Would Patton or Montgomery be effective battlefield commanders in the twenty-first century? Does the changing character of warfare drive transformations in the ways in which senior officers exercise command of their formations? What explains the change from command as a traditionally individual endeavor to something that is best described as “collective command”?
Dr. Anthony King joins this episode of the MWI Podcast to discuss these and other questions. Dr. King is chair of war studies in the Politics and International Studies Department at Warwick University in the United Kingdom. He is also the author of the book Command: The Twenty-First-Century General. As he explains, the exercise of command should be understood as something that changes over time—something that looks substantially different today than it did for much of the twentieth century.
You can hear the full episode below, and if you aren’t already subscribed to the MWI Podcast, find it wherever you get your podcasts—Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app!
Note: This episode was originally released in 2019.
Image credit: Sgt. Michelle U. Blesam, US Army
From the near the very top of Page xiv of the Preface to Dr. Anthony King's referenced book "Command: The Twenty-First-Century General:"
" … Even within individual nation-states, a disaggregation of power is observable as government and individual departments operate through new configurations and alliances.
It is at this point that the wider relevance of this study of military command and especially a theory of collective command might become relevant. The army division is, in comparison to the nation-state or the EU, only a very small and simple organization. However, like those organizations, the process of globalization has forced a radical reconfiguration of it structure. In response to this new organization structure and the new operations in which the division has emerged, a new and highly professionalized practice of command has become institutionalized, which I call "collective command;" commanders have shared decision-making authority, integrating subordinates, staff and partners into the process of leadership. In particular, just as command has been distributed in an army division, so may political power be in the process of dispersion in the twenty-first-century state. The EU represents precisely this disaggregation and redistribution of authority and power. … "
Question — Based on the Above:
Is Dr. King stating here that:
a. Much as the demands of globalization "bleed" sovereignty and individual authority from nation-states —
b. Likewise the demands of globalization "bleed" sovereignty and individual authority from army division commanders?
If, in fact, Dr. King is suggesting that — much as globalization "bleeds" sovereignty and individual authority from nation-states (thus, requiring nation-states to work more cooperatively?) — likewise globalization "bleeds" sovereignty and individual authority from army division commanders (thus, causing more more "sharing" of authority to be required),
Then this would seem to beg the critical questions that I ask below, which are:
a. Exactly who are the "sovereigns" (the leaders of the nation-state and/or the nation-states themselves) actually working for today? (The global economy?) And, accordingly,
b. Who are the army division commanders of these such nation-states actually working for today? (Again, the global economy?)
With regard to the matters I have presented in my two comments above, might we also give consideration to the following — which is also from the Preface of Dr. King's book (which you can find on Amazon — see the bottom of Page xiv) "Command: The Twenty-First-Century General."
Herein, to note that I have modified — for clarity and emphasis — these such quoted items; this, with my "in parenthesis" matters also found below:
"Accordingly, although Farage and Trump exaggerate the pristineness of twentieth-century sovereignty (because our commitment to globalization and the global economy was, in fact, already "in force" by the 1980s), political leaders are certainly no longer in control of government in the way they once were. (Because of our commitment to globalization and the global economy), they must interact, collaborate and cooperate with other leaders internally and increasingly transnationally in order to achieve political goals. (Again because of our commitment to such things as globalization and the global economy,) they must form partnerships and networks. In this way, although their jobs are quite different, there is (again because of our commitment to such things as globalization and the global economy) a similarity between today's political leaders and their generals."
Thus, the above, again, begs the questions that I pose at the end of my second comment above?
The title of this podcast is "Command in Modern War."
In the introduction to this podcast (above), one of the questions asked is: "What explains the change from command as a traditionally individual endeavor to something that is best described as “collective command?” (I.E., "command in modern war?")
As an answer to this such question, in the Preface (you can find it on Amazon) to Dr. Anthony King's book "Command: The Twenty-First-Century" (to wit: the book upon which this podcast is based), the following ("globalization"-based/"global economy"-based" it would seem?) answer is given:
"Sovereignty, and therefore political power and authority, has become highly complex and diffuse in the twenty-first-century — and in the international order more widely. The international order is no longer Newtonian, consisting of only a few elements whose causal interrelationships are relatively simple and predictable. The EU and the global order itself have become a quantum political reality. … " (See bottom of Page xiii of the Preface.)
“It is at this point that the wider relevance of this study of military command and especially a theory of collective command might become relevant. The army division is, in comparison to the nation-state or the EU, only a very small and simple organization. However, like those organizations, the process of globalization has forced a radical reconfiguration of its structure. …" (See the first full paragraph at the top of Page xiv of the Preface.)
Note that — from the perspective provided above —
a. The reality of "collective command" (to wit: "command in modern war?") — and indeed the reality of "collective governance" (i.e. "governance in the modern era?") —
b. This seems to be tied up in the demands (and/or the ambitions relating to) globalization and the global economy.
Correction: The title of Dr. King's book is not "Command: The Twenty-First-Century" — but, rather — "Command: The Twenty-First-Century General. Apologies.