What makes a good general? This War Studies Advanced Program explores different models and theories of generalship. Using Carl von Clausewitz and Major-General J.F.C. Fuller’s models as a framework, students will examine the responsibilities and actions of generals from Ulysses S. Grant to David Petraeus.

War Studies Advanced Programs are open only to alumni of the basic War Studies course. These sessions are offered in the winter and summer, and focus either on a national security challenge or on a historical conflict. Learn more about the War Studies Program.

Gen. James Dubik on the contract of leadership

Faculty

James M. Dubik

LTG James M. Dubik (U.S. Army, Ret.) is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War and a Professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. General Dubik has extensive operational experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Bosnia, Haiti, Panama, Honduras, and in many NATO countries.

Frederick W. Kagan

Frederick W. Kagan is a Senior Instructor with the Hertog War Studies Program at the Institute for the Study of War. The author of the 2007 report “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,” he is one of the intellectual architects of the successful “surge” strategy in Iraq. He is the director of AEI’s Critical Threats Project.

Kimberly Kagan

Kimberly Kagan is a Senior Instructor with the Hertog War Studies Program and founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War. She is a military historian who has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Yale, Georgetown, and American University.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

Readings:

 

Watch: 

Once an Eagle

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How Clausewitz and Fuller define and describe generalship. Where the two agree and disagree.
  2. Whether Clausewitz’s and Fuller’s understanding of generalship admit to different types of generals. If not why not, and what are the implications? If so, why, and what are the implications?
  3. A “model of generalship” from Clausewitz’s and Fuller’s?
  4. How Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale compare to the Clausewitz/Fuller model.

Grant at Vicksburg

Readings: 

  1. Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs (New York: Da Capo Press, 1952 edition). The campaign against Vicksburg, chapters 30-39. pp. 219-308
  2. F.C. Fuller, The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1958 edition). Chapters VII and VIII, “Advance on Vicksburg” and “Vicksburg Campaign.” pp. 117-158
  3. Map: Campaign for Vicksburg
  4. Animated Map: Vicksburg Campaign

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. The Vicksburg Campaign as an example of war at the operational level.
    1. Did the campaign have clear, achievable operational objectives that, if attained, would achieve specified strategic aim(s), or are the objectives and aims vague, conflicting, or in some other way ambiguous? Was the campaign based upon a sufficiently accurate understanding of the enemy; the overall military-political situation—domestic, regional, and international; and the actual conditions under which the campaign must be carried out? Was the campaign an expression of a coherent, unitary vision of the commander? Were the parts of the campaign—the tactical battles and engagements, maneuver scheme, logistics, command and control, and communications—means toward achieving the campaign’s end? Were the assumptions upon which the campaign plan was built valid? To paraphrase Mao, just as the cobbler should shape the shoe to fit the foot so as to allow a person to walk well, the campaign plan should fit the specifics of the situation so as to attain its portion of the strategic aim(s).
    2. Were there a sufficient number of forces, of the right type? (Note: “Sufficient” is the term is the term used throughout, not maximum or optimal or ideal. No commander ever has all that he or she needs, regardless of the resource.) Were the forces sufficiently trained, equipped, and led? Was the staff system adequate to the tasks of planning, preparing, executing, and adapting the organizations employed? Were the major subordinate leaders sufficiently prepared, did they understand the whole of the plan and their part in it? Were these leaders competent enough to do what was expected of them? Did the campaign “fit” the actual geographically? Were the systems designed to support the campaign—intelligence, fires, logistics, transport, and communications—adequate to their tasks? Was the resource of “time” adequately considered? Did senior political leaders have a feasible plan for creating and sustaining sufficient societal and political will to support the campaign?
    3. Did the leaders of the campaign have credibility within their forces, among subordinate and senior leaders, and with political leadership? Were there in-place, workable and reliable processes, organizations, and technical means necessary to gather information, understand that information, make decisions, observe how the decisions play out on the battlefields, and adapt to unfolding events at least as fast, or faster, than the enemy? (Again, not ideal, sufficient.) What effect, if any, did the political situation have on the way the campaign was planned and executed?
    4. (Remember: The whole of a campaign is greater than its parts. And, not all campaigns are autonomous; some are nested within other campaigns. A campaign, for example, may lay the foundation for a follow on campaign. Or two campaigns may be conducted simultaneously where progress, or lack thereof, in one affects the other. “Nested campaigns” are examples of campaigns that must be both internally and externally coordinated.)  Did the campaign’s constituent parts fit together into a coherent whole? Was the campaign nested among other campaigns? If so, (a) how was it supposed to be related to these others, and does it relate in the ways intended; (b) how did the senior commanders and staff of each campaign in communicate with each other; and (c) since campaigns are political-military activities, how did the campaign fit with political aims, strategies, and policies?
  2. The differences between Grant’s and Fuller’s accounts of the Vicksburg campaign.
  3. Grant’s responsibilities at the operational level compared to the commanding generals at the tactical level.
  4. The relationship of Grant’s generalship during the Vicksburg campaign to the Clausewitz/Fuller model.

