The Hertog War Studies Program is an intensive two-week program run by the Institute for the Study of War in Washington DC. The program aims to educate advanced undergraduate students about the theory, practice, organization, and control of war and military forces. Students will learn from and interact with distinguished senior leaders in the national security and military communities. This course bridges the civil-military divide and teaches students at the start of their careers how to assess military decision-making. It is not an international relations course about why wars occur.

The curriculum includes extensive and intensive reading on military theory,  history, operations, and current conflicts. Studies of military history inform discussions of issues such as the introductions of new technology to warfare,  whether political leaders should shape military decisions, and ethics in the conduct of war. Students participate in a battlefield staff-ride to Gettysburg to explore the relationships between terrain, timing, and decision-making in war. Alumni are eligible to participate in the War Studies Advanced Programs offered twice annually; previous topics include the American All-Volunteer Force, Civil-Military Relations in the United States, and Russian Hybrid Warfare.

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Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

Purpose

Gain foundational knowledge vital for the remainder of the course, including the levels of war framework.

Objectives:

  • How are militaries organized? What frameworks help us study war? How do you read a military map?
    1. Learn the levels of war
    2. Learn how military forces are organized and echeloned
    3. Learn the basic vocabulary needed to discuss war and military operations
    4. Understand how to read military maps and symbols

Readings:

Videos:

Purpose:

Apply the terms and concepts you learned in lesson 1 to the study of a particular campaign.

Objectives:

  1. Understand the the Austerlitz Campaign of 1805
    • Learn how to read military operational history with maps
    • Learn how to evaluate a campaign
    • How did each actor understand the situation at the start of the period covered by the reading? How accurate were their respective pictures?
    • What assumptions did each actor make about what the others would do and his own capabilities?
    • What plans did each actor make to achieve his objectives based on that understanding?
    • Were the plans good? What would that mean?
    • How well did each actor execute his plans?
    • How well did each actor adjust his understanding of the situation both to new information and to changes in the situation itself?
    • Why did Napoleon win? Why did the coalition lose?
    • How did political, diplomatic, and inter-personal considerations affect the conduct of military operations?
    • What lessons should each actor (including Napoleon) have drawn from this campaign?
  1. Which actor was best (and which was worst) at each level of war from strategic to tactical? Bring evidence to bear!
  2. How did each side try to shape the other’s perceptions of the situation and its own intentions? Which was more successful? Why?

Readings:

Videos:

Purpose:

War in reality vs. war on paper: visualize a battlefield, a campaign, and a war.

Objectives:

  • Apply lesson one and two framework to the Gettysburg campaign; focus on visualizing battles on terrain
    1. Understand how to “see” terrain using military cartography
    2. Understand how terrain affects combat in particular technological and doctrinal circumstances
    3. Understand how the operational level of war interacts with tactical decision-making before and during combat
    4. Understand how strategic considerations shape tactical decision-making
    5. Understand the moral and ethical consequences of military decision-making
    6. Understand how some military theorists and practitioners interpreted and implemented Napoleonic warfare

Readings:

Videos:

General (Ret.) John R. Allen

General (Ret.) Allen is the president of the Brookings Institution. Prior to holding this position he served as chair of security and strategy a distinguished fellow in Brookings’ Foreign Policy program. Allen is a retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general and former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force, and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. Following his retirement, Allen served as advisor to the secretary of defense on Middle East Security and appointed as special presidential envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL by President Barack Obama. Allen is also the co-author of the book Turning Point: Policymaking in the Era of Artificial Intelligence.

Purpose:

Learn an additional language to describe military operations and theory, and evaluate the utility of that language in understanding traditional military theory.

Objectives:

  • What is war? What should a theory of war achieve? Can it forecast an outcome?
    1. Read Clausewitz Books I and 8 and discuss the questions above
    2. Learn the basic concepts of nonlinearity, complexity, and chaos theory in the scientific/mathematical context from which they arose
    3. Evaluate the validity of applying those concepts to the understanding of On War

Readings: 

Block 1: Chaos Theory, Clausewitz, and Moltke

  • Azar Gat, Ch. 6, “The Reaction against the Enlightenment,” A History of Military Thought from the Enlightenment to the Cold War, pp. 141–57
    • This section situates Clausewitz in the context of the Counter-Enlightenment or German Movement and introduces some of the philosophical trends and ideas we talk about in class.
  • Clausewitz, On War (Book I, Chapters 1–8, Book II, Chapters 5–6), pp.75–123 and 156–74
    • This is the core Clausewitz theory and the portion of the book that best represents his finished thought. Read it extremely closely. Look at the various analogies and metaphors he uses. Pay attention to the “extremes” and reflect on what he means by the concept of an extreme. You may find it useful to look at http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/dialectic.htm if you are not familiar with the philosophical concept of the dialectic.
  • Hajo Holborn, “The Prusso-German School: Moltke and the Rise of the General Staff,” in Makers of Modern Strategy, pp. 281–95
    • This is a brief and brilliant essay on a phenomenally complex personality. The interplay between Moltke and Clausewitz requires careful examination. Reflect on the ways in which Moltke is a true Clausewitzian—and the ways in which he clearly is not. The following short excerpt from Moltke’s writings may help clarify.
  • Optional: Vanya Eftimova Bellinger, Chs. 5, 9, and 11,  Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman behind the Making of On War

