Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 15
Teaching Strategy from the
Maj. Matthew Cavanaugh, U.S. Army
Maj. Matthew Cavanaugh is an Army strategist assigned as an assistant professor in the Defense & Strategic
Studies Program at West Point. Maj. Cavanaugh is at work on a Ph.D. dissertation on generalship under
Professor Colin S. Gray at the University of Reading (UK). He blogs regularly at WarCouncil.org.
ot everyone supports junior officer strategic education. Typical arguments in opposition appear to be based on expediency:
Keep junior officer education focused on tactics since that is what they will do after graduation
There is not enough time for them to study
strategy and tactics.
They only exist to service targets.
They are not smart enough to comprehend
If they start developing an opinion about strategic issues, they will become disobedient.
Even Plato considered encouraging higher-level
thought in young soldiers a bad idea when he wrote
about society’s “guardian[s]” in Republic.1 He counseled, “A young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal.” He preferred young warriors
who acted like obedient guard dogs.2
Such logic persists in the modern era. Author
Ward Just writes that West Point Superintendent
Maj. Gen. Samuel Koster said in 1970, “We’re more
interested in the ‘doer’ than the thinker.”3 More recently, this author heard an active duty West Point
faculty member stating bluntly that the U.S. Army
MILITARY REVIEW July-August 2014
did not want second lieutenant strategic thinkers. In
light of such statements, certain questions emerge:
why would junior officers need to think beyond the
tactical fight, and if so, to what extent? How would
they develop their thinking beyond the tactical level
if that were indeed necessary?
As strategic landpower takes shape conceptually,
all Army officers—particularly junior officers—will
need to develop some level of strategic understanding. The strategic landpower concept is evolving but
generally refers to the comprehensive and synchronized employment of landpower to effectively and
efficiently achieve national strategic objectives.
Junior officers will not need to study strategic
planning for the Army to implement this concept.
However, junior officers will need to develop sufficient strategic understanding—the comprehension of
and ability to communicate broad purpose for the
use of force and the relationship between tactical
action and national policy—to become effective
military leaders in the coming era.
Some consider strategic understanding the
exclusive province of those who exercise mission
command, defined by Army Doctrine Publication
(ADP) 6-0 as “the exercise of authority and