Wilson Center Experts

Brian McAllister Linn

Fellow
United States Studies

Expertise:
North America
;
United States
Affiliation:
Professor, Department of History, Texas A&M University
Wilson Center Project(s):
"War in American Military Thought"
Term:
Sep 01, 2004
-
May 01, 2005

In common with many historians, I have always been interested in how warfare and military institutions have shaped the past. Fortunately, as a graduate student at the Ohio State University, I found a mentor in Professor Allan R. Millett who encouraged my interest in American military history. My dissertation explored the dynamics of resistance and counterinsurgency during the U.S. conquest of the Philippines. My second book traced the origins and implementation of U.S. military strategy in the Pacific and the underlying causes of defeat in 1941. My third book was an operational history of the Philippine War that examined the conventional military operations and the ensuing guerrilla war.My decision to study the evolution of the American military's conception of warfare was catalyzed by three separate events. Teaching an undergraduate course on military thought reawakened a long-standing interest in the philosophical study of warfare and in the writings of all-but-ignored American military intellectuals. The second event was beginning a project entitled "Elvis's Army" that focused on the U.S. Army between Korea and Vietnam. Although declassification and cataloging issues persuaded me to delay this project, my research exposed me to the 1950s debate over nuclear weapons, military organization, and interservice cooperation. The third event was serving as a visiting professor at the Army War College during the 1999-2000 academic year. Daily interaction with officers in the seminar, and lectures from national security specialists and the senior military leadership, convinced me that most current military issues had their conceptual antecedents in the past. I was also struck by the intellectual polarization of those who sought to shape the nation's military policies. At one extreme were those driven by a desire to be progressive and forward thinking, who minimized any connection with the past. At the other were those who justified their prescriptions for current policies by often superficial and inaccurate references to historical precedents. It occurred to me that a book explaining how the American military had thought about war, how it had interpreted and reinterpreted past conflicts to prepare for future ones, and how its vision of warfare had shaped its preparation for future conflicts, would be of great help to the analysis of current issues. My recent writing examines various aspects of military thought and transformation. My 2002 article "The American Way of War Revisited" argued against the dominant paradigm that American strategists share a propensity towards annihilation, and suggested two alternative national visions of armed conflict. Another article on peacetime transformation in the U.S. Army postulated that many of the reforms that current analysts have cited as examples of transformation were actually conservative. At the Wilson Center I will continue to examine the intellectual antecedents to current American concepts of war. As with my earlier work, I intend to provide a historical context for the current and future understanding of American national security policy.
 

Education

B.A. (1978) University of Hawaii at Manoa; M.A. (1981) The Ohio State University; Ph.D. (1985) The Ohio State University
 

Subjects

Military Transformation,U.S. Military History
 

Experience

  • Professor, 1998-present; Associate Professor, 1995-98; and Assistant Professor, 1989-95, Texas A&M University
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Old Dominion University, 1987-89
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 2003-04
  • Harold K. Johnson Visiting Professor of Military History, U.S. Army War College, 1999-2000
  • Susan Louise Dyer Peace Fellowship, Hoover Institute on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, 1993-94
  • John M. Olin Fellowship in Military and Strategic Studies, Yale University, 1990-91

Expertise

U.S. History (Military)

Project Summary

This project explores the development of distinct American concepts of war, how the perceived lessons of past wars have become ingrained as doctrine, and how those concepts and lessons have shaped preparations for future conflicts. The study will examine the effect on military thought of such factors as technology, policy, and international developments. But it will also consider how new developments were assimilated within pre-existing intellectual frameworks, often contributing to their longevity. The resulting book War in American Military Thought will provide a bridge between scholars and the military, to show that the past may serve to help civilians understand the military, and the military to better understand itself.

Major Publications

  • The Philippine War, 1899-1902 (University Press of Kansas, 2000)
  • Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940 (University of North Carolina Press, 1997)
  • "The American Way of War Revisited" Journal of Military History 66, April 2002, pp. 501-30

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