Innovation Under Fire: Politics, Learning, and US Army Doctrine Open Access
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In the face of defeat, national militaries occasionally exhibit the ability to engage in doctrinal innovation in an attempt to alter the course of a war. In Vietnam, the US Army was unable to achieve the objectives for which the war was being fought and suffered strategic defeat. In Iraq, it nearly met the same fate. In each case, the Army initially fought with a doctrine ill-suited for the achievement of the goals identified by the president. In each case, there existed within the organization individuals who sought to innovate doctrine in an attempt to salvage the war. In Vietnam, proponents of existent Army doctrine effectively resisted innovation. In Iraq, such resistance was overcome.This dissertation examines the processes though which doctrinal innovation occurs during wartime by examining attempts at innovation during the US' wars in Vietnam and Iraq. In both cases, bureaucratic politics and organizational dynamics affected the Army's ability to successfully innovate doctrine.It is argued here that doctrinal innovations are the product of a learning process that updates core assumptions about how an armed service should fight. Such processes are more likely to be successful when innovators are able to leverage their bureaucratic position to: initiate a debate within the organization about the appropriateness of existent doctrinal assumptions, develop a backchannel network outside the organization that allows them to gain the political and material support of civilian authorities, and emplace a new consensus within the organization's combatant command in favor of innovation.