Class, do we all know what ‘doctrine’ means? Fox? Ibex? Mouse? Anyone? I think perhaps I was boring my class to sleep! A doctrine is a set of ideas and instructions that we believe are right. It can be very useful, as long as we do not forget to keep using our brains, too! Yes?
Alright. I will give you an example of a tactical principle: firearms should not be used until they are within effective range, in other words until you are close enough that you have a good chance of hitting your targets with them. That is a simple, sensible principle that it should be both easy and useful to keep in mind.
Regulations and methods belong in a theory of war because they are drilled into troops, and routines have a place as well, as long as we remember that they are not binding, that we are not required to follow them no matter what. They can be especially useful for lower-ranked officers. As we so often don’t entirely know what is going on in war, it can really smooth things to follow routines when what is happening does not require us to do otherwise.
Routines can be overused. Even the highest-ranking officers sometimes get stuck in a routine, if they do not have enough education or experience, staying always with the one or two things they know or perhaps following their supreme commander’s favored approach. This lack of imagination can be deadly.
Consider this: if you have three pets, and all three are goldfish, you can likely take good care of them by cleaning the tank and throwing in some fish food once or twice a day. You might keep them more or less healthy depending on how often you clean the tank, or how much food you give them, but that routine suffices to care for all of them.
However, if you have three pets, but one is a goldfish, one a kitten, and one a gerbil, you cannot simply follow this one routine. You must clean the tank and use fish food for the goldfish, provide fresh bedding and pellets for the gerbil, and give cat food and clean litter to the kitten. If you try to follow the same routine to care for all three pets, your gerbil and kitten will soon die.
Different situations require different solutions, and creativity is especially important in the realm of strategy.
Now, class, it is time to talk about critical analysis. I know those are big words, but allow me to explain. Critical analysis is when we take those truths we have figured out using our theory and use them to make sense of actual events.
It is not just about telling what happened. It is doing research, to find the facts of what happened; then finding the causes of what happened; and lastly, judging those events, praising the good decisions and censuring the bad ones.
It can be very hard to find the causes in all the mess and chaos of war, but the important thing is to use care, to trace them as best you can, as far as you can, and to look at all of the different causes, as there is rarely just one.
You must take care, find out as much as you can. What means were used? Did they do as intended? Don’t stop your analysis until you have reached the truth, something that no one can contradict – disagree with.
All of this study will go nowhere if you do not have theory to begin with. If you have theory, and your analysis leads to that theory, then you can conclude your study. If your study seems to go against the theory, that doesn’t mean you need to throw out one or the other. Remember, theory is a guide to help your judgment, not a law that must be followed. There are exceptions to every guideline. Look at the individual case. It might be an exceptional case. Look at the reasons why it does not fit the theory.
The critic’s job is easy when cause and effect, and means and ends, are closely linked. If you line up a row of dominoes and knock the first one over, what will happen, Mouse?
– They’ll all fall down.
Yes, that’s right. If you knock over the first one, the others will fall. That is a simple, immediate cause and effect. But let’s say Fox fails a math test. Was it because he was tired? Because he didn’t study enough the night before? Because he was sick two weeks ago, and missed a class where important information was given? It might be harder to trace the cause in this case.
War is much more often going to be like this. There are many causes to each effect, many means and ends, many things large and small happening all at once, and all are connected, and all have their impact, however small, on the final outcome, and the ultimate end which is, of course, the restoration of peace. Yes, Marten? You have a question?
– If the point of war is to make peace, why do we have a war in the first place? I mean, if we don’t go to war, don’t we already have peace?
This is a good question, Marten, and I understand why that would be confusing. There are a lot of reasons countries go to war. Two countries might be at peace, but one wants more land, or does not like the behavior of the other, or feels that it must protect certain people who live in the other’s territory. There might be religious differences, or one country might have a lot of food while the other goes hungry. The political leaders decide those things, the kings and presidents. It is not for the commander, or the philosopher of war, to decide when we go to war, or why. It is our job simply to understand the conduct of war itself, and the commander’s job to find the best way to wage war in order to make peace in a way that reaches the goals of their country’s political leaders. All I can really say is that while there might be peace before the outbreak of war, it may not be the peace your leaders want.