Small Wars Journal

Book Review: U.S. Army Doctrine: From the American Revolution to the War on Terror

Sun, 01/01/2012 - 8:05pm

U.S. Army Doctrine: From the American Revolution to the War on Terror by Walter E. Kretchik, Lawrence KS: 2011, University Press of Kansas.

            The continuing debate on the pages of the Small Wars Journal, the blog, and the Council discussion boards, epitomized by the positions of our friends Gian Gentile and John Nagl is put in historical context by Walter Kretchik in his new book on American Army Doctrine. The Gentile – Nagl debate is about the relative importance of what Kretchik labels informal practice and formal doctrine and dates back to competing views of the worth of militia versus regular military forces such as the Continental Army. Until 1779, there was no such thing as American military doctrine; only with the drafting of the regulations of that year by Baron von Steuban under the direct supervision of Major General George Washington did the concept come into being. Those regulations – the first Army keystone doctrine – certainly favored conventional warfare over the informal practice of irregular, Indian warfare.

            The 1779 regulations served during the Indian wars that ended with Major General Anthony Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers. Earlier battles had been lost by armies of regulars and militia casting doubt on the efficacy of doctrine in irregular warfare. However, at Fallen Timbers, doctrine combined with adaptive leadership showed that the doctrine was as sound for Indian warfare as it was for conventional warfare. As Kretchik argues, the victory set the stage for the continuing American military belief that well trained soldiers can apply conventional doctrine adaptively and so defeat any foe.

            Kretchik’s history shows the development of doctrine largely through an examination of keystone doctrinal documents such as the manuals of Hardee, the Field Service Regulations of 1905, the FSR Field Manuals beginning with the first 100-5 until the last. He also weaves the story of the authors and inspirers, such figures as Winfield Scott, John J. Pershing, Matthew Ridgeway, Maxwell Taylor, and James Gavin. Less widely recognized military and civilian leaders, like Emory Upton and Elihu Root greatly influenced the development of doctrine throughout the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite the continual focus of the Army on irregular warfare with the Indians, in the Philippines, during the Punitive Expedition in Mexico, and in Central America and the Caribbean, doctrine addressed only conventional war. Irregular warfare – Small Wars – was left to informal practice and the Marines. Kretchik does not mention the Marine Corps’ Small Wars Manual, which is the first doctrinal discussion of the topic in the U.S. This omission becomes more relevant as the story unfolds, however, detracting only slightly from the overarching argument.

            The 1962 version of 100-5 was the first to directly address unconventional/irregular warfare. This was, however, a bow to President John F. Kennedy’s interest in guerrilla warfare and not a response to anything coming from within the Army itself. That would arise in the 1968 version where some of the lessons of the Vietnam War were captured, however, reluctantly. When the war ended in 1973, the Army shifted its focus to the lessons of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the Soviet threat in Europe. The result, under the leadership of the first commander of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), General William E. DePuy, was the doctrine of Active Defense in the 1976 edition of FM 100-5.

            Although the Active Defense was well received by or NATO allies, especially the Germans, many senior U.S. Army officers had problems with it, believing it slighted the offense and, therefore, was not a war winning doctrine. In reaction, Donn Starry, DuPuy’s successor at TRADOC pushed for major revisions which appeared in the 1982 version of FM 100-5 and stressed AirLand battle as an approach that returned the offense to its pride of place. German resistance to what they perceived as an overly aggressive approach pushed TRADOC to develop a modified doctrine. The Leavenworth writing team, including future Leavenworth commander, LTC L. Don Holder, drafted the 1986 manual that tried to strike a balance between offense and defense and the various critiques of previous versions. As with 1976 and 1982, the 1986 version of FM 100-5 ignored irregular warfare (called Low Intensity Conflict – LIC at the time).  

            Events about the time of release of the 1986 version intruded on the development of Army doctrine, as they often did. 1986 saw the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Act and the Cohen-Nunn Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act that created both the U.S. Special Operations Command and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD-SO/LIC). While Kretchik does address Goldwater-Nichols he does not mention Cohen-Nunn. And, while he discusses the role that Generals Fred Franks and Gordon Sullivan played in the development of the next edition of FM 100-5 (1993), he does not make the case for the role they played in the restoration of interest in LIC.

            Between 1985 and 1987, BG Franks was Deputy Commandant of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. He was succeeded by BG Sullivan in 1987 and 1988. Both generals had an interest in LIC and when Franks was approached by COL Max Manwaring, Deputy Director of the Small Wars Operations Research Directorate in USSOUTHCOM for a two day event at Leavenworth that would expand course offerings on LIC tenfold, he accepted with alacrity. Sullivan would be Deputy Commandant when the event actually took place but he was equally supportive and it continued for another two iterations. This coincided with the revision, under a Leavenworth writing team, of FM 100-20, Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict, which would be published in 1990, jointly with the Air Force.