Block 2: Chaos, Nonlinearity, and Complexity

  • Alan Beyerchen, “Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War,” in Thomas J. Czerwinski, Coping with the Bounds: A Neo-Clausewitzian Primer
    • This is another, more detailed and broader, exposition of chaos theory, now with explicit reference to war, military theory, and, especially, Clausewitz. It specifically addresses On War, Book 1, Chapter 1, which is assigned for the next block of this lesson. You may want to read that first, or at least have it handy when reading the Beyerchen.
  • Edward Lorenz, Chs. 1 and 4, The Essence of Chaos (Seattle, WA: Univ. of Washington Press, 2008) (Focus on the section that starts with “Searching” subhead and read until the end of the chapter).
    • Lorenz was a meteorologist who made some of the most important intellectual breakthroughs in the formation of chaos theory as a mathematical discipline. This reading has nothing to do with war in principle, but, rather, describes what was at the time a new way of looking at aspects of the world that had been supposed previously to be rule-bound and predictable

Purpose:

Reflect upon the correct relationship between military operations and high politics (or policy) in order to decide whether you believe that Clausewitz or Moltke had it right.

Objectives:

  • How much can and should a political leader intervene in military operations?
    1. Understand Clausewitz’s views on the relationship between politics (policy) and military operations at every level. Are his views coherent or contradictory?
    2. Evaluate Moltke’s portrayal of Clausewitz’s views (consider both the Moltke reading and the footnote in On War noted below). Did Moltke get it right?
    3. Why was this dispute of such moment to Moltke? (Look to the Craig reading for this.)
    4. Was Moltke wrong, or had Clausewitz simply failed to foresee the kind of challenge Moltke faced?
    5. What does it mean to have a “system of war” or “war as a system?”
    6. Explore the utility of reading the work of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder through the prism of nonlinearity, complexity, and chaos theory

Readings:

Block 1: Clausewitz on Politics and War

  • Clausewitz, On War, pp. 61–71
    • Notes by Clausewitz and his wife regarding the nature of the composition and the manner of its publication. This is extremely important front-matter. You need to understand how On War took the final form that it did and what aspects of it best reflected Clausewitz’s most advanced thinking.
  • Re-read Clausewitz, Chs. 1 and 2, On War, pp. 75–99, Book I
    • Seriously, re-read them. There is no amount of re-reading of On War that will cease to be of interest.
  • Clausewitz, Book VIII, Ch. 6, Part B, On War, pp. 605–10
    • Especially see the note on p. 608 (This is short and vital—especially the footnote. We say again: READ THE FOOTNOTE!)

Block 2: Moltke and Clausewitz

  • Clausewitz, Carl von Clausewitz: Two Letters on Strategy, pp. 13–21
    • A portion of Clausewitz’s letter to Roeder, December 22, 1827 (This is an obscure, rarely discussed exposition of Clausewitz’s thoughts, particularly relating to the topic of this lesson. Your understanding of the Clausewitzian understanding of the relationship between war and politics [and therefore of that question itself] is apt to be partial if you don’t read this letter.)
  • Gordon A. Craig, The Politics of the Prussian Army, 1640–1945, pp. 180–92
    • An important brief overview of the history in question.
  • Helmuth von Moltke, “War and Politics,” Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings, ed. Daniel J. Hughes, pp. 35–6
  • Helmuth von Moltke, “On Strategy, 1871,” in Moltke on the Art of War, pp. 44–47

Purpose:

Understand how changes in technology generated (required) transformations in military organization, doctrine, and theory.

Objectives: 

How does a revolutionary new technology change the conduct of war? And how does any large organization adopt a revolutionary new technology?

