Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 15

On Strategic Understanding Teaching Strategy from the Ground up Maj. Matthew Cavanaugh, U.S. Army Maj. Matthew Cavanaugh is an Army strategist assigned as an assistant professor in the Defense & Strategic Studies Program at West Point. Maj. Cavanaugh is at work on a Ph.D. dissertation on generalship under Professor Colin S. Gray at the University of Reading (UK). He blogs regularly at N ot everyone supports junior officer strategic education. Typical arguments in opposition appear to be based on expediency: Keep junior officer education focused on tactics since that is what they will do after graduation anyway. There is not enough time for them to study strategy and tactics. They only exist to service targets. They are not smart enough to comprehend strategic issues. If they start developing an opinion about strategic issues, they will become disobedient. Even Plato considered encouraging higher-level thought in young soldiers a bad idea when he wrote about society’s “guardian[s]” in Republic.1 He counseled, “A young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal.” He preferred young warriors who acted like obedient guard dogs.2 Such logic persists in the modern era. Author Ward Just writes that West Point Superintendent Maj. Gen. Samuel Koster said in 1970, “We’re more interested in the ‘doer’ than the thinker.”3 More recently, this author heard an active duty West Point faculty member stating bluntly that the U.S. Army • • • • • MILITARY REVIEW  July-August 2014 did not want second lieutenant strategic thinkers. In light of such statements, certain questions emerge: why would junior officers need to think beyond the tactical fight, and if so, to what extent? How would they develop their thinking beyond the tactical level if that were indeed necessary? As strategic landpower takes shape conceptually, all Army officers—particularly junior officers—will need to develop some level of strategic understanding. The strategic landpower concept is evolving but generally refers to the comprehensive and synchronized employment of landpower to effectively and efficiently achieve national strategic objectives. Junior officers will not need to study strategic planning for the Army to implement this concept. However, junior officers will need to develop sufficient strategic understanding—the comprehension of and ability to communicate broad purpose for the use of force and the relationship between tactical action and national policy—to become effective military leaders in the coming era. Some consider strategic understanding the exclusive province of those who exercise mission command, defined by Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-0 as “the exercise of authority and 13