Controversy & Clarity

Controversy & Clarity

By Damien O'Connell
The official podcast of the Warfighting Society, Controversy and Clarity aims to generate critical discussion and honest debate on U.S. military matters.

To support the Warfighting Society, please click on "Support" below or visit our Patreon page at www.patreon.com/thewarfightingsociety

And if you have questions, comments, or questions, please don't hesitate to send them to thewarfightingsociety@gmail.com.
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#5--Eric Walters

Controversy & Clarity

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#10--Neil McCoy
In this episode, we discuss: -How Neil views training and education -How the Marine Corps seems to focus more on training enlisted Marines over educating them -What professional military education (PME) was like when Neil joined the Marine Corps -The lack of PME he experienced as a young Marine in the fleet -Where Neil’s interest in PME began -The influence that the Infantry Small Unit Leaders Course had on Neil -Neil’s initial reaction to working with me (a non-Marine civilian) -Why Neil thinks decision-forcing cases (DFCs) are effective teaching tools -How creating and facilitating DFCs helped Neil trust his Marines more -Neil’s favorite DFC -Neil’s process of researching and developing DFCs -If Neil were the Commandant of the Marine Corps, what’s the one thing he would change about enlisted professional education? -Neil’s ideas on how to get Marines of all military occupational specialties interested in the profession of arms -If Neil could change one thing about Marine training, what would it be? -What about changing one thing about the infantry community? -Neil’s thoughts on Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 7 Learning -Neil’s journey to writing, the trials of publishing, and his advice to Marines who are interested in writing -The need for honest critiques of one’s writing -Some of Neil’s ‘a-ha’ moments with maneuver warfare -The dichotomy between maneuver and attrition warfare -What does the Marine Corps’ warfighting philosophy look like in garrison? -As a former platoon sergeant, Neil’s expectations of his Marines, squad leaders, and platoon commanders -What excites Neil most about the future of the Marine Corps -What worries Neil most about the future of the Marine Corps Links to books mentioned The Bear Went Over the Mountain edited by Lester Grau: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a316729.pdf The Other Side of the Mountain by Ali Ahmad Jalali and Lester Grau: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a376862.pdf Fangs of the Lone Wolf by Dodge Billingsley: https://www.amazon.com/Fangs-Lone-Wolf-Russian-Chechen-1994-2009/dp/1909384771 Errata Lester Grau did not write Fangs of the Lone Wolf. Dodge Billingsley did, though Grau wrore the foreword.
1:40:54
July 16, 2020
#9--Vanya Eftimova Bellinger
In this episode, we discuss: -How Vanya found her way to reading, writing, and teaching military history -The importance of reading any text in the context of its writing and publication -The fascinating story of how Vanya came to write about Marie and Karl von Clausewitz -The process of researching and writing her book on Marie -The backgrounds of Marie and Karl and their relationship -How Karl was “so out of Marie’s league” -How much of Marie’s hand we see in On War and his other works -How Karl wrote On War -Vanya’s thoughts on how On War might be different if Karl had lived to see it published -How Karl might respond if he could see how widely his work is used (and abused) today -Vanya’s thoughts on which parts of Clausewitz are most misunderstood -Studying Karl’s other works, including his campaign histories -Karl’s interest in and use of decision games -The profound influence that Gerhard von Scharnhorst had on Karl -Scharnhorst’s background and Vanya’s recent research on him -The influence of Scharnhorst’s Military Society on the Prussian Army -The influence of literary salons on Scharnhorst -What happened at Military Society meetings -How much Western militaries owe to Scharnhorst -The role Scharnhorst had in reforming the Prussian Army after its crushing defeat at Jena-Auerstedt in 1806 -Where listeners should go to start learning more about Scharnhorst and Clausewitz -Vanya’s advice on civilians wanting to get into the world of military matters -Why we all should embrace honesty and humility in our professional work -Why we should debate Clausewitz Links Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman Behind the Making of On War by Vanya Bellinger: https://www.amazon.com/Marie-von-Clausewitz-Behind-Making-ebook/dp/B0146Y9T2K/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Marie+von+Clausewitz%3A+The+Woman+Behind+the+Making+of+On+War&qid=1589213020&sr=8-1 “Five Things That You Did Not Know About Carl von Clausewitz” by Vanya Bellinger: https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2016/1/5/five-things-you-did-not-know-about-carl-von-clausewitz “Five Things That Helped Carl von Clausewitz Become A Great Strategic Thinker” by Vanya Bellinger: https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2017/4/19/five-things-that-helped-carl-von-clausewitz-become-a-great-strategic-thinker ‘Introducing #Scharnhorst: The Vision of an Enlightened Soldier “On Experience and Theory”’ by Vanya Bellinger: https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2019/4/1/introducing-scharnhorst-the-vision-of-an-enlightened-soldier-on-experience-and-theory The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militarische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805 by Charles E. White: https://www.amazon.com/Enlightened-Soldier-Scharnhorst-Militarische-Gesellschaft/dp/0275929361