Readings: 

  • Dennis Showalter, Railroads and Rifles, Part One (Railroads), pp. 19–72
    • This is a long, intricate history of a period you are not likely familiar with at all. But you have already read about Moltke—who he was, where he came from, and what he did—and you have read some of his own writing. You have also read a lot about the Napoleonic Wars and, particularly, the different lessons contemporaries drew from them. This reading should help you reflect on the challenges and opportunities offered to military theorists and practitioners by changing technology. How can one tell if a new technology might revolutionize warfare? How can one guess about how to use that technology to do so? How do military requirements interact with economic needs to shape the evolution of both military and civilian technology? What role do individuals play in generating disjunctive change?
  • Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan and Col. James M. Dubik, Envisioning Future Warfare, 1995
  • James M. Dubik, The Army’s Twofer: The Dual Role of the Interim Force, October 2001
  • Gen (Ret) Gordon Sullivan and Col (Ret) Michael Harper, Hope is Not a Method, pp. 9–21, 39–42, 49-54, 77–82, 147–49, 155–71, 182–87, and 236–41

In preparation for the next suite of lessons:

Purpose:

  • Decide which of the following are true:
    1. Trench warfare stalemate resulted from the stupidity of generals
    2. Stalemate was the inevitable result of the military technology of the time
    3. The German attack in 1914 failed because of Moltke’s changes to Schlieffen’s plan
    4. The 1914 attack failed because Schlieffen designed it mechanistically and in disregard of Moltke’s dictum that no plan survives first contact with the enemy
    5. The attack failed because Schlieffen sought Napoleonic-style decisive victories in an era in which they were no longer possible
  • Why did the war stalemate on the Western Front?
  • How did the various actors try to overcome the stalemate?

Readings:

  • Terence Zuber, “1920: Kuhl Reveals the Schlieffen Plan,” German War Planning, 1891–1914, pp. 265–71
  • Gunther Rothenberg, “Moltke, Schlieffen, and the Doctrine of Strategic Envelopment,” in Makers of Modern Strategy, pp. 296–325
    • Another brilliant essay from one of the best compilations of writings about war ever produced. Pay careful attention—there are TWO Helmuth von Moltkes. You have been reading about Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, who introduced railway mobilization and the general staff system to the Prussian Army and led that army through the Wars of German Unification. Now you’ll meet his nephew, Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, who will occupy his uncle’s position as Germany approaches and enters World War I. Use this essay to reflect on all of the theoretical and practical debates swirling between Clausewitz, Moltke the Elder, Jomini, and Schlieffen about the nature of war as art, science, or a hybrid.
  • James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of World War I, pp. 22–56 (through the First Marne). Recommended as overview; not required—but make sure you understand what happened in 1914 through the First Battle of the Marne.
  • Terence Zuber, “The ‘Schlieffen’ Plan,” German War Planning, 18911914, pp. 187–204 (Read closely and with a map).
    • This is the closest we can get to the “Schlieffen Plan,” which was destroyed along with most of the documents relating to Germany’s pre- war planning in a vain attempt to absolve Germany of responsibility for the war. This is NOT the actual plan, however. It is a concept of operations, and a preliminary one. Understand how it was supposed to work. Try to identify logical gaps and potential problems within this document. Then reflect on how much Moltke the Younger was to blame for the “failure” of the “Schlieffen Plan.” Finally, think about what this debate says about the nature of war.
  • Timothy Lupfer, The Dynamics of Doctrine: The Changes in German Tactical Doctrine During the First World War, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1981.
    • This is the only reading this lesson that describes the nature and challenges of trench warfare— understanding that is more important than mastering the details of infiltration tactics.

Videos:

Purpose:

Understand the evolution of operational art as a distinct branch of military theory and practice.

Objectives:

Learning from success and failure: How did the combatants of WWI try to envision the next war and adapt their forces to fight it?

Readings:

“Coping with Trench-Warfare Stalemate”

This block is absolutely pivotal for understanding the evolution of armored warfare, so do not skip it. Make sure that you read the Lupfer without fail. If we do not get to it today, then skim to refresh your memory on it during the reading day tomorrow so that you have it in your mind after reading day.

Videos:

Morning

General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal

Gen. McChrystal is the former commander of US and International Security Assistance Forces Afghanistan and the nation’s premier military counter-terrorism force, Joint Special Operations Command. He is best known for developing and implementing a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, and for creating a cohesive counter-terrorism organization that revolutionized the interagency operating culture.

 

 

Reading:

  • Stanley McChrystal, My Share of the Task, pp. 89–263
    • Students should begin this reading, focusing on the narrative of the creation of the Joint Special Operations Task Force and reflecting on how the principles embodied in that organization reflect the theories and history articulated in other lessons.

 

Afternoon

Purpose:

Understand the terms and concepts of air power theory as it evolved from early in the 20th century to the present.

Objectives:

The search for a silver bullet: Can we fight by air alone?

  • Understand the rationale for seeing airpower as fundamentally revolutionary in the first half of the 20th century
  • Evaluate the nature of the debate over the right relationship between airpower and other forms of military power in that time
  • Master the concept of “center of gravity” as it is used in the context of airpower theory
  • Compare and contrast the airpower view of the enemy (and how to operate against him) with the view presented by operational art theory
  • Consider both operational art and airpower theory in the context of nonlinearity, complexity, and chaos theory.

