Another Ten Question West Point Does Not Ask Cadets – But Should

Image courtesy of The New York Times (Credit: Ruth Fremason). Image courtesy of The New York Times (Credit: Ruth Fremason).

Note: We’re revisiting some of our most popular material from the past 10 months for our newer readers; this was originally posted June 9, 2014. Enjoy!

Though this may seem gratuitous, as I’ve already done this once before (and responded to critics), I had more questions to get into the open.  The claim remains the same: West Point systematically fails to address these issues which stem from the study of modern war in cadet education.  The evidence to support this claim is relatively straightforward: there is no required course on this subject (while there are two at the U.S. Air Force Academy).  Further, modern war (alternatively known as “strategic studies”) is not one of the 31 domains of knowledge which form the supporting objectives for the academic program. The study of modern war is simply not a part of the academic program for all cadets.

Here is another list of the critical questions which go unanswered in a cadet’s experience at West Point:

  1. What specific characteristics differentiate a hybrid opponent from an insurgent?
  2. Beyond stale slogans (i.e. “hearts and minds” or “money is a weapon”), what practical tasks does counterinsurgency entail at the tactical and operational level?
  3. Where should an officer look to determine national interest in a particular military intervention?
  4. How does an officer assess the relative value of military objective and soldiers lives?
  5. How should an officer respond when a soldier asks – “why are we fighting?
  6. How does an officer integrate information operations and kinetic tactical actions?
  7. How does geography and demographics impact a nation’s grand and military strategic choices?
  8. How does public opinion shape military operations – and vice versa?
  9. What is the proper relationship between militaries and non-governmental organizations (i.e. the United Nations)?
  10. What are the advantages and disadvantages of real-time soldier-family communications while at war?

Bonus: In what ways should current doctrine be adapted to fight in megacities? How does one exercise landpower amidst skyscrapers and slums?



Leave a Reply

  1. 8…public opinion shapes military policy, not so much operations…although policy can drive the constraints and restraints portion of mission analysis


  2. MAJ Cavanaugh,

    Not sure if someone suggested this already and I missed it, but this sounds like a great way to drive further discussion on Why not run an essay solicitation/competition (similar to Tom Rick’s "Future of War" series)? Contributors would pick one of your 20 questions and attempt to answer it. If these subjects aren’t being taught at West Point/ROTC/OCS…why not start here?


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