When Infinity Journal (IJ) was established in November 2010, our over arching reason to exist was that of informing and educating professional communities about strategy as it pertained to war and warfare. Thus it is a considerable pleasure and even honour to publish the proceedings of a conference held at the Norwegian Military Academy on International Relations in Professional Military Education (PME).
The need for professional military education to address the very reason for its existence may not be in doubt, but clearly there are a numbering of differing views as to why and even how this can best be addressed.
Today we seem to be slow at recovering the basics that were once intuitive to many military men and women, but that assertion may lack one critical detail. We may well have taught soldiers to shoot, but how well did we ever teach them when to shoot and when not to? Did it matter? Who, why and when you kill could be said to be the very core of any strategic argument. It can well be claimed that soldiers had a more natural understanding of strategy, back when policy and politicians better understood the use of violence and its consequences. Correctly read, the Law of Armed Conflict does little to restrain force. Rules of Engagement restrict force because they are the instruments of policy.
As Clausewitz made plain, you can do little that is militarily effective if the policy you are fighting for is “at fault,” and as Afghanistan and Iraq both show, only certain policies allow for the use of violence.
At the heart of PME may lie the simple assertion that, in a democracy, or even a developed nation, military force must be subservient to political mastery, but it may also be PME’s most important lesson to understand the very real limits of what force can achieve given a policy that does not fully understand its terrible necessity.
William F. Owen
Editor, Infinity Journal