How to be a successful general: military decision-making in the 21st century’

Date/Time: Wed 15 Nov / 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Location: Building 11, Level 4, Room N402

School of Social Sciences (SoSS)

Politics and International Relations Seminar Series

How to be a successful general: military decision-making in the 21st century

Command has long been a major concern for military historians and security studies scholars. This paper analyses the transformation of command in the 21st century. It claims that in contrast to the 20th century, when forces institutionalised a relatively individualised system of command, command in the 21st century has become increasingly collectivised; as the span of command has increased, generals have distributed decision-making authority to subordinates who act as their agents, proxies and deputies. At the same time, command has also been collectivised by new bureaucratic methods. In order to increase the tempo and accuracy of decision making in a complex environment, the staff of divisional headquarters has instituted means by which they pre-digest and anticipate their commanders’ subsequent decisions. One of the methods which has been used is the ‘Decision Point’, a projected moment in the future when commanders will have to make a decision about the operation. In the planning process, the staff identify a series of ‘Decision Points’ when the commander’s input might be necessary, restricting his or her role to that of granting permission to pre-ordained courses of action. This transformation of military command has much wider implications for organisations and, indeed, political power more widely.

Professor Anthony King
specialises in the study of the war and the armed forces and is particularly interested in the question of small unit cohesion. His most recent publications include The Combat Soldier: infantry tactics and cohesion in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (Oxford, 2013) and (ed.) Frontline: combat and cohesion in the twenty-first century (Oxford, 2015). He is currently working on a new book on divisional command, supported by a research grant from the ESRC.

Wednesday 15th November

2:00pm – 4:00pm

N402, Level 4
Menzies Building
Clayton Campus

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