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Military Doctrine France between the Wars ~ Offensivemilitary doctrines threaten international stability.’ World War I vividly illustrates how a crisis can spark a major war that might have been avoided if the major players had had defensive rather than offensive doctrines. Similarly, throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Army’s offensive doctrine in Europe fueled the arms race and heightened threat perception. The choice between offensive and defensive military doctrines is at least as important now as during the Cold War. Although restructuring military doctrines along defensive orientations will not erase ethnic hostilities or suspend territorial appetites, it could remove one of the structural impediments to cooperation in the post-Cold War world. Yet an adequate explanation for why states choose offensive or defensive military doctrines remains elusive. Many scholars credit civilian policymakers with formulating doctrine wellsuited to the state’s strategic environment, and blame the armed services’ parochial interests for the sometimes disastrous choice of offensive doctrines.2 However, using illustrations from doctrinal developments in the French army during the 1920s and 1930s, this article challenges this portrait of the role of civilians and military in choices between offensive and defensive military doctrines. Even during times of increased international threat, I argue, the international system is indeterminate of choices between offensive and defensive military doctrines; civilians intervene infrequently in doctrinal developElizabeth Kier is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley I would like to thank Martha Finnemore, Iain Johnston, Susan Peterson, Alan Rousso, Jack Snyder, Steve Weber, and especially,Jonathan Mercer for their thoughtful comments and criticism. Thanks also to Cate Knapp for research assistance. An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., September 1993. 1. For discussions and debate about the destabilizing effects of offensive military doctrines, see Robert Jervis, ”Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics, Vol. 30, No. 2 (January 1978), pp. 167-214; Stephen Van Evera, “The Causes of War” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1984); and numerous articles in Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Steven E. Miller, and Stephen Van Evera, eds., Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War, rev. and exp. ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991). 2. Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany between the World Wars (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984); and Jack Snyder, The Ideology of the Offensive: Military Decision Making and the Disasters of 2924 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984); Inteniational Security, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Spring 1995),pp. 65-93 0 1995by the President and Fellows of Harvard Collegeand the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 65 International Security 19:4 1 66 ments; and most important, civilian concerns about the military’s power within the state often have the greatest effect on doctrinal developments. In addition, the French case highlights the analytical limitations of assuming that military organizations prefer offensive doctrines; concerns about increasing their size, autonomy, and prestige do not, I argue, drive doctrinal developments within the military. Not only do these goals have little to do with type of military doctrine, but military organizations often forfeit the attainment of these goals. This is true even in the case of the preference for greater resources. Furthermore, without civilian prompting, military organizations often ostracize those officers advocating a more offensive orientation, and willingly and dogmatically endorse defensive doctrines. In this article, I argue that choices between offensive and defensive military doctrines are best understood from a cultural per~pective.~ There are two parts to my argument. First, military doctrine is rarely a carefully calculated response to the external environment. Instead, civilian policymakers have beliefs about the military’s role in society, and these beliefs guide civilian decisions about the organizational form of the military. Civilian decision-makers must first address their concerns about the domestic distribution of power before they consider international incentives. These civilian decisions affect later doctrinal developments. Second, military organizations do not inherently prefer offensive doctrines: their preferences cannot be deduced from functional characteristics and generalized across all military organizations. Military organizations differ in how they view their world and the proper conduct...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 65-93
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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