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.

Over the course of two weeks, students will learn from and interact with distinguished senior leaders in the national security and military communities. Students will gain a deeper understanding of specific topics in military history and their intersection with modern warfare and policy. Opportunities to learn about military history in a hands-on environment include participating in a battlefield staff-ride to Gettysburg to explore the relationships between terrain, timing, and decision-making in war. Previous editions of the Hertog War Studies Program have featured topics including the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ongoing threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in Syria and Iraq.

We are currently in the process of planning our summer programs, mindful of the changing circumstances of the pandemic. We will open applications for our Political Studies, Summer Courses, and War Studies programs in the new year, but welcome nominations of students for those programs now. 

Watch this video to learn more

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session


  • Learn the basic vocabulary needed to discuss war and military operations
  • Understand how to read military maps and symbols



General Stanley McChrystal

A retired four-star general, McChrystal is the former commander of US and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) Afghanistan and the former commander of the nation’s premier military counter-terrorism force, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). 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.




  • Stanley McChrystal, My Share of the Task, pp. 89-263 (Please start reading here. Students should skim it 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 of previous lessons.)


Apply the terms and concepts you learned in lesson 1 to the study of a particular campaign and then understand how two great military theorists did so.



Block 1:

  • Understand the Jena Campaign of 1806
  • Learn how to read military operational history with maps

Block 2: 

Evaluate Clausewitz and Jomini as military theorists based on the lessons they derived from the 1806 campaign:

  • Note that Clausewitz wrote an analytical and evaluative history of the campaign, whereas Jomini drew general lessons from the 1806 campaign and many other Napoleonic and pre-Napoleonic conflicts—How much did the difference in approaches to drawing lessons affect the lessons that were drawn?
  • Think about the question: “Are there rules or laws of military operations similar to those that exist in physics?”
  • Are you more comfortable with the Clausewitzian approach to drawing lessons or the Jominian approach? Which is more helpful? (Implied question: for what?)


Block 1: The Jena Campaign, 1806

  • Hew Strachan, European Armies and the Conduct of War, pp. 38-58 (This reading provides a general overview and background on Napoleonic warfare and wars. It is useful if you know nothing at all about the period, but, even then, many of the salient points will be discussed in the Paret and Shy readings in this lesson. You should probably start with Paret and go back to this reading only if you’re feeling lost.)
  • Peter Paret, The Cognitive Challenge of War: Prussia 1806, Ch. 1 (This chapter gives some background on the war and narratives of the 1806 campaign and the Battles of Jena and Auerstedt that were its climax. Read this as operational military history, look for detail—dates, specific events, decisions, leaders, causes and effects.)
  • Carl von Clausewitz, Notes on Prussia in Her Great Catastrophe (NB: This is an unpublished essay Clausewitz wrote that was meant to be an explanatory history of the campaign. It is NOT On War, nor is it meant to be a military-theoretical work. Read it as a campaign narrative, trying to understand the flow of the campaign as Clausewitz saw it, as well as the key decision-points he identifies. Look for details here as well.)


Block 2: Clausewitz and Jomini

General Mark A. Milley

General Mark A. Milley assumed duty as the 39th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army after most recently serving as the 21st Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He has had multiple command and staff positions in eight divisions and Special Forces throughout the last 35 years.

His operational deployments include the Multi-National Force and Observers, or MFO, Sinai, Egypt; Operation JUST CAUSE, Panama; Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY, Haiti; Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Iraq; and three tours during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Afghanistan. He also deployed to Somalia and Colombia.


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



  • Learn the basic concepts of nonlinearity, complexity, and chaos theory in the scientific/mathematical context from which they arose
  • Evaluate the validity of applying those concepts to the understanding of On War
  • Explore the utility of reading the work of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder through the prism of nonlinearity, complexity, and chaos theory


Block 1: Chaos, Nonlinearity, and Complexity


Block 2: Chaos Theory, Clausewitz, and Moltke


Learn how to move from reading text and maps to seeing a battle unfold on terrain.



