October 1, 2006  

Debating Doctrine

“One can make mysticism and metaphysics out of military doctrine, but what we want is a concept that is concrete, precise and filled with historical content.” An unlikely commentator on the need to keep doctrine grounded in facts was Leon Trotsky, who in 1921 predicted that in the ensuing peacetime, military doctrine would be debated. Is it a science or an art; a theory or the sum total of certain applied methods that teach how to fight? And in reaching for new rules, he warned, there lies the risk of straying from the basics.

Robert Killebrew leads AFJ’s examination of whether we have strayed too far from the basics. He says that in a decade of “transformational” and “network-centric” concepts, something indeed is being lost in the techno-dazzle: Facts of war are important.

Lt. Cols. John Nagl and Paul Yingling recognize the importance of doctrine but, from the vantage point of their experiences in Iraq, also see the need for flexibility and cultural change.

And Air Force Lt. Col. Skip Hinman completes the trilogy with a look at air-power lessons learned and lost during the 20th century’s “small wars.”