Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 19

ON STRATEGIC UNDERSTANDING A final example of a strategic framework is Carl von Clausewitz’s critical analysis (kritik).27 As he wrote in On War, “Critical analysis [is the] application of theoretical truths to actual events.”28 The objective is to unravel “the hidden processes of intuitive judgment,” an important skill for all military officers.29 This process, described in detail in a full chapter Clausewitz devoted to the subject in On War, helps the student connect theories from many disciplines to military experience.30 Practice and Exercise Historian David McCullough once remarked— The great thing about the arts is that you can only learn by doing it—that’s how you learn things. You can’t learn to play the piano by reading a book about playing the piano. You can’t learn to paint without painting. You have to do it.31 Similarly, developing strategic understanding is akin to learning an art. The optimal format for studying strategy provides case studies and real -world practice. To this end, at West Point, military strategy classroom instruction is supplemented by a series of War Council events (conducted separately, but in parallel with the website). The basic concept is to invite panelists from different academic backgrounds to provide varied perspectives on a conflict. Three recent events included a total of eighteen panelists from ten separate academic departments. A March-April 2014 survey revealed overwhelming approval of the War Council events.32 A large majority believed the events helped them better understand the use of force in the international environment and inspired them to conduct further self-study. One of the cadets stated, “Events like the War Councils are what I came to West Point for. They are the most relevant developmental experiences that I have had here.” Finding ways to provide venues for practice and exercise—particularly in assessing current strategic issues—resonates with the target audience for this strategic ed X