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From Moltke To Bin Laden: The Relevance Of Doctrine In The Contemporary Military Environment

For contemporary, Western military organisations doctrine serves as the basis of their members' intellectual unity and underpins their ability to identify and incorporate change. Doctrine is held in such high regard by military professionals that one senior officer termed it 'the heart of the army.'

While widely accepted now, doctrine did not appear until the mid-nineteenth century. Its origins lie in the Prussian Army, whose brilliant theorist Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke employed it with devastating advantage against similarly armed and organised European opponents. What is forgotten by contemporary military professionals is that doctrine in not a timeless tool of military thinkers but rather a construct of a particular time period and a particular interpretation of the nature of state-against-state conflict.

In the twenty-first century, when the challenge of asymmetric war and terrorism has overtaken conventional conflict as the primary threat, it is timely to question the continuing utility and validity of doctrine. Moltke to bin Laden postulates that the age of doctrine is coming to an end and suggests that military organisations should seek other more suitable mechanisms with which to guide themselves through the challenges of the future.

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