Readings:

Videos:

General (Ret.) Curtis Scaparrotti

General Scaparrotti assumed duties as Commander of European Command and as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe in late spring of 2016. He ad previously been assigned as the Commander, United Nations Command / Combined Forces Command / United States Forces Korea. He also served as the Director, Joint Staff. His awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and the Army Meritorious Service Medal. He has earned the Combat Action Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, and Ranger Tab.

LTG (Ret.) H.R. McMaster

LTG McMaster served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army for thirty-four years before retiring as a Lieutenant General in June 2018. From 2014 to 2017 McMaster designed the future army as the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center and the deputy commanding general of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). As commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, he oversaw all training and education for the army’s infantry, armor, and cavalry force. Most recently, McMaster published, “Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World.”

 

Purpose:

The wars we want to fight: how the U.S. prepared for, won, and learned from the Gulf War.

Objectives:

  1. Understand the American theory and practice of conventional warfare at the end of the 20th
  2. Examine different approaches to the problem of designing military doctrine based on observation of contemporary wars and the study of adversary intentions and theory.
  3. Evaluate competing explanations for the outcome of the first Gulf War and their implications for the future of American war-fighting.
  4. Consider the continuities and discontinuities of warfare over many changes in technology throughout the 20th
  5. Evaluate the nature of the debate over the right relationship between airpower and other forms of military power
  6. Contrast the experience of the Gulf War with the other U.S. military deployments of the 1990s

Readings:

Videos:

General David H. Petraeus

General (Ret.) David H. Petraeus currently serves as the Chairman of the KKR Global Institute at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. He previously served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from September 2011 to November 2012. Prior to that, he commanded the United States Central Command from October 2008 to July 2011. He relinquished command of the Multi-National Force-Iraq after over 19 months at the helm of the Coalition force in Iraq.

Previous to his tour as MNF-I Commander, he commanded the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth. Before that assignment, he was the first commander of the Multi-national Security Transition Command-Iraq, which he led from June 2004 to September 2005, and the NATO Training Mission-Iraq, which he commanded from October 2004 to September 2005. That deployment to Iraq followed his command of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), during which he led the “Screaming Eagles” in combat throughout the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His command of the 101st followed a year deployed on Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia, where he was the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations of the NATO Stabilization Force and the Deputy Commander of the US Joint Interagency   Counter-Terrorism Task Force-Bosnia. Prior to his tour in Bosnia, he spent two years at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, serving first as the Assistant Division Commander for Operations of the 82nd Airborne Division and then as the Chief of Staff of XVIII Airborne Corps.

*Guest Co-Instructors: LTG (Ret.) H.R. McMaster & General (Ret.) Curtis Scaparrotti*

Purpose:

Learn how non-state armed groups evolved to fight the U.S.

Objectives:

  • Understand how the Salafi-jihadi movement, especially al Qaeda and ISIS, attempted different ways of fighting the U.S. and learned from its experiences before, during, and after the Iraq
  • Understand why the Iraq war became an insurgency and how the S. recognized and adapted to the insurgency over time;
  • Understand core elements of the U.S. counterinsurgency approach;
  • Understand the different innovations and paths of al Qaeda and ISIS

Readings:

OPTIONAL additional resources on Mosul:

 

*Guest Co-Instructors: LTG (Ret.) H.R. McMaster & General (Ret.) Curtis Scaparrotti*

Purpose:

Understand how state adversaries have attempted to circumvent U.S. conventional superiority.

Objectives:

  • How has North Korea adapted to U.S. conventional superiority and military presence on the Korean Peninsula? How does it leverage S. and Chinese competition?
  • Do Russia and China seek to fight the U.S. on its own terms? If so, how?
  • If not, how the Russians and Chinese trying to accomplish their objectives?
  • What are the differences in the approaches these three state actors have taken to offset U.S. military advantages? Why do they differ?

Readings:

*Guest Instructor: H.R. McMaster*

Purpose:

What have we learned?

Objectives:

  • How can one intelligently speak about the future of war?
  • What can the study of military history teach us?
  • Key takeaways and conclusions.

Readings:

Advancement Opportunities

Advanced Program

War Studies alumni have the opportunity to participate in advanced sessions. These sessions focus either on a national security challenge or on a historical conflict. Previous advanced seminars have focused on ISIS's ideology and vision and on the Eastern Front of World War II.

The Evans Hanson Fellowship

The Evans Hanson Fellowship is designed to provide an opportunity for outstanding alumni of the War Studies Program to work as a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. This Fellowship seeks to help build the next generation of national security leaders.

Internships & Employment Opportunities

Alumni of the War Studies Program are also able to take advantage of internship and employment opportunities at ISW. Interns work directly with analysts and have many opportunities to engage with Institute leadership on the subjects of their research. Learn more.

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