View Full Version : Military Innovation

6th March 2002, 23:37
Sound familiar?

But it is not only the uncertainties of the future strategic environment that raise problems for the American military. One of the major advantages that the services enjoyed in the 1920s and 1930s was the fact that that period of peace lasted no longer. Thus, the senior leaders who went to war in 1939 were all experienced combat officers who had studied definable tactical, and in some cases operational, problems on the basis of real-world combat experience. Today’s American military confronts a peace that could last well into the century. The last significant war that the U.S. military fought was the Vietnam conflict; already, few even in the flag and general-officer ranks served in that traumatic war. A long peace, one that lasts forty or fifty years, could well create military cultures that no longer understand the fundamental nature of war, in which planners assume that there will be little friction or that opponents will be unable to interfere with the conduct of operations.
The basic problem is that military organizations can rarely replicate in times of peace the actual conditions of war. It becomes increasingly easy, as the complexities, ambiguities, and frictions of combat recede into the past, for militaries to develop concepts, doctrines, and practices that meet the standards of peacetime efficiency rather than those of wartime effectiveness. There is no other profession in the world whose peacetime efforts represent only a pale shadow of the harsh realities in which its men and women must carry out their true functions—not least that their opponents are trying to kill them. That is why the profession of arms is the most demanding calling not only physically but intellectually. It is also why professional military education has been so profoundly important to armed services in preparing for and waging war.
Exacerbating the problem of successful innovation over the past century has been the harsh reality that military organizations have rarely been willing to learn from the past. It is a myth that military organizations tend to do badly in each new war because they have studied too closely the last one; nothing could be farther from the truth. The fact is that military organizations, for the most part, study what makes them feel comfortable about themselves, not the uncongenial lessons of past conflicts. The result is that more often than not, militaries have to relearn in combat—and usually at a heavy cost—lessons that were readily apparent at the end of the last conflict.

THINKING ABOUT INNOVATION - Williamson Murray (2000)