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Prisoners of the Past, Preparing for the Future: The Influence of Institutions, Experience, and Culture on Military Adaptability by Jason Clark

  • Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building Oxford, OX1 3UQ (map)

This event is open to the public and a light lunch will be served outside the seminar room at 12.50pm.

Do politicians, generals, or events drive military change? This is the question underlying most scholarly studies of the subject, which tend to focus on top-down, formal processes in response to the desires of civilian policymakers, military reformers, or changes in the strategic or technological environment. Yet examining military institutions over longer periods of time suggests that, in fact, most change comes not about from deliberate efforts to adapt but as a consequence of bottom-up responses to the lived experience of armies—whether in operations or in barracks—and the influences of civilian society.  This insight is particularly critical in a post Iraq and Afghanistan era, for the evolution of the early U.S. Army suggests that military cohorts that developed in war are those least likely to adapt to future challenges.

J.P. Clark is an officer in the U.S. Army who is currently serving as an exchange officer in the initiatives group of the British Army’s Chief of the General Staff.  His past assignments include tank company command in the Republic of Korea, Assistant Professor of History at West Point, Executive Officer to the Commanding General of United States Division-North in Iraq, and Military Assistant for Strategy to the Secretary of the Army.  He holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in History from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree in Russian and German from West Point.  Later this year, Harvard University Press will publish his book, Preparing for War: Four Generations of the U.S. Army Amid Peace, War, and Change, 1815-1917.