“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Whether they are mistakes, achievements, or anything in between, events from the past teach individuals and groups of people invaluable lessons. The problem is that people cannot experience themselves all these events; neither can they learn about them all. So they rely on analysis, conceptualizations, etcetera, which beyond historical collection of facts, constitute what are called theories. The wisdom that George Santayana captured in his famous quote, and that he stated with respect to human learning process, makes perfect sense in military matters.
Military theory is an evolving set of fundamental thoughts, ideas, principles and rules, that are related to military matters, such as soldiers, armed forces, weapons, war or peace, and that military leaders have to study all along their careers in order to analyze, understand, explain and eventually address the challenges they face. So as to establish this thesis, it is first necessary to consider and define both terms military and theory, individually and together, and to determine the dominant trends of thoughts in military theory. Second, it is required to explain how the purpose of military theory equals its utility, and why it is mandatory for soldiers to study military theory all along their careers. Finally, it is crucial to understand that military theory is the basis of any military doctrine, strategy, operational art, and subsequently of any military action across the range of military operation.
A theory can be defined as systematically developed assumptions, principles, and rules devised to analyze, predict or otherwise explain the nature or behavior of a specified set of phenomena. People have always struggled to understand and remember lessons learned from the past, generations after generations. Through an inductive approach, great thinkers, experts, or scholars capture this knowledge and conceptualize it, in order to explain and understand challenges of their times. They note significant facts and translate them into ideas and concepts. They pick out common patterns, main characteristics, and shape rules and principles, which are somehow easier to remember and which explain the phenomenon they investigate. This set of rules constitutes their theory, which obviously, is highly influenced by its subject.
In the Webster dictionary, military is defined as anything relating to soldiers, armed forces, arms or war. This definition focuses on warfare and therefore narrows the subject. Indeed, today, military matters are broader than the definition suggests. For instance, looking closely at recent military operations, we see that many of them dealt with peace. They are purposefully called peacekeeping, peace-making or peace-enforcement operations. Hence, peace seems related to the word military. On the other hand, since all the terms used in the definition are subject to evolution over time, the Webster implicitly...