[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]
Our friends at Infinity Journal have released a new special edition, International Relations in Professional Military Education, which is excellent and covers the topic from West Point to Sandhurst to the Scandinavian-Baltic range of NATO states. The authors are thorough in explaining building PME curriculum to inculcate strategic thinking and the role played by incorporating and teaching IR theories.
A few samples:
….For some, the notion of strategic thinking and action at junior officer levels is a controversial claim. The word “strategy” is often treated as though it begins and ends at the highest levels of policy making. The president, supported by senior civilian and military advisors, develops national-level political objectives, the conceptual ways to achieve these objectives, and then mobilizes and deploys the resources necessary for executing the strategy. Approached from this perspective, young Army officers are merely the instruments of strategy. They receive and execute orders that someone much higher in the chain of command has developed with, hopefully, a carefully calculated understanding of how these tactical operations will contribute to national strategic ends. What business does a Platoon Leader, or even a Company Commander at the grade of Captain have in thinking and acting “strategically”? In fact, it is not hard to find Battalion Commanders who bluntly assert that they do not want their junior leaders thinking strategically; they simply want them to execute their operational tasks with skill and determination.
Silverstone and MAJ Ramsey deserve credit for tackling straight on “Big Army’s” increasing aversion to strategy being taught even in places like Leavenworth, much less to the undergraduate cadets they have as students at West Point. Strategy is not a “level” that should wait until an officer gets a slot at a War College, but is a fundamental domain for the military officer, the foundation for which should begin early in their career and not begin just shy of retirement.
….IR studies can provide added value to Latvian cadets in several ways. First, IR studies are especially relevant in small countries that are heavily affected by the international environment. This is not to claim that IR studies are not relevant in medium-sized countries and for the great powers. Quite to the contrary. The great powers have the capacity to use military means either on their own, or with allies, and therefore domestic discussions on their role in the international system are inevitable. The great powers have the ability to shape their regional environment and can exert influence beyond their regional setting. The behaviour of small countries, in turn, is shaped by great power politics. For Latvia, IR issues have become an inalienable part of any discussion on its security and development. Latvia’s security depends on Russia’s domestic politics and foreign policy aims, and EU and NATO policies towards Russia. Latvia’s economic development is also seen in terms of relations between Russia and the West. Thus, IR studies can help cadets to make sense of Latvia’s regional and global international environment. IR studies can help cadets to grasp the basic images of international politics such as realism and liberalism and explain differences between Russia’s foreign policy and EU and NATO policies.
Small nations tend to have interesting histories because they must navigate geopolitics with very little margin for error and Latvia is a prime example. Winning independence originally during the Russian Revolution, Latvia had to contest with German Freikorps and Bolshevik Red Guards only to lose independence entirely in 1940, passing from Stalin’s control to Nazi occupation and back again, regaining independence during the Soviet collapse in 1991. Rostock alludes to the challenges in transitioning from a former Soviet Republic with a Red Army doctrinal military legacy to a NATO state and the ancillary benefits of teaching IR in PME.
Read the rest of Infinity Journal’s Special IR PME Edition here – registration required but always free!