Robert W. Tomlinson, "The Influence of Foreign Wars on U.S. Domestic Military Policy: The Case of the Yom Kippur War" (Lexington, 2022)


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How do military organizations learn? Robert W. Tomlinson's book The Influence of Foreign Wars on U.S. Domestic Military Policy (Lexington, 2022) covers an important instance of military learning in which the United States military systematically examined the lessons of Israel's decisive victory in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and applied those lessons towards major doctrinal and equipment changes. The book relies heavily on Paul Senge’s model of learning organizations outlined in his seminal work, The Fifth Dimension. Using Senge’s model, the book examines the Departments of the Army, Air Force, and Navy’s reactions to the Yom Kippur War and how they organizationally incorporated—or ignored—the lessons of the conflict within their force. Using source documents, including personal memoirs, doctrinal publications, and individual reflections, the book offers a vital examination of how militaries can use foreign conflicts to make substantive and necessary organizational changes. The Yom Kippur War, particularly the Israeli experience in that conflict, provided the American military a battle laboratory in which to develop new warfighting concepts and assess new weapons acquisitions. In its conclusion, the book offers a cautionary tale that suggests learning and change do not come automatically to military organizations. If they are to be successful in the future, military organizations must embrace learning structures.

Dr. Robert W. Tomlinson is an associate dean at the Naval War College.

The views expressed in this podcast by both participants are their own, and do not reflect the official position of any organization with which they are affiliated.

Sam Canter is a policy and strategy analyst, PhD candidate, and Army Reserve intelligence officer.

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