            Within a year of the publication of FM 100-20, General Sullivan, now Chief of Staff of the Army had chosen General Franks to command TRADOC and the Director of the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS), COL James McDonough, to head the writing team for a new version of FM 100-5. For the first time driven from within the Army, the manual included a chapter on what had been informal practice. Renamed from LIC to Operations Other Than War (OOTW), the chapter derived from 100-20 repeating most of its key concepts. Nevertheless, as Kretchik points out, in a manual of 173 pages only nine were included in the OOTW chapter. And, its proponents had to accept a term that was even worse analytically than LIC to have the topic addressed. Where, as one wag pointed out, no one was ever shot with a low intensity bullet, high intensity bullets and ordnance were used quite extensively in OOTW. It was a distinction without meaning that obscured more than it illuminated. Still, the old “LICimites” at Leavenworth were pleased to have the topic included at all. Moreover, a version of the concept would be included in all subsequent revisions. 

            Movement toward a new FM 100-5 soon began under the leadership of the new Combined Arms Center Commander, LTG L. Don Holder. Kretchik discusses how Holder’s writing team attempted to merge OOTW with conventional operations focusing the manual on four central concepts – Offense, Defense, Stability, and Support (ODSS). What he does not address is the relationship of this concept to the development of LIC/OOTW doctrine going on concurrently at Leavenworth under the doctrine directorate. That effort, responding to discomfort with the term OOTW and the desires of the new TRADOC commander, General William Hartzog (who as SOUTHCOM J-3 during the invasion and its aftermath had created the Military Support Group), sought to call these kinds of operations Stability and Support (SASO).

            Meanwhile, Joint Doctrine published Joint Publication (JP) 3-07, Joint Doctrine for Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) in 1995. As Kretchik then recounts, the Holder draft was ready by 1997 but the new Combined Arms Center Commander, LTG Montgomery Meigs, ordered major revisions which were completed in 1998. Those revisions met with sufficient resistance from the field that Meigs’ replacement, LTG William M. “Mike” Steele, directed that the Holder version be resurrected, revised, sent for comment and published. According to Kretchik, Steele “changed OOTW to MOOTW” but kept the separation of war and not war from the 1993 manual, on the grounds that “‘the army keeps those terms separated anyway.’” (248) The implication is that the decision was entirely internal to the Army, however, with Joint Doctrine in place and now taking precedence over service doctrine, Steele may well have had no choice in the matter. As the manual was being drafted under LTG Steele during 1999 and 2000, TRADOC directed that the numbering system be changed to conform to Joint Doctrine, further evidence that the Joint and service worlds have become intimately intertwined. FM 3-0, Operations was published in 2001 shortly before the attacks of 11 September.

            The new FM retained the distinction between War and MOOTW but also addressed the concepts of stability and support in two separate chapters that expanded the overall theme of a full spectrum of operations encompassed by the term ODSS. Nevertheless, as Kretchik points out,  FM 3-0’s doctrine was neither adequate nor detailed enough to address the developing insurgency in Iraq (or later in Afghanistan).  At this point, Kretchik turns his attention to the development and production of FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency. He notes some of its predecessors going back to 1943’s FM on military government along with previous editions of Operations (FM 100-5) but fails to mention the 1981 and 1990 FM 100-20 (the latter titled Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict).  This is important because 3-24 carries over the principles of LIC from the 1990 volume that were incorporated in the 1993 FM 100-5 as principles of OOTW. While he rightly credits General David Petraeus with the leadership of the process that resulted in 3-24 and cites the role of Conrad Crane in leading the writing team, he neglects John Nagl who also played a major role.

            Kretchik concludes his story discussing DOD Directive 3000.05 and its impact on the 2008 FM 3-0. He notes that this latest edition of the Army’s keystone manual more fully integrates stability operations from Special Forces doctrine and 3-24, to some extent as a result of the DOD Directive, as well as lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. Finally, he says directly that the story is not over. A new edition will be forthcoming in the next year or so and the doctrine will continue to evolve.

            How is it best to assess Kretchik’s history of American Army doctrine? Firsr, it is a history of the Army’s keystone doctrine and while it does detour into some of the derivative manuals, it is not about them. Nor is it about the doctrine of other services or Joint Doctrine and DOD policy although, toward the end, it touches on both as they intertwine with Army Doctrine. What Walt Kretchik has produced is a pioneering tour d’horizon of how the U.S. Army thought about war and applied that thinking to fighting and training and, in turn, was influenced by experience as well as the preferences of key individuals. In accomplishing this, it is the first of what should be several more books that need to be written.

                  The first of these is a history of the translation of informal practice to formal doctrine for small wars. This task, while focusing on the Army, should address the Marines and Special Forces (and, perhaps, other SOF). It is a history as long as the one Kretchik has already produced but one that would fill in the gaps he left. The second is a history of much shorter span – Joint Doctrine, DOD Policy, and their influence on service doctrine as well as the reverse. After all, the Army and Marine Corps have long had fairly extensive written doctrine in many areas (as Kretchik showed in this history) and their doctrine has impacted the Joint world far more than that of the other services. Although Joint operations were conducted since the American Revolution, they only came into their own after the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986. So, this second suggested history really would address a span of only a little more than a quarter century. And Walt Kretchik is the right soldier-scholar to undertake these tasks. As he proved in this book, he can tell a complex story in a way that fascinates the reader.                               

