Magazine article Foreign Policy

60 Hew Strachan: For Asking the Generals: What Are You Doing with All Those Guns?

Magazine article Foreign Policy

60 Hew Strachan: For Asking the Generals: What Are You Doing with All Those Guns?

Article excerpt

Military historian | Britain

Hew Strachan may be an expert on World War I, but the Oxford University professor isn't stuck in the past. He has emerged as one of the world's preeminent thinkers on the character of modern warfare at a time when governments are confronting a host of new realities, from drones to cyberattacks to asymmetrical warfare. And he has the ear of top U.S. military officials. Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, is one of many to call himself one of Strachan's students.

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Strachan would tell you that war hasn't changed as much as we may think because states are still the primary actors in conflict. But, perhaps more than any other military scholar, he has pressed civilian leaders to think deeply about how they articulate strategy, while urging military leaders to wrestle with their role in implementing it. He argues that since the 1980s, the U.S. Army has had an ever freer hand in running America's wars, while opting out all but entirely from the crucial policy debates on whether and in what way to use military force. Conflict, Strachan writes, became "a policy-free zone, in which military expertise was unfettered and where armies reasserted their authority over war's conduct. …

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