The Essence of War and Military Doctrine: Military Realism and US Army Warfighting Doctrine from 1960 to 2008

Doctoral Dissertation


The question at the center of this dissertation is: Why do militaries change or preserve their doctrine? A new theory, Military Realism, is proposed to answer this question. Military Realism argues that major doctrinal changes are instituted by senior military leaders when the theories of victory and mission priorities of existing doctrine do not plausibly address the most dangerous threats. The degree of danger is based on the balance of relative material capabilities. Military leaders will make these changes independent of civilian intervention in doctrine. When civilian demands for doctrinal change are consistent with those underway in the military they will accelerate them. However, civilian intervention will not determine the essential characteristics of major doctrinal changes. Senior military leaders will also overcome bureaucratic preferences and the traditions of their military culture to implement the required changes. For instance, these leaders will design defensive, rather than offensive, doctrines despite bureaucratic and cultural preferences for offense. This dissertation tests the process and outcome predictions of Military Realism against a number of alternative explanations though US Army doctrine from 1960 to 2008.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07212014-221846

Author Peter Philip Campbell
Advisor Dr. Michael Desch
Contributor Dr. Sebastian Rosato, Committee Member
Contributor Dr. Dan Lindley, Committee Member
Contributor Dr. Michael Desch, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Political Science
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2014-07-15

Submission Date 2014-07-21
  • United States of America

  • grand strategy

  • counterinsurgency

  • military doctrine

  • inernational security

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

  • This dissertation has been updated and published as a book: Military Realism: The Logic and Limits of Force and Innovation in the U.S. Army (American Military Experience), University of Missouri (June 3, 2019), ISBN 978-0826221841

Departments and Units


Please Note: You may encounter a delay before a download begins. Large or infrequently accessed files can take several minutes to retrieve from our archival storage system.