About the Author(s)

Dr. John T. Fishel is currently a member of the faculty of the School of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Previously, he was Professor of National Security Policy and Research director at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University. He is a retired U.S. Army LTC and served as the Chief of Research and Assessments at the Small Wars Operations Research Directorate of the U.S. Southern Command, among other assignments.


Don Bacon

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 4:39pm

<blockquote>(JTF) This was, however, a bow to President John F. Kennedy’s interest in guerrilla warfare and not a response to anything coming from within the Army itself.</blockquote>
Well, it sorta did. Jack (and Bobby) had come under the spell of General Maxwell Taylor who had published "The Uncertain Trumpet." This was shortly after Taylor resigned as Army Chief of Staff where he had campaigned against the Eisenhower Administration's "New Look" defense policy, which he viewed as dangerously over-reliant on nuclear arms and neglectful of conventional forces.

The Uncertain Trumpet:
<blockquote>"General Taylor Contends - that the doctrine of massive retaliation has endangered our national security - that our military planning is frozen to the requirements of general war - that weaknesses in the Joint Chiefs of Staff system have left the planning of our military strategy to civilian amateurs and the budget-makers...".</blockquote>
Then came the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 and Taylor's appointment to head a presidential committee:
<blockquote>The Taylor Committee, which had included Attorney General Robert Kennedy, CIA Director Allen Dulles (who resigned soon afterward), and Admiral Arleigh Burke, recommended the creation of a new high-level coordinating committee with a special brief for counterinsurgency. The committee that emerged -- the Special Group (Counterinsurgency) -- was established in January 1962 by NSAM 124: "To assure the use of US resources with maximum effectiveness in preventing and resisting subversive insurgency in friendly countries."</blockquote>
This was the beginning of a huge special forces expansion, a move to no longer fully depend upon CIA paramilitary assets but to have military ones. JFK, blaming the 1961 Bay of Pigs disaster on the JCS, made Taylor his special military representative and later CJSC where he promoted the next, and much larger, limited war military disaster, Vietnam, finally becoming an ambassador there.

Jimbo Monroe

Mon, 01/02/2012 - 12:14pm

This comment is completely based on this review, though I have the book on order...

"The 1962 version of 100-5 was the first to directly address unconventional/irregular warfare." This statement is factually correct for the words "unconventional" and "irregular," but incorrect on the concept itself. As far back as 1941 [the earliest FM 100-5 I have], the manual dedicated 2.5 pages discussing partisan warfare. This treatment was repeated in the 1944 and 1949 editions. In the 1954 edition of FM 100-5 used the term guerrilla warfare. In each of these editions partisan/guerrilla warfare was approached in terms of support and suppression. Based on this, I am concerned the author overlooked the Army's fetish for reinventing the lexicon. With regards to Army doctrine, the first use of a term should not be considered as the first use of a concept.

Another example of this is how the Army maintained the term and definition of "special operations" over time, but changed how the idea was conceptualized. While the pre-1962 definition is recognizable:

"Special operations are those operations in which the characteristics of the area of operation, the nature of the operation, special conditions under which the operation may be conducted, or a combination of these factors require special or specially trained troops, special techniques, tactics, materiel, or an emphasis upon certain considerations."

Some of the operations categorized as special operations would today raise an eyebrow: night combat; combat in fortified areas, towns, woods, and defiles; operations at rivers; jungle, desert, and mountain operations; amphibious and airborne operations; and partisan/guerrilla warfare.

Jimbo Monroe

Tue, 01/03/2012 - 12:13pm

In reply to by gian gentile

The trend towards less-is-more has me in violent agreement. Not that the old doctrine is better, but the Army loses a lot with its Stalinesque purges of 'obsolete' doctrine.

gian gentile

Mon, 01/02/2012 - 1:03pm

In reply to by bumperplate

It is certainly a good book and an important one too, and John T got at the essence of it very well in his first rate review.

I read it last month and again liked it a lot. If i were to make one minor criticism of it though it would be that it seems to have a very progressive outlook toward doctrinal development in the US Army. That is to say it is almost teleological in that doctrine keeps getting better and better with each new revision. I would have liked to see some criticism of the doctrine as he presents it from an operational effectiveness angle. Although to be fair when we write history we can only do so much, and this book does a lot and worth the read.



Mon, 01/02/2012 - 11:15am

I literally just purchased this book and have not yet taken the plastic wrapper off...purchased it based off what I read on Amazon, a name looks familiar here.

I consider myself a pretty good student of doctrine, but not of the history of doctrine. I want to read this one quickly, it's an area I feel deficient in.