Frank Hoffman: The Distorting Prism of American Military Culture


Former Marine and current adviser to the navy department Frank Hoffman, who I believe is doing some of the most forward thinking on doctrine and strategy, spoke at the Army War College strategy conference I attended last week.

He talked about war’s evolving character and how American military culture can be a “distorting prism” on thinking about future war. Partly to blame is the American conception of war as a football field, with established rules, fixed time period, teams, combatants and non-combatants, and a clearly delineated field of play. Our enemies, however, don’t share that same “box” approach to thinking about war, he said. One of the worst things to happen after Vietnam was the military rushing into too narrow a box focused on operational art, ignoring wider war.

The famous in defense policy circles book, “Unrestricted Warfare,” written by a couple of Chinese military officers, critiques the too narrow American conception of war. He worries the “mental frequency bandwidth” of the American military on conceptualizing future war is too limiting and the Chinese will exploit it.

To which, counterinsurgency advisor Conrad Crane, speaking on the same panel, added that there are two types of warfare: asymmetric and stupid.

-- Greg

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