1:20:55
July 9, 2020
#8--William Woods
In this episode, we discuss: -Woods’ definition of professional military education (PME) -The need for all leaders in a unit to emphasize PME -The purpose of PME -How PME in the Marine Corps changed from the early 1970s to the early 1980s -What good PME programs look like -The lack of emphasis of PME in the Marine Corps in the immediate years following Vietnam -Woods’ exposure to maneuver warfare and interactions with then-Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol) Mike Wyly at Amphibious Warfare School (AWS) -How LtCol Wyly stood out from the other staff at AWS -Woods’ experience with decision games at AWS -How Woods got into hobby wargaming as a lieutenant -How wargaming predisposed Woods to embracing Wyly’s teaching and maneuver warfare -How well the Marine Corps taught decision-making during Woods’ time as a company-grade officer -A deep dive on the free-play force on force exercises that the 2ndMarine Division held while then-Major General Al Gray was its commanding general -How free play exercises terrified some senior unit leaders -Woods’ role in planning the Ft Pickett exercises -The role of umpires and observers in these exercises -How the 2ndMarine Division led free play exercise critiques -How observers helped with the “I shot you.” “No, I shot you.” problem of free play exercises -How to avoid public shaming in a free play after-action review -How Al Gray created an atmosphere where free play could thrive in the 2ndMarine Division -How Gray attempted to build a consensus on maneuver warfare in the division The genesis of the 2ndMarine Division Maneuver Warfare Board and the famous “ambush” of Al Gray at the Camp Lejeune officers club -Woods’ views on Bill Lind -Woods’ experiences with Colonel John Boyd -How Woods’ involvement with the maneuver warfare movement affected his career -Woods’ experience serving as the aide-de-camp to Al Gray -Why Al Gray’s attention shifted away from promoting maneuver warfare toward creating MEU (SOCs) -The insights that Woods gained about general officers as an aide -What made Al Gray a standout among senior leaders -Woods’ thoughts on the prospects of another intellectual renaissance in the Marine Corps -The likelihood of a future US-China war -What future warfare may look like -Woods’ thoughts on the maneuver vs attrition dichotomy
1:31:13
July 2, 2020
#7--Stuart Britton
In this episode include, we discuss: -How Stuart got into studying Russia -Stuart’s childhood interest in military history and the books that have influenced him most -What led Stuart to translating books on the Eastern Front -The prolific work of Colonel David Glantz, US Army (ret), and how he helped get Stuart his “big break” -What are the key roles and responsibilities of a translator and editor of Russian military history -The excellent Great Patriotic War website “I Remember” -Stuart’s role models and inspirations when it comes to translating and editing -Working with Russian military historians and researchers -Russians’ propensity to write large books and the special role of authors in Russian society -Stuart’s favorite Russian military historians and the challenges that historians in Russia face in writing “objective” history -Which books Stuart has enjoyed translating the most -What Stuart has learned about the Eastern Front since becoming a translator -Three stereotypes that Westerners still hold about the Soviet Army of WW II: commissars, blocking detachments, and penal companies and battalions -The Red Army’s ability to learn quickly from their failures and how Stalin became more open to listening to his generals as the war went on -On General Konstantin Rokossovsky—Stalin’s Polish-born “Gentlemen Commander” -Stuart’s interest in the forgotten (and horrific) Battle of Rzhev -Forgotten offensives and battles of the Eastern Front -How well Americans understand the influence of the Great Patriotic War on the Russian memory and psyche -How well Russians understand the American contribution to WWII -How much WWII still influences Russia’s behaviors on the world stage -The Russian Army’s long-held emphasis on maskirovka -What every American should know about Russia’s experience in the Second World War -Stuart’s advice on which books Marines and soldiers should read to begin their study of the Great Patriotic War -Sources for potential tactical decision games, decision-forcing cases, and wargames from the Eastern Front -How Stuart got into wargaming -How wargaming plays a role in his translation work -Stuart’s thoughts on using wargames as training and educational tools -Decision games as a form of therapy -The lifesaving wargaming efforts of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit in WWII -Some perils of wargaming Links Stuart Britton’s translations on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=stuart+britton&ref=nb_sb_noss David Glantz’s books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=david+glantz&ref=nb_sb_noss_2 The “I Remember” website: https://iremember.ru/en/ Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the Eastby David Stahel: https://www.amazon.com/Operation-Barbarossa-Germanys-Cambridge-Histories-ebook/dp/B00B23DEBQ/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=david+stahel&qid=1589214281&sr=8-2 Errata At the 00:50:25 mark, Stuart references the movie “Stalingrad.” He meant to say instead the movie “Enemy at the Gates.”
2:02:24
June 25, 2020
#6--Tony Zinni
In this episode, we discuss: -How Zinni defines professional military education (PME) and the purpose behind it -Why we tend to focus more on formal PME over informal PME -The need for commanders to provide PME to their units -Zinni’s experience facilitating PME as a unit commander -Zinni’s use of decision games as teaching tools -How decision games might feel threatening to some commanders -Creating an open learning environment in your command -Laying down ground rules for PME sessions -The role of formal schools in a Marine’s PME -Zinni’s approach to self-directed PME -Having good role models in PME -Books and subjects that influenced Zinni at different points in his Marine Corps career -When should we start teaching leaders to think strategically? -The profound learning experience Zinni had as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Marine Corps -The virtues of the South Vietnamese Marines -Some of Zinni’s views on the war in Vietnam -The cognitive dissonance between what Zinni learned at The Basic School and what actually worked for him in Vietnam -Zinni’s formal teaching experiences -Zinni’s advice for senior officers on PME and the danger of “intellectual flatlining” -Zinni’s drive for formal education outside of the military and the need to “cast one’s net widely” in their learning -Zinni’s experiences with decision games while on active duty, and how they helped develop vicarious experience -Zinni’s thoughts on the latest wave of interest in and support of wargaming in the Department of Defense -How much emphasis the Marine Corps put on teaching decision-making during Zinni’s time in service -Zinni on his Combat Concepts and the need for leaders to critically review received wisdom and theories and to commit to their own theory of combat -The unsung contributions and brilliance of Marine General Graves B. Erskine -Zinni’s recent PhD work on leadership -Zinni’s relationship to the “maneuver warfare movement” -How, if at all, has maneuver warfare made a difference for the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan? -The effects of a lack of a clear strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan -The gap between what the Marine Corps says about maneuver warfare and what it actually does -The need to allow leaders to make forgivable mistakes -How rampant the “zero defects mentality” is in today’s Department of Defense and determining what is forgivable and what is unforgivable -On the obligation of senior leaders to speak out about wrongdoing Links Before the First Shots Are Fired: How America Can Win Or Lose Off The Battlefield by Tony Zinni and Tony Koltz: https://www.amazon.com/Before-First-Shots-Are-Fired/dp/125007505X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1589206250&sr=8-1 Battle Ready by Tom Clancy, Tony Zinni, and Tony Koltz: https://www.amazon.com/Battle-Ready-Commander-Book-4-ebook/dp/B001QWFYFM/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=TONY+ZINNI&qid=1589206368&sr=8-4 “Why Lieutenants Should Study Strategy” by Colonel Michael D. Wyly: http://the-military-learning-library.24301.n8.nabble.com/file/n107/Why_Lieutenants_should_study_strategy.pdf
1:52:27
June 18, 2020
#5--Eric Walters
In this episode, we discuss: -Wargames and the different ways to define them -The trouble with the term “games” -How Eric got into wargaming -How wargaming led Eric to study all kinds of military history -Eric’s thoughts on wargames as teaching tools for grade schoolers -The many benefits of wargaming -How wargames and reading helped Eric understand “the why” of doctrine, enemy tactics and organizations, and maneuver warfare -How we should be wary of using games as a means of evaluating Marines as combat leaders -Eric’s reaction to the explosion of interest in and acceptance of wargames in the Department of Defense -Some recent wargame developments in the Army and Marine Corps -Eric’s thoughts on General Berger’s focus on wargaming -Eric’s experiences running wargames in the fleet as a company-grade officer -How well the Marine Corps taught decision-making during Eric’s time as a young officer -On the power of being supported by your superiors -Eric’s thoughts on professional military education (PME) and what “professional” means to him -What good PME looks like -The need for one-on-one coaching in PME with accomplished masters -The dangers of self-directed PME -The need for study in the absence of experience -The role formal schools should play in PME -Eric’s thoughts on “lifelong learning” -The coaches Eric has had over his career and life -The value of belonging to a community of practice -American Military University’s influence on Eric -How decision games help build trust -Eric’s approach to building PME programs while on active duty and the results of those programs -What is critical thinking? -Some critical thinking models and resources that Eric uses -The relationship between decision games and critical thinking -Eric’s admonition to Marines to remain relevant and take a long view of future threats Links https://www.criticalthinking.org(for resources on critical thinking) “Interview with COL(R) Eric Walters, USMC” by Grogheads: https://grogheads.com/interviews/3066 “Maneuver Warfare in Commercial Board Wargames” by Eric Walters: https://mca-marines.org/gazette/maneuver-warfare-in-commercial-board-wargames/ “Is Mission Control the Weakness of Maneuver Warfare?” by Eric Walters: https://mca-marines.org/gazette/is-mission-control-the-weakness-of-maneuver-warfare/
2:05:53
June 10, 2020
#4--Mike Wyly
In this episode, we discuss: -Wyly’s thought on professional military education (PME) -What a profession is -The obligation for professionals to study their profession -Can a private be a professional? -The value of the Socratic method -How Wyly got into PME, maneuver warfare, and military reform -The benefits of reading -The value of PME as a means to get into the mind of past commanders -The role of formal schools in PME -History as a basis for decision-making exercises -The role of humility in PME and leadership -Wyly’s thoughts on self-study -The unsung role and contributions of Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor with respect to PME and maneuver warfare -The similarities between Trainor and General Al Gray -How Wyly was introduced to Al Gray -How Wyly discovered decision games -How he facilitated decision games -Wyly on taking his AWS students to the field for tactical exercises without troops -The reaction of students who were experiencing decision games for the first time -School solutions -The lack of emphasis on decision-making during Wyly’s time as a young officer -Wyly’s company commander tour in Vietnam -The trouble with the term “maneuver warfare” -The misconception that maneuver warfare avoids fighting -Wyly’s role in the maneuver warfare movement -Wyly’s relationship with Colonel John Boyd -What maneuver warfare looks like in garrison -The need for risk-takers Links “MARINES HAVE THE LAST WORD ON ONE WHO DID IT HIS WAY” by David Evans: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1991-04-12-9102020610-story.html “Doctrinal Change: The Move To Maneuver Theory” by Colonel Mike Wyly: https://mca-marines.org/gazette/doctrinal-change-the-move-to-maneuver-theory/ “At the Forefront of Tactical Thought” by Colonel Mike Wyly: https://mca-marines.org/gazette/at-the-forefront-of-tactical-thought/
2:02:30
June 3, 2020
#3--Ray Smith
The topics we discussed in this episode include: -Smith’s thoughts on professional military education (PME) and training -What good PME and training look like -The best PME experience Smith ever had -Major General O.K. Steele’s approach to training and PME -The effect that bootcamp had on Smith’s development as a person -How to get young Marines interested in learning -The value of getting to know your Marines -Why squad leaders are the most important people in a unit -The key role of trust in maneuver warfare -Smith’s thoughts on leaders being teacher-scholars -What gets in the way of building trust in a unit -Responding to when Marines make honest mistakes (“sins of commission”) -The zero-defect mentality and the value of second chances -The responsibility of a commander to protect their Marines -The “colonel syndrome” and becoming self-interested -Why it’s tough to be a major in the Marine Corps -What it was like serving with Tony Zinni -Smith’s battlefield “sixth sense” -How the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) fought -Comparing how Marine and NVA units fought -The role that Vietnam played on Ray Smith’s journey to maneuver warfare -Smith’s destruction of an NVA battalion in Aug 1968 -Working with a company of tanks as a rifle company commander -Smith’s experience in Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada -The need to know your enemy in maneuver warfare -What surprised Smith the most about Grenada -Smith on the fog of war -The biggest maneuver warfare lesson Smith took away from Grenada Links “Commemoration of Grenada with MajGen Ray Smith, USMC (Ret) at Marines' Memorial 10-23-2019”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzSi_5ZvJ7Q
2:00:25
May 27, 2020
#2--T.X. Hammes
The topics we discussed in this episode include: -Hammes’ thoughts on professional military education (PME) -Anti-intellectualism in the Marine Corps -Some parallels between Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan -What good PME looks like -The Marine Corps personnel system and its negative effect on education and maneuver warfare -The case for 360 fitness reports -What formal schools provide in the PME process -The “McNamara Method” of teaching tactical decision games (TDGs) -“Linking minds” and having a shared mental mind in maneuver warfare -Hammes on his staff non-commissioned officer and officer PME programs -Doing terrain walks of the San Diego Airport and in San Clemente, California -Where Hammes found inspiration for creative training -On knowing when you’ve achieved implicit communication with your Marines -The value of letting junior Marines write TDGs for unit PME -The “bull in the ring” physical tactical decision game -Using BB guns to train for urban combat -How Hammes dealt with hazing in his units -What a good self-directed PME looks like -Doing an independent float in the Pacific as a new company commander -Working with the Thai and Japanese militaries -Hammes’ experiences with wargames and the benefits of manual vs digital wargaming -How to get the most out of wargaming -How to get Marines into wargames -Why the Marine Corps should shift its ideal image of a general officer away from Chesty Puller and toward O.P. Smith -The case for why, after boot camp, Marines should use first names with each other -What it was like to serve during the “maneuver warfare renaissance” -Hammes on the Marine Corps as a remembering institution vs a learning institution and the tensions between the two -The tumultuous relationship between Marine air and Marine ground forces immediately after WW II -Hammes’ experiences studying at Oxford University Hammes’ new book, Deglobalization and National Security, and what surprised him while researching the book -Some considerations of the future fight with Iran, China, and Russia Links The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Centuryby T.X. Hammes: https://www.amazon.com/Sling-Stone-Century-Military-Classics/dp/B00FIA7P9G Forgotten Warriors: The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, the Corps Ethos, and the Korean War by T.X. Hammes: https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Warriors-Provisional-Brigade-Studies-ebook/dp/B079Y2ZSNR/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=tX+Hammes&qid=1589209399&s=books&sr=1-2 Deglobalization and International Security by T.X. Hammes: https://www.amazon.com/Deglobalization-International-Security-Communications-Conflict-ebook/dp/B08671FJ3F/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=tX+Hammes&qid=1589209337&s=books&sr=1-1 On the McNamara Method: “TDGs Return” by T.X. Hammes: https://mca-marines.org/gazette/tdgs-return/
2:07:21
May 22, 2020
#0--Introducing Controversy and Clarity: Season One
Welcome to season one of Controversy and Clarity, the official podcast of the Warfighting Society. Enjoy!
01:59
May 15, 2020
#1--Brendan McBreen
The topics we discuss in this episode include: -Brendan’s journey to studying combat decision-making -The difference between what you learn in the classroom and how things really are in the fleet -Brendan's “sabbatical” in 29 Palms -Preparing young officers to lead platoons -The challenge of maintaining a fighting edge with your unit while deployed -The dangers of over-formalizing and over-standardizing training -The role of trust in the Marine Corps and how training increases it in a unit -The importance of humility for leaders -The role of the personnel system in a fighting organization -The role of processes, policies, and people who don’t add value to an organization -Brendan’s thoughts on General David H. Berger’s force design plans for the Marine Corps -Brendan’s take on the competency of our elected officials on defense matters and how well the services do on advising those officials -How well the Marine Corps teaches decision-making -What techniques Brendan found most effective in teaching decision-making -Where Brendan found inspiration for his own PME -The need for consistency in a PME unit program and making PME a norm in a unit -The genesis of Brendan’s excellent website: http://www.2ndbn5thmar.com Links Brendan’s Infantry Skills Training website: http://www.2ndbn5thmar.com "I Want to be ‘Ender’” by Brendan McBreen: http://www.2ndbn5thmar.com/dm/EnderMcBreen1998.pdf Eratta Regarding the Charles Whitman decision-forcing case, I misquoted the referenced poll percentage. The poll claims that around 36% of Americans were against the Vietnam War in August 1966, when Whitman went on his rampage.
2:09:59
May 15, 2020