  • Understand how to “see” terrain using military cartography
  • Understand how terrain affects combat in particular technological and doctrinal circumstances
  • Understand how the operational war interacts with tactical decision-making before and during combat (Day 1)
  • Understand how strategic considerations shape tactical decision-making (Pickett’s Charge)

Maps under Gettysburg Campaign


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.



  • Understand Clausewitz’s views on the relationship between politics (policy) and military operations at every level. Are his views coherent or contradictory?
  • 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?
  • Why was this dispute of such moment to Moltke? (Look to the Craig reading for this.)
  • Was Moltke wrong, or had Clausewitz simply failed to foresee the kind of challenge Moltke faced?


Block 1: Clausewitz on Politics and War


Block 2: Moltke and Clausewitz


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



  • Dennis Showalter, Railroads and Rifles, Part One (Railroads), pp. 19-72 (This is a long, intricate history of a period you’re not likely familiar with at all. But you’ve already read about Moltke—who he was, where he came from, and what he did—and you’ve read some of his own writing. You’ve 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?)
  • Martin van Creveld, Technology and War, pp. 1-6, 311-20


Decide which of the following are true:

  • Trench warfare stalemate resulted from the stupidity of generals
  • Stalemate was the inevitable result of the military technology of the time
  • The German attack in 1914 failed because of Moltke’s changes to Schlieffen’s plan
  • 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
  • The attack failed because Schlieffen sought Napoleonic-style decisive victories in an era in which they were no longer possible
  • World War I represented a failure at the tactical level—or at the operational level?—or at the strategic level?


Block 1: Schlieffen and the First Campaign of WWI

Block 2: Coping with Trench-warfare Stalemate


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




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



  • 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.


From the Origins of Air Power Theory to Its Modern State


  • How should policy makers and military leaders think about the future of warfare and defense in an era at an architectonic moment, when they have so much ability and creativity to shape world affairs?
  • What were the core characteristics of the character of war in the new era?
  • How did the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton define American interests and objectives? What were the main commonalities and differences among their views?
  • How well did Bush and Clinton translate their foreign policy and national security visions into military tasks, including the task of organizing the military to support them?
  • Did the United States successfully reconfigure its military for the post-Cold War Era?


The Weinberger, Powell, and Clinton Doctrines

Please note that this usage of doctrine communicates the general principles of policy about the use of force (as in the Monroe Doctrine), rather than being military doctrine in the technical sense.


A New World Order

Gulf War: A Quick Overview

The Gulf War, the Fall of the Soviet Union, and the Birth of the Post-Cold War Era

The Clinton Years

While catching up on reading and meeting with your instructors, you may also want to view the following videos about what happened on September 11, 2001 from the perspective of President Bush as the commander-in-chief. The purpose of this exercise is to try to understand a little of the thoughts and emotions of that time and how they shaped his strategic calculations and decision-making. Try hard to keep the events of the intervening years out of your mind as you watch these videos in order to put yourself as best you can in the position of someone experiencing the 9/11 attacks as they unfolded.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker

Ambassador Ryan Crocker is a career ambassador within the U.S. Foreign Service. Ambassador Crocker was in the Foreign Service for 37 years and, after retiring, was recalled to active duty by President Obama in 2011 to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.  His previous appointments included service as the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Lebanon. Crocker became dean of Texas A&M University’s George Bush School of Government and Public Service in 2010.


  • Is counterinsurgency a different phenomenon from the rest of modern war?



  • Evaluate whether counterinsurgency can be understood with terms and concepts of modern, conventional warfare.
  • Understand campaign design in counterinsurgency and its relationship to political outcomes.
  • Understand differences between civilian and military approaches to a counterinsurgency, and understand how civilian and military agencies worked together to achieve objectives during the surge.


2003 Invasion to the Insurgency and the Surge


  • What is command and how do leaders manifest it?



  • Consider the development of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq as a revolutionary new application of operational art. Was it successful? Why or why not?

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.

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.

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