Search Results for: West Point

Resource: West Point’s Campaign Atlases

In 1938 the predecessors of today's Department of History at the United States Military Academy began developing a series of campaign atlases to aid in teaching cadets a course entitled, "History of the Military Art." Since then, the Department has produced over six atlases and more than one thousand maps, encompassing not only America’s wars but

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Mahan, Choke Points, and the Panama Canal

The recent blockage of the Suez Canal by the container ship Ever Given is a reminder of the importance of maritime choke points as they concern international commerce and national security. Choke points are primarily the effect of natural geography, which is one of the critical dimensions of strategy. In some cases, however, human agency, especially technology, can affect the strategic importance of natural geographic features and relationships. The shift from sail to steam, then from coal to oil-fired ships. From roads to railways. From horses to internal combustion engines. From the ground to the skies — aircraft to ballistic missiles, to drones, and hypersonic vehicles. Another human agency is the construction of canals in a way that significantly alters the geopolitical terrain.

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The Other Mahan: Transmitting and Modifying the Classics in Military Education

When one thinks about the impact of Mahan on American military thought and practice, one naturally thinks of Alfred Thayer Mahan, the naval historian and theorist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. But there was another notable Mahan – Dennis Hart Mahan (USMA, 1824), Alfred’s father, who taught for many years at West Point in the mid-nineteenth century and whose personality and views influenced Civil War commanders on both sides of the divide.

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Military Education and Mentorship: Fox Conner and Dwight Eisenhower

Mentoring future officers in the higher realms of strategy is a topic of much discussion within the military community, especially in terms of the applicability of the Classics, and literature more generally. A recently published collection of essays, Pershing's Lieutenants, catalogues important figures who served under General John J. Pershing in World War I, ranging from Marshall, Patton, and MacArthur to Captain Harry Truman. My initial impression is that the essay authors don’t always demonstrate the way in which the experience of the individuals in World War I affected their particular approach to and during World War II — which would have been of the most interest; however, this judgment is admittedly not based on a full read of the book. One of the figures featured in the volume drew my especial interest — General Fox Conner—because of his well-known role in mentoring younger officers, Dwight Eisenhower in particular.

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Book: The Soldier and the State

While the average political scientist is lucky to make a name for himself in one area of the field, Samuel Huntington has made major contributions to three: civil-military relations, democratic theory, and international relations. And while most people think of The Clash of Civilizations when they hear his name today, his most influential book—for

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Christopher Harmon, Classics of Counterinsurgency

When faced with an insurgency, how do we learn about it? Soldiers and officers need practical advice, and often show close interest in past practices which clearly succeeded or clearly failed. On the other hand, historians and cultural specialists have a bent for insisting on the uniqueness of a thing. Questions and challenges come with any recommendation

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Ulysses S. Grant’s Civil War Memoir and Strategy

It might be said that Ulysses S. Grant’s memoir killed him. The Civil War General and former President of the United States had no intention of writing a memoir. In a life so full of personal and professional crises, one final personal crisis compelled Grant to break his silence. A twenty nine-year-old charlatan, Ferdinand Ward, had defrauded Grant

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Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future (1897)

prolific writer, Mahan became one of the most famous naval and sea power prophets of the late nineteenth century.  Concerned with the United States’ place in the world, Mahan wrote to influence both policymakers and common Americans.  Although some of his articles and books are less resonant today, they still provide a fascinating glimpse into the state of the world of in the 1890s, shortly before the Spanish-American War, and how it was perceived by many Americans. 

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Dwight Eisenhower, Monuments Man

Are high-level military strategists born or made?  Some of both, one must suppose. Strategic excellence means something more than the proficiency to win battles and conduct successful military operations, but to win wars. Winning wars, in turn, means something more than being able to defeat an adversary’s armed forces and/or occupying its territory. Which means that Army officers (in this case) must not only be able to coordinate operations with those of the other services, but also take into account the overarching political and geopolitical components of the conflict (or potential conflict).

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On Strategic Thinking: Patterns in Modern History

It is precisely during the historical lulls, the quiet backwaters, that the most thinking about strategy should be done—by officers and by political leaders, both serving or aspiring to service. Nor are democracy's other citizens free to ignore defense and foreign affairs; they too might attend to Kipling's poem of warning. Thinking about strategy in peacetime is even more vital than material preparation, though both are vital. Because when war comes, it may be too late. During war, it may be too difficult. In defeat, it will be of no use.

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