Military Strategy Magazine - Volume 8, Issue 1

Volume 8, Issue 1, Summer 2022 13 battles suffices to win wars is a risky one, and it has plagued American strategic thinking since at least the VietnamWar. As that conflict shows, winning battles or engagements does not necessarily equate to accomplishing one’s political objectives. Instead, closing the gap from battlefield victory to policy success can prove quite difficult, especially within the context of a modern limited war. It is simply much more difficult to achieve “compellence” in a modern limited conflict in which the belligerents, or their allies, are armed with nuclear weapons. Two major campaigns and nearly two decades later, it is worth asking whether America has found its way of war, or whether it still has away of battle. Unfortunately, the answer is its way of battle persists. Integral to answering that question, however, was another, underlying one: whether the US Army—which is charged with winning America’s wars—has succeeded in transforming its way of battle into a way of war. The answer, again, is negative. Obviously, the US Army’s doctrine does not exist in a vacuum. It is a subset of the body of doctrine that applies to the entire US Joint community in which the US Army has a strong and influential voice. Some of the observations that follow would certainly apply to US Joint doctrine; however, the focus in this article is on the US Army’s share of America’s warfighting doctrine. The principal reason for this focus is that many of the activities necessary to transform battlefield victory into policy success transpire on land, which is the US Army’s responsibility. Getting the US Army’s doctrine right is, thus, an essential first step in driving the larger process of doctrinal reform for the US Armed Forces; it will also strengthen the linkages between the US Army’s claim to be a profession and its corpus of professional knowledge. As a profession, the US Army is responsible for cultivating and disseminating the bulk of the professional knowledge that pertains to land combat. The US Army is not necessarily representative of other Western militaries either in size, organization, or culture. Yet it enjoys considerable influence among those (and many non-Western) militaries, as do its doctrinal publications. Furthermore, many of America’s allies and strategic partners have adopted the spirit, if not the letter, of US Joint and US Army doctrine to minimize friction when conducting multinational operations. The perspectives the US Army holds with respect to armed conflict may differ less than one might expect from those of other armies. Ergo, while this article examines America’s way of battle as it is manifested in US Army doctrine, much of what it says may apply just as well to other states and their ground forces. I. Doctrine as the US Army’s Professional Knowledge The major doctrinal publications of the US Army not only provide officially sanctioned guidelines they also offer a basis for how the US Army defines itself as a “Profession.”[ii] According to the US Army’s own definition, professions possess a special expertise that enables them to perform vital services for the societies to which they belong. Professions “focus on generating expert knowledge,” and that body of knowledge enables members of a profession to apply that expertise to new situations.[iii] Just as lawyers and physicians apply their expertise to new cases, military professionals apply to their unique expertise to new strategic situations requiring the management of violence. For reasons that are unclear, the US Army has deliberately excluded concepts and concept development from its definition of professional knowledge; the US Army’s network of doctrinal publications is, therefore, the repository of its expert knowledge. The members of the US Army must master that knowledge, or at least the portion of it which pertains to their individual branches and ranks, to be considered legitimate professionals. The state of a military organization’s doctrine, therefore, is critical to its status as a profession. If its doctrine is fundamentally flawed, its status as a profession will be dubious—unless it subscribes to a different definition of a profession. The US Army owns and updates literally hundreds of doctrinal publications. The list below, however, identifies those publications most crucial to the conduct of war. The hub of these publications is FM 3-0 Operations (2017). It is the US Army’s authoritative statement regarding the conduct of military operations, and it is the base document for such publications as FM 3-07 Stability (2014) and FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies (2014). • Army Doctrine Publication ADP 1 The Army (2019); • Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 1-01 Army Doctrine Primer (2019); • ADP 3-0 Operations (2017); • ADP 6-22 Army Leadership and the Profession (2019); • Field Manual (FM) 3-0 Operations (2017); • FM 3-07 Stability (2014); • FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies (2014); • FM 3-24.2 Counterinsurgency Tactics (2009); • Strategic Document 01, Chief of Staff of the Army Paper 01: Army Multi-Domain Transformation (2021); • Strategic Document 02, Chief of Staff of the Army Paper 02: Army in Military Competition (2021); • Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force (2021).[iv] The Persistence of America’s Way of Battle Antulio J. Echevarria II