The Sources of Military Doctrine

The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany between the World Wars

Barry R. Posen
Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Sources of Military Doctrine
    Book Description:

    Barry R. Posen explores how military doctrine takes shape and the role it plays in grand strategy-that collection of military, economic, and political means and ends with which a state attempts to achieve security. Posen isolates three crucial elements of a given strategic doctrine: its offensive, defensive, or deterrent characteristics, its integration of military resources with political aims, and the degree of military or operational innovation it contains. He then examines these components of doctrine from the perspectives of organization theory and balance of power theory, taking into account the influence of technology and geography.

    Looking at interwar France, Britain, and Germany, Posen challenges each theory to explain the German Blitzkrieg, the British air defense system, and the French Army's defensive doctrine often associated with the Maginot Line. This rigorous comparative study, in which the balance of power theory emerges as the more useful, not only allows us to discover important implications for the study of national strategy today, but also serves to sharpen our understanding of the origins of World War II.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6858-2
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 7-12)
    Barry R. Posen
  4. 1 The Importance of Military Doctrine
    (pp. 13-33)

    Military doctrines are critical components of national security policy or grand strategy. A grand strategy is a political-military, mean-sends chain, a state’s theory about how it can best “cause” security for itself.¹ Ideally, it includes an explanation of why the theory is expected to work. A grand strategy must identify likely threats to the state’s security and it must devise political, economic, military, and other remedies for those threats. Priorities must be established among both threats and remedies because given an anarchical international environment, the number of possible threats is great, and given the inescapable limits of a national economy,...

  5. 2 Explaining Military Doctrine
    (pp. 34-80)

    In this chapter a number of hypotheses about what causes military doctrines to vary along the dimensions of offense-defense-deterrence, integration-disintegration, and innovation-stagnation will be introduced. These hypotheses are grouped into two families, representing two distinct perspectives on state behavior: that of “organization theory” and that of “balance of power theory.” Both are summarized in this chapter. These two theoretical perspectives have achieved widespread currency in the study of national security policy. Both encompass a substantial literature. Thus, they seem a sensible place to start in an attempt to explain military doctrine. They have rarely been employed in this fashion.


  6. 3 The Battles of 1940
    (pp. 81-104)

    Two great battles were fought in 1940. During May, in Belgium and northern France, Germany destroyed the cream of French and British land forces, so opening metropolitan France to complete conquest. The second battle, the Battle of Britain, was fought between the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force (RAF) from mid-July to late September 1940. While Hitler’s objectives and strategy in this second battle seem to have fluctuated, Germany’s fundamental goal was to destroy the RAF and seize control of the airspace over southern England and the English Channel. This was seen to be the necessary prerequisite for any successful...

  7. 4 France
    (pp. 105-140)

    French grand strategy during the interwar period aimed to preserve the political and territorial settlement of Versailles. The French recognized that the Versailles restrictions on German military power were the most fragile elements of the postwar settlement. They constructed their military doctrine to deal with anexpectedresurgence of German industrial and military power, which was identified as the main threat to French security. The army would play the key role in French strategy toward Germany, with the air force in support. (I am omitting discussion of the French Navy. Although it was a fairly powerful force, its role in...

  8. 5 Britain
    (pp. 141-178)

    Britain entered World War II with a defensive, innovative military doctrine, moderately well integrated with the political aspects of her grand strategy. The doctrine had only emerged in this form during the two years immediately preceding the outbreak of the war. Before that time, although the doctrine was defensive, and in some ways innovative, it poorly served British political ends.

    Britain tried to preserve both her global empire and her European interests with economic and military resources that her elites understood to be insufficient. Because of this weakness, British leaders expected a new war to destroy the empire, even if...

  9. 6 Germany
    (pp. 179-219)

    German grand strategy and military doctrine in the interwar period were largely, though not exclusively, Hitler’s creations. Nevertheless, because Hitler did not like to use formal documents, German strategy must be reconstructed in the same fashion as are French and British strategy. Unfortunately, students of German strategy under Hitler have had to rely on less direct documentary evidence than have students of French and British strategy.

    German military doctrine in the late 1930s was offensive, innovative, and integrated with the political aspects of German grand strategy. Few would quarrel with the first two characterizations, but some would question the third....

  10. 7 Conclusions
    (pp. 220-244)

    I have attempted three tasks in this book: first, to elaborate and refine the concept of military doctrine, paying particular attention to three important dimensions along which doctrines can vary; second, and of greater importance, to systematically employ two important theories of state behavior, as well as some widely held though poorly developed propositions about technology and geography, as tools for the study of doctrine; and third, in the process of using these tools, to test the two theories and the less well-developed propositions against one another for their explanatory power. The case studies of British, French, and German doctrine...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 245-268)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 269-276)
  13. Index
    (pp. 277-284)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 285-287)