In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Military Science

  • Introduction
  • Military Strategy
  • Military Doctrine
  • Military History
  • Military Leadership
  • Conventional Warfare
  • Counterinsurgency Warfare
  • Humanitarian Interventions
  • Land Power
  • Sea Power
  • Airpower
  • Joint Military Operations and Combined-Arms Warfare
  • Force Structure and Planning
  • Arms, Logistics, and Technology
  • Civil-Military Relations

International Relations Military Science
Joseph Cerami, John David Young
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0052


Military science is a term that generally dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when many disciplines sought to discuss their ideas in terms of the emerging fascination with science and the scientific method. Contrasting views contend that war and the conduct of warfare remain arts, and imperfect ones at that. Nevertheless, the term “military science” is used here to outline the main topics in the literature on the military and warfare. Military-centered topic areas include strategy, doctrine, history, and leadership. The military-science literature addresses the different kinds of war and uses of military force. The kinds of wars, or more broadly, the kinds of conflict, include conventional and counterinsurgency warfare. More current concerns address the military’s role in humanitarian interventions, which have increased in quantity, scope, and priority since the end of the Cold War’s superpower rivalry. Post-9/11 attention has been more focused on terrorism and the proliferation and use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction. Traditional areas for the study of military science include developing an understanding of the role of military power that defines the purposes, role, scope, and primary operational areas of the armed services, including discussions of land power, sea power, and airpower. In military operations since World War I, the nature of combined arms warfare is emphasized, and in modern terminology, includes the joint military operations of land, sea, air, special operations, intelligence, space, and cyber forces. The influence of technology on warfare remains an important focus of study, as does the longstanding significance of arms and weapons-systems research and development, budgets and resource management, manpower, and logistics. For the United States and Western powers, as well as the armed forces of emerging democracies, the topic of civilian-military relations remains of critical importance.

Military Strategy

Military strategy in classic warfare involved the plan of the general and the employment of soldiers and sailors in battle. Paret, et al. 1986 and Handel 2001 provide insights on classic strategy. With the ascent of Napoleonic warfare, more attention was devoted to addressing the significance of campaign planning and logistics. Many of the tactical and operational innovations of Napoleonic warfare are reflected in the modern concepts of conventional warfare, including the German blitzkrieg and the US military’s AirLand Battle concept. Weigley 1977 is an account of the American way of war that addresses what is in some circles thought to be the traditional US military strategy of attrition, dating from Grant’s Civil War generalship. In the post–World War II era, the scope of military strategy incorporated the notion of total warfare and included new strategies for thinking about the possibilities of nuclear warfare as well as the relationship between the military and politics. In response to the critique of the United States in the aftermath of Vietnam, civilian and military analysts revisited the topic of strategy and reexamined the classical theorists and historians such as Clausewitz and Thucydides. Luttwak 2001, Gray 1999, and Collins 2001 place modern military strategy in the post-Vietnam and Cold War contexts. In the post-9/11 world, more attention is paid to what is commonly referred to as the “spectrum of conflict,” including and conventional and unconventional warfare, terrorism, and emerging transnational threats that have become issues of security and military strategy. Buley 2008 and Loo 2008 look at more contemporary issues of military strategy, including the notions of revolutions in military affairs, defense transformation, and current warfare.

  • Buley, Benjamin. The New American Way of War: Military Culture and the Political Utility of Force. London: Routledge, 2008.

    Buley discusses the old and new American ways of war. Then he looks at the impact Vietnam and 9/11 had on American strategy in Afghanistan; he concludes with a balanced critique of that strategy.

  • Collins, John M. Military Strategy: Principles, Practices, and Historical Perspectives. Washington, DC: Potomac, 2001.

    Collins describes the framework for thinking about military strategy and its fundamentals (including arms control and military preparedness). Part 3 focuses on special military strategies, such as biological warfare and terrorism. The entire work is a solid, cohesive look at military strategy.

  • Gray, Colin S. Modern Strategy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

    Colin Gray analyzes the writing of Clausewitz and newer strategists. This work also examines the political, ethical, and cultural aspects of military strategy.

  • Handel, Michael. Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought. 3d ed. London: Frank Cass, 2001.

    Masters of War summarizes the major themes of classic writers on war and other important factors in military strategy. Handel attempts to create a unified theory of war, including everyone’s thoughts.

  • Loo, Bernard, ed. Military Transformation and Strategy: Revolutions in Military Affairs and Small States. London: Routledge, 2008.

    The contributors argue that a revolution in military affairs is underway and examine its effects on strategy and operations. Part 3 discusses impediments to the transformation, including officers’ attitudes and organizational characteristics. The work specifically focuses on how the revolution in military affairs affects small-scale conflicts.

  • Luttwak, Edward. Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace. Rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001.

    Luttwak begins with examining the logic of strategy. Then, in his next section, he discusses several different levels of strategy—from tactical to theater—and includes thoughts on the nonstrategies of air and nuclear.

  • Paret, Peter, Gordon A. Craig, and Felix Gilbert, eds. Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

    The key military and technological innovations of the last five hundred years and their impact on strategy are discussed in this work, as are famous strategists and tacticians. Sections focus on the creation and expansion of modern warfare, followed by historical analysis, concluding with a look at the future of strategy.

  • Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977.

    Weigley’s work looks at major military leaders and their actions throughout America’s history. He discusses the strategies they used to achieve their goals. Focuses on conventional military operations.

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