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Spot On Question: Who Are Today’s Military Thinker’s ?

I am seconding Younghusband in recommending the post up at The Strategist as well as the subsequent discussion:

Who and Where are Today’s Military Thinkers

Quentin recently asked if there are people in western militaries who are “thinking outside the square” about strategy and warfare.

It’s a good question and one that I don’t have a ready answer for. Over the last 200 years there have been a number of great thinkers, like Carl von Clausewitz, Alfred Mahan, T E Lawrence (pictured), Basil Liddell Hart, J F C Fuller, and John Boyd. They developed general theories about war or thought deeply about the nature and shape of future warfare.

There were also military officers who operationalized radical ideas and thinking. They include Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian, the German pioneers of armoured warfare, along with Orde Wingate and David Stirling, the Brits who trail-blazed the use of special forces in WW2.

These thinkers thought deeply about their subjects. Their ideas were backed by experience, or they tested and refined their ideas in the field. They tended to be outsiders and were often regarded by the military establishment as odd, unorthodox, even dangerous. Some, like Fuller and Guderian, gravitated towards experimental military areas. To paraphrase Boyd, they tended to ‘do something not be someone’. 

What about today? Who are the thinkers in western militaries? In the US, John Nagl comes to mind for his work on counterinsurgency. As Zenpundit and Armchair Generalist point out, Nagl recently left the army for a job with a think tank. The British have Sir Rupert Smith, who wrote The Utility of Force after he retired from the British forces.

Other than these people, I’m struggling. Any nominations? Or are we more likely to find today’s military thinkers in universities and think tanks (e.g., Martin van Creveld and Willam Lind), in aid agencies and private military companies, in IT companies, or, heaven forbid, in the blogosphere?

Join in the discussion here.

2 Responses to “Spot On Question: Who Are Today’s Military Thinker’s ?”

  1. Fabius Maximus Says:

    Military thougth, like any other product, needs customers.  Note who signed the paychecks in your list of past great thinkers.

    What does the US DoD want from its great thinkers?  Designs of spacecraft, atomic powered aircraft, the internet.  Ways to fight atomic wars, defend the Fulda Gap, fight cyberwars … Not much demand for ways to fight 4GW.   We prepare for wars of the past or the future, but never for today’s wars.  Perhaps this leads to some sterility of thought by their staff?

    Perhaps not a coincidence that the most prolific modern theorist, Martin van Creveld, has a home at U of Jerusalem — where the need for hard thinking is greatest.  Not that they have done much with his brilliant insights; but that is another discussion.

  2. strategist Says:

    Thanks for the mention Mark.

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