Friday, February 19, 2016

Benjamin M. Jensen's "Forging the Sword"

Benjamin M. Jensen holds a dual appointment as a Donald L. Bren Chair of Creative Problem Solving at Marine Corps University and as a Scholar-in-Residence at the American University, School of International Service.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Forging the Sword: Doctrinal Change in the U.S. Army, and reported the following:
A strategic dilemma marks page 99 of Forging the Sword: Doctrinal Change in the U.S. Army. The section charts how the Clinton administration sought to reduce defense expenditures and transition to a Post-Cold War security environment. In the previous Bush administration, the national security team developed a two major theater war strategy to define national security priorities. This strategy, based in a large part on the Gulf War, called for maintaining enough military strength to fight two conflicts the size of Desert Storm/Desert Shield simultaneously.

These larger debates about national security strategy and defense posture provide the context in which the military profession develops new ways of thinking about warfare. These ideas form doctrine, organizing principles that shape how soldiers think about warfare. Central periods of military change often parallel fundamental changes to military doctrine. No change to armored and combined arms doctrine in the interwar period in Germany, no blitzkrieg.

My book explores how the military profession develops new doctrine through looking at the major ideas that shaped the U.S. Army from 1973 to 2008. What makes my work unique is that I focus on the military as a profession. Most treatments of doctrinal change tend to preface the constraints of military bureaucracy, searching instead for external shocks – from defeat in war to threats to budgets - that cause otherwise reluctant officers to change.

My work shows how officers solving new problems, from the dilemmas of combined arms in the Fulda Gap to modern counterinsurgency, changed the way they thought about warfare and initiated changes to their fighting organizations. The book is a good news story. It shows how even the largest, hierarchical organizations are capable of innovation. As such, it will be of interest to readers interested in modern military history, organizational change and innovation.
Learn more about Forging the Sword at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue