EDITOR’S NOTE: The current temporary theme we are using only credits a single guest. This podcast featured Jason Schmidt, Rick O’Donnell, Greg Hillebrand and Buck Haberichter.

In the last episode we introduced you to Integrated Research Project (IRP) #6. A little over two years ago we sat down with the students and advisors of the study to examine leadership development requirements in the multi-domain operations environment in the year 2040. Due to a hardware malfunction we thought we had lost the recordings of these conversations, but just recently we were able to recover the files. Though the conversation has a couple of dated references, we thought the topic was definitely worth airing. A BETTER PEACE welcomes Jason Schmidt, Rick O’Donnell and Greg Hillebrand to the studio for the second of three episodes to discuss what the team found looking forward twenty years. In this episode they look at how the military has traditionally developed leaders and current trends in that arena. They consider what will still apply in the future and what has to be added to ensure U.S. military leadership is prepared for the challenges of future warfare and peacekeeping.

Straight out of the NDS, the National Defense Strategy, it states that “the creativity and talent of the American warfighter is our greatest enduring strength” and I think as we compete in this new world of global power competition, we need to be able to acquire, again, develop and retain those leaders that will be critical for success.

Jason Schmidt is a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a distinguished graduate of the AY 19 resident class at the U.S. Army War College. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has served in staff, and command positions throughout the DoD including Headquarters Air Force, the Joint Staff, the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and United States Strategic Command, where he is currently the Director, Human Capital Directorate (J1).

Rick O’Donnell was previously the Director Landpower Concepts, Doctrine and Wargaming at the Center for Strategic Leadership. He is a senior analyst for the Emerging Concepts and Doctrine Department at the U.S. Army War College. He is a retired U.S. Army Colonel.

Greg Hillebrand is an assistant professor in the Center for Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College. He previously served as a military analyst in Space and Cyberspace as well as a faculty member in the Department of Military Strategy, Planning and Operations. His Air force career was primarily focused in the space and missile operations community.

Buck Haberichter is the Managing Editor of the War Room.

The views expressed in this presentation are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force or Department of Defense.

Photo Credit: City photo created by vanitjan – www.freepik.com



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  1. In this podcast — re: “leadership development” — a deficit of “strategic thinking” is mentioned.

    Based on the information that I have provided at my comments to the initial podcast “LEADERSHIP 2040: A PATHWAY TO THE FUTURE EP 1 — wherein I suggested that Russia and China’s grand strategy versus the U.S./the West today looks more like (a) “containment” and “roll back” and, therein, (b) the utilization the element of a nation’s “national power” known as “conservatism;” this, to achieve these such “containment” and “roll back” strategic goals —

    Based on these such matters, might we have an exercise in which — given the information that I have provided above — our students are tasked to:

    a. “Defeat these enemy strategies” and, thereby,

    b. “Win without fighting?”

  2. Let me attempt to take on my own challenge above.

    In this such effort — to “defeat our enemies’/our competitors’ (in this case “containment” and “roll back”) strategies” and to, thereby, “win without fighting” — in this such effort, let me first acknowledge that:

    a. Given the “revolutionary”/”change” nature of our own political objective (our goal is to transform — as necessary on a case-by-case basis — the political, economic, social and/or value order of the states and societies of the world — to include our own such orders here in the U.S./the West — this, so that same might be made to better interact with, better provide for and better benefit from such things as capitalism, globalization and the global economy); given this such “revolutionary”/”change” nature of our own political objective:

    b. The more-conservative/the more-traditional/the more-no-change (and/or reverse already realized but unwanted change) elements of the states and societies of the world — to include these such elements here in the U.S./the West itself — these are our “natural enemies.” (Why? Because these such more-conservative, etc., elements of the world will certainly “resist” — and indeed will often even “fight and die” — rather than submit to necessary “change;” this, given that “change” — necessary or not — is the “natural enemy” of [a] the status quo and [b] those who rely on same for status, privilege, prosperity, safety, security, etc.)

    Given the scenario that I have presented above — here seem to be some of our options — that we might use in our efforts to (a) defeat our enemy/our competitors’ containment and roll back strategies and (b) defeat their use of the more-conservative, etc., elements of the world’s governments and populations — in these such containment and roll back endeavors:

    a. We can try to convince our both at home and abroad opponents/competitors — through various evidence and rhetoric — that the “changes” that we propose are both necessary and beneficial, even to them.

    b. We can reduce the extent of and/or the speed of the “changes” that we seek to achieve — if we believe that such will not cause us significant national security and/or prosperity harm.

    c. We can work more “by, with and through” our own “natural allies” in these such “change” efforts, to wit: the more-liberal/the more-modern/the more-pro-change” elements of both our own, and indeed the world at-large’s, governments and populations.

    d. We can attempt to “buy off,” and/or otherwise compensate in some manner, those more-conservative/more-traditional/more-no-change and/or reverse change elements of the world’s governments and populations — who will clearly be harmed by our such “change” initiatives. And/or:

    e. We can cause our military, police and intelligence forces (those both here in our own home countries and in our partner countries throughout the world also) to become sufficiently capable and robust; this, so that they might better “stand against” and “hold down” the more-no-change governments and populations of the world.

