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Title: Perfecting War: The Organizational Sources of Doctrinal Change
Authors: Hunzeker, Michael Allen
Advisors: Friedberg, Aaron L
Suleiman, Ezra
Contributors: Public and International Affairs Department
Keywords: First World War
Military Adaptation
Military Doctrine
Military Innovation
Western Front
World War I
Subjects: Political Science
Public policy
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Warfare changes over time, which means no two wars are exactly alike. Armies strive to anticipate the next war, yet it is impossible to predict with perfection. Unexpected adversaries, undetected capabilities, and unforeseen goals mean gaps will exist between the war an army expects and the war it must fight. Armies must therefore evolve in war. At least in part, victory depends on how well they realign pre-war assumptions to address wartime realities. In some cases the gaps will be small and the corresponding adjustments minor. In other cases the gaps will be large and the responses major, innovative, and unprecedented. In all cases, adjustment implies optimization. In other words, to increase its ability to win on the battlefield an army must assess, learn, change, and reassess in an iterative attempt to fight more effectively. Herein lay an important puzzle: if optimization is a necessary part of warfare, then why are some armies better at it than others? The Qin in ancient China; Gustav Aldolphus' Swedes in early modern Europe; the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars; the Prussian (and later German) armies from Moltke the Elder to Ludendorff; the U.S. Marine Corps in the interwar Small Wars; and the U.S. Army in Iraq - these armies were remarkable for their ability to respond to that which was unforeseen, undetected, and unexpected. They were, to put it bluntly, better at perfecting war. I argue that there is a systematic reason some armies are better at innovating, emulating, and adapting to war than others. The explanation has to do with how they are organized. Specifically, I predict that armies with moderately decentralized command cultures, a doctrinal assessment mechanism, and a centralized training system will consistently generate new ideas; distinguish good ideas from bad ideas; and implement the best ideas across the organization more efficiently and more effectively than armies organized in any other way. I present my argument in three steps. First, I build a theory capturing how and why an army's command culture, assessment mechanisms, and training structures affect optimization. Second, I test this theory's internal validity by comparing its expectations against a detailed study of the Western Front during World War I (1914 - 1918). Finally, I test this theory's external validity by comparing its expectations to the U.S. Army's experiences in Vietnam (1965 - 1972) and Iraq (2003 - 2011).
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Public and International Affairs

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