The 1864-65 Campaigns

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. The differences between Vicksburg and the 1864-65 campaigns, the reasons for these differences, and the changes in Grant’s responsibilities and generalship—in planning, execution, coordination; in maneuver, mobility, logistics, communications, command and control, and relationships.
  2. A comparison of Grant’s “leadership space” during Vicksburg to that of 1864-65.
  3. The adequacy of the Clausewitz/Fuller model and any required adjustments to that

 

 Lincoln and the National Level

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Responsibilities of generalship at the national level and how these responsibilities are
  2. Comparison of actions of generalship at the national level to generalship during Vicksburg and during the 1864-65 Campaigns.
  3. The civil responsibilities for the conduct of war at the national level and how these responsibilities are related to and coordinated with the military responsibilities.
  4. Whether the civil and military responsibilities are strongly role differentiated.
  5. The adequacy of the Clausewitz/Fuller model; the adjustments necessary to match the model to real generalship.

Kasserine Pass

Readings: 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What happened at Kasserine, and the context within which Kasserine took place.
  2. The level of war at which Fredendall operated, his responsibilities at Kasserine Pass, and his generalship.
  3. A comparison of generalship: Grant at Vicksburg and Fredendall at Kasserine.
  4. The utility of the Clausewitz/Fuller model.

 

The Campaigns for North Africa

Readings: 

 

Watch: 

The Big Picture: Battle of North Africa

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. The overall structure of the set of military actions that constituted the Campaigns for North Africa.
  2. The commonalities and differences between Grant’s responsibilities and generalship in the 1864-65 campaigns and Eisenhower in North Africa.
  3. The demands of coalition warfare on Eisenhower’s responsibilities and generalship on planning, execution, coordination; in maneuver, mobility, logistics, communications, command and control, and relationships.
  4. Describing Eisenhower’s “leadership space” during in North Africa.
  5. The adequacy of the Clausewitz/Fuller model; further adjustments necessary to match the model to actual requirements.

Marshall and FDR

Readings:

 

Watch: 

The Century: America’s Time, 1941-1945

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Responsibilities during a world war of generalship at the national level and how these responsibilities are coordinated
  2. Comparison and relationship of actions of generalship at the national level to generalship at Kasserine and during the Campaigns for North Africa
  3. The civil responsibilities for the conduct of war at the national level and how these responsibilities are related to and coordinated with the military responsibilities
  4. Whether the civil and military responsibilities are strongly role differentiated
  5. The adequacy of the Clausewitz/Fuller model; further adjustments necessary to match the model to actual requirements

The Main Military Effort: the Counter Offensive

Readings:

 

Watch: 

Overview of Iraq War up to 2007

 

Maps:

Iraq

Baghdad

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Odierno’s campaign plan in the detail done for Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign.
  2. The similarities and differences between Odierno’s responsibilities and generalship and that of Grant’s and Fredendall’s.
  3. The applicability of the Clausewitz/Fuller model, with adaptations, to Odierno’s generalship.

Supporting Efforts: Defeating AQI and the Iraqi Surge

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. McChrystal’s counter-terrorist campaign and how it changed over time.
  2. Dubik’s “campaign,” if it can be called that.
  3. The similarities and differences between Odierno’s responsibilities and generalship and that of McChrystal’s and Dubik’s.
  4. The applicability of the Clausewitz/Fuller model, with adaptations, to McChrystal’s and Dubik’s generalship.

 

Petraeus, Crocker, and President Bush

Readings:

 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. The similarities and differences of Petraeus’ generalship as compared to Odierno’s, McChrystal’s, and Dubik’s.
  2. The similarities and differences of Petraeus’ generalship as compared to Grant’s and Eisenhower’s.
  3. Final conclusions on generalship.

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