    These are some of my ideas. But we will be much more interested, I believe, in yours.

  3. With regard to “strategic thinking” and, this, as relates to our “revolutionary” goal of transforming the states and societies of the world (to include our own) — such that same might be made to better interact with, better provide for and better benefit from such things as of capitalism, globalization and the global economy — with regard to these such strategic goals, consider the following two matters:

    First, from Dr. Robert Egnell, a recognition that (a) our strategic goal is “revolutionary” in nature and, thus, (b) requires that we find a way to “achieve large-scale societal change through limited means:”

    Robert Egnell: Analysts like to talk about ‘indirect approaches’ or ‘limited interventions’, but the question is ‘approaches to what?’ What are we trying to achieve? What is our understanding of the end-state? In a recent article published in Joint Forces Quarterly, I sought to challenge the contemporary understanding of counterinsurgency by arguing that the term itself may lead us to faulty assumptions about nature of the problem, what it is we are trying to do, and how best to achieve it. When we label something a counterinsurgency campaign, it introduces certain assumptions from the past and from the contemporary era about the nature of the conflict. One problem is that counterinsurgency is by its nature conservative, or status-quo oriented – it is about preserving existing political systems, law and order. And that is not what we have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, we have been the revolutionary actors, the ones instigating revolutionary societal changes. Can we still call it counterinsurgency, when we are pushing for so much change?

    Dhofar, El Savador and the Philippines are all campaigns driven by fundamentally conservative concerns. When we are looking to Syria right now, it is not just about maintaining order or even the regime, but about larger political change. In Afghanistan and Iraq too, we represented revolutionary change. So, perhaps we should read Mao and Che Guevara instead of Thompson in order to find the appropriate lessons of how to achieve large-scale societal change through limited means? That is what we are after, in the end. And in this coming era, where we are pivoting away from large-scale interventions and state-building projects, but not from our fairly grand political ambitions, it may be worth exploring how insurgents do more with little; how they approach irregular warfare, and reach their objectives indirectly.”

    (See the Small Wars Journal article “Learning From Today’s Crisis of Counterinsurgency” — an interview by Octavian Manea of Dr. David H. Ucko and Dr. Robert Egnell.)

    Next, from LTG (ret.) Cleveland, GEN (ret.) Votel and others, a recognition that (a) achieving “revolutionary” goals requires (b) “courting,” and working more “by, with and through,” one’s “natural allies” in these such endeavors, to wit: the more-liberal/the more-pro-change elements of the world’s populations (and especially those such elements in the states and societies of our adversaries):

    “In the same way that the conventionally focused American way of war is defined by America’s technical and industrial capacity and technological edge, the American way of irregular war is tied to our notions of religious pluralism, democracy, and, above all, human rights. And although the American way of war protects us against near-peer powers and guarantees the lanes of global commerce, the American way of irregular war protects our way of life by both promoting our worldview and giving people the tools to realize the same opportunities that we have had. … ”

    (See the Introduction chapter to the Rand paper entitled “The American Way of Irregular War: An Analytical Memoir” by LTG [ret.] Charles Cleveland and Daniel Egel; therein, see the beginning at the last paragraph of Page 5.)

    “The Achilles’ heel of our authoritarian adversaries is their inherent fear of their own people; the United States must be ready to capitalize on this fear.” … “An American way of irregular war will reflect who we are as a people, our diversity, our moral code, and our undying belief in freedom.”

    (See the “Conclusion” chapter of the Rand paper “The American Way of Irregular War: An Analytical Memoir” by LTG [ret.] Charles T. Cleveland and Daniel Egel; therein, re: the first quoted sentence above — see the first full paragraph of Page 224 — and, re: for the second quoted sentence above — see the beginning of the past paragraph appearing on Page 225.)

    “Advocates of UW first recognize that, among a population of self-determination seekers, human interest in liberty trumps loyalty to a self-serving dictatorship, that those who aspire to freedom can succeed in deposing corrupt or authoritarian rulers, and that unfortunate population groups can and often do seek alternatives to a life of fear, oppression, and injustice. Second, advocates believe that there is a valid role for the U.S. Government in encouraging and empowering these freedom seekers when doing so helps to secure U.S. national security interests.”

    (See the National Defense University Press paper “Unconventional Warfare in the Gray Zone” by GEN Joseph L. Votel, LTG Charles T. Cleveland, Charles T. Connett, and Will Irwin; therein, see the fourth paragraph under the major section entitled “Doctrine.”)


    The U.S./the West’s ideas re: “religious pluralism, democracy, and, above all, human rights” (see my quoted item from the Introduction chapter to LTG [ret.] Cleveland’s Rand paper) — re: “our diversity, our moral code, and our undying belief in freedom” (see my quoted items from the Conclusion chapter of this paper) — and our ideas of providing relief from “fear, oppression, and injustice” (see my quoted item from the GEN Votel paper) — ALL OF THESE such national security ideas seem to have been “trashed” lately; this, in pursuit of more myopic and selfish goals.


    a. With U.S./Western statespersons and soldiers, thus, formally denied these such potent “idea weapons” today,

    b. How now do these such statespersons and soldiers proceed to achieve strategic goals; this, without this such critical “weaponry ?”

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