome the tyranny of distance affecting leadership, successful commanders traditionally have issued clear, concise orders and then relied on subordinates to execute with vigor. Lee and Jackson or Grant and Sherman are excellent examples of command teams where subordinates executed well-crafted instructions aggressively. The Prussian Army under Moltke and the US Pacific Fleet under Nimitz, facilitated by the advent of the telegraph and radio respectively, are examples of superior commands where entire formations understood the commander's intent and fought over extended distances without constant interference. Unfortunately, as communications technology has advanced, the art of leadership and mission command has seemingly declined. Frequently, having created a poor command structure reliant on near real-time interaction between units, senior level commanders are able to hover over subordinates like "helicopter" parents and influence tactical operations. This paper examines the influence of technology on the art of command and evaluates the effect this strategic and operational hyper-presence has on operations. Moreover, it investigates the potential to create a new generation of indecisive leaders who do not know how to operate in an ambiguous combat environment without the crutch of advanced communications technology at hand. Finally, it offers recommendations to reverse this trend and grow leaders who leverage, not abuse, these technological tools to best effect.
Daniel Penter, National Defense University
Participant's Paper Title: Protecting the Cosmic Commons: Historical Precedent for Securing Commercial Space Enterprise
Participant's Paper Abstract: The recent explosion in commercial space enterprise may drastically change current perceptions of security in space and force nations to expend lives and treasure to protect private space ventures from harm. To the uninitiated observer, the prospect of space piracy and wars over resources in space must seem like pure fantasy or science fiction. To military and economic historians, however, such actions occur frequently across the broad tableau of world history.
This paper will examine the evolution of military support for commercial enterprise and highlight four discrete examples that prove such support, even in space, is not science fiction, but the continuation of a pattern that spans the breadth of recorded history. The Athenians used their Navy to support trade and enforce their writ on city-states across the Eastern Mediterranean. In the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the English Navy protected colonial expansion and commerce in the American Colonies, India, and Asia. In America, the U.S. Army protected settlers and commercial interests from attacks by Native Americans as it opened the West. More recently, China has deployed military forces to the Horn of Africa to protect its commercial extraction of raw materials and entered into basing agreements in support of its "One Road, One Belt" commercial expansion westward toward Europe.
The history of innovation suggests that most aspects of civilian progress eventually migrate into military force structure or involve military forces. Space exploration and resource extraction is no different. In this case, however, with declarations to launch a Mars mission in the next 15-20 years, most space-faring nations are ill-prepared intellectually, economically, or physically to protect such endeavors. This paper will close with recommendations drawn from its historical analysis that may help the U.S. and others to improve their readiness for this inevitable reality.
Gregory Miller, National Defense University
Bryon Greenwald, National Defense University

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