Historical Reprints History Sound Military Decision

Sound Military Decision

Sound Military Decision
Catalog # SKU3677
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name U.S. Naval War College
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


Sound Military Decision

U.S. Naval War College

Primarily intended for the purposes of the Naval War College, this work is the cumulative result of years of untiring and loyal effort on the part of the College staff and student body. Equally important have been the advice and assistance contributed by other officers of wide professional experience and attainment.

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From the earliest days of recorded history, the facts associated with military operations of the past have been constantly studied. The result has been the accumulation of a mass of information from which conclusions have been drawn as to the causes of success and failure. Although scattered through countless volumes, and nowhere completely systematized and classified, this accepted body of knowledge constitutes the basis for the science of war.

Scientific investigation-that is, the collection, verification, and classification of facts-follows the recurrent procedure of successive analysis, hypothesis, theory, and test. The application of this process to the campaigns of history reveals fundamentals common to all, irrespective of whether the sphere of action has been land, sea, or air. In the ceaseless struggle for supremacy between the offense and the defense, great technological changes have taken place. The successful conduct of war, however, has always depended on effective operations for the creation or maintenance of favorable military situations, whose essential elements have remained unchanged throughout the years.

These fundamental considerations, whatever the detailed form of their presentation, are the basis for the successful conduct of war. The need of such a basis has been felt from very early times. It was not, however, until the early part of the Nineteenth Century that students of warfare appear to have recorded the view that the conduct of war is susceptible of reduction to scientific analysis, and that only through a reasoned theory can the true causes of success and failure be explained.

Such a scientific analysis of any subject has for its chief practical aim the improvement of the art, or practice, of that subject. Forming an important part of the science of war are those new developments in weapons and in other technological fields which, with the passage of time, have brought about great changes in methods of waging war. It is only through founding the art of war-the application of the science of war to actual military situations-on the fundamental truths discovered through the science of war, that changes in method, due to technological evolution, can be made most effective.

In preparing for war, the only practicable peacetime tests are usually restricted to those afforded by examples of the past, by problems such as chart (map) and board maneuvers, and by fleet and field exercises. While the military profession can afford to neglect none of them, such tests can never be conclusive. This fact, however, far from justifying resort to any other procedure, emphasizes the necessity for utilization of the scientific method in order to arrive at conclusions which are as exact as possible.

An exact result is, of course, the aim of all scientific research, but exactitude necessarily depends on the establishment of correct relationships among facts which have so far come to light. Consequently, there is great variation in the degree of accuracy which actually characterizes the several sciences. If it be maintained that only those studies which have resulted in exact conclusions may properly be regarded as sciences, then it can hardly be said that many sciences, now regarded as such, exist; for the findings of medicine, biology, chemistry, and even physics are continually being revised in the light of new data.

The science of war necessarily includes knowledge gained in other fields. In war, as in medicine or any other practical activity, the more inclusive and dependable the body of knowledge available as a basis for action, the more probable it is that the application of this knowledge, the art will be effective.

Realization of these facts has led to renewed emphasis on the scientific approach to the solution of military problems. The fallacy of staking the future upon the possible availability of a military genius in time of need became clear when it was appreciated that more than one nation, hitherto victorious in arms, had been defeated and humiliated when genius no longer led its forces.

There followed in the military profession a conviction that, although extraordinary inherent capacity can be recognized and utilized when known to exist, it is safer and wiser to develop by training the highest average of ability in leadership than to trust to untrained "common sense" or to the possible advent of a genius. History has abundantly proved the folly of attempting, on any other basis, to cope with the unpredictable occurrence of genius in the hostile leadership. With the actual exercise of leadership in war restricted to the reality of war, there is emphasized the need of peacetime training-training of subordinates in efficient performance, and, more important, training of those who will be placed by the State in positions of responsibility and command.

Campaigns of the Twentieth Century reflect the intensity of mental training among the armed forces of the greater powers; the planning and conduct of war have acquired a precision, a swiftness, and a thoroughness before unknown. The study and analysis of past campaigns, the sifting of technical details from fundamental truths, and the shrewd combination of the theoretical and the practical form the basis of this training.

The proper solution of military problems requires the reaching of sound decision as to what is to be done. Upon the soundness of the decision depends, in great part, the effectiveness of the resulting action. Both are dependent on the possession of a high order of professional judgment, fortified by knowledge and founded on experience. Theoretical knowledge supplements experience, and is the best substitute in its absence. Judgment, the ability to understand the correct relationship between cause and effect, and to apply that knowledge under varying circumstances, is essential to good leadership. Professional judgment is inherently strengthened by mental exercise in the application of logical processes to the solution of military problems.

The approach, presented herein, to the solution of military problems is intended to assist the military profession in reaching sound decisions as to (1) the selection of its correct objectives, the ends toward which its action is to be directed under varying circumstances; (2) planning the detailed operations required; (3) transmitting the intent so clearly as to ensure inauguration of well-coordinated action; and (4) the effective supervision of such action.

The student of war will find in these pages a fundamental military philosophy whose roots go down to very ancient times. In the technique described for the solution of military problems, experienced officers will recognize a system with which they are already familiar. This system, constantly under study to improve its details, has been in use in our military Services for many years.

The foundation of this philosophy and of the system for its practical utilization rests on the concept of relative or proportional values. In the military environment, change, rather than stability, is especially to be expected, and the relationships existing among the essential elements of a military situation are, in fact, the significant values. Such values, themselves, vary with the viewpoint of the person concerned. Accordingly, because of the difference in objectives (defined above), what is strategy as viewed by a commander on a higher echelon may have more of a tactical aspect to those on a lower. Immediate objectives and ultimate objectives can scarcely be understood in their true proportions unless the point of reference is clear. The point of view of the commander, as established by the position he occupies in the chain of command, is, therefore, to be taken into consideration in every phase of the solution of a problem,-in the determination of the appropriate effect desired, of relative fighting strength, and of courses of action and the detailed operations pertaining thereto. On the basis of these facts, instantaneous and easy understanding of all the elements involved is not to be expected.

Were such understanding possible, the expert conduct of war would be one of the easiest, instead of one of the most difficult, of human activities. It is only through a gradual assimilation of its fundamentals that the profession of arms is to be mastered. A process of true education is involved,-that of enlarging the viewpoint and broadening the basis of professional judgment-and its essentials are the proper foundation for any system of self-improvement in the exercise of mental power. There is no easy road to the goal of military effort.

328 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover

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