Leach, Ryan Thomas (2017-05). A Matter of Perspective: A Comparative Analysis of Field Grade and General Officer Lesson Learning. Master's Thesis. | Thesis individual record

The U.S. Army that emerged from the Cold War was largely an untested one, a condition which would quickly be altered by deployments throughout the 1990s. First in Panama, then in Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and elsewhere, the mettle of American soldiers, quality of the army's doctrine, and aptitude of its leaders would be tested in the crucible of combat. The results were not always flattering and often challenged officers' perceptions of the army, foreign policy, and the nature of future combat.

This thesis studies the lesson learning of field-grade and general officers in the U.S. Army during American's Small Wars of the 1990s. The purpose of this work is to identify and explain points of consensus and disagreement with and between the army's official histories, generals' memoirs, and professional publications of field grade officers. It is composed of three case studies in which the lessons of army officers are compared and contrasted. The first case study is an examination of the army's involvement in the invasion of Panama. The second case study explores U.S. involvement in Somalia. The final case study investigates the army's experience in Kosovo. It concludes that lessons learned by army officers were affected by their perspective which was a function of their generational affiliation and professional rank. Additionally, it concludes that U.S. Army's experience during the 1990s serves as a useful analog for understanding the challenges facing today's army. It recommends that senior army and civilian leaders should recognize that each generation has relative strengths and weaknesses to be harnessed and mitigated, and that that dissent and alternative viewpoints should be valued and encouraged - even in hierarchical organizations such as the army.

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