Professors Joshua Rovner and Cmdr. Robert Flynn discuss the American War for Independence with students enrolled in the Strategy and War Course on Dec. 5, 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. John Ripley)

From Strategy and Policy Department
Dec. 6, 2012

NEWPORT, R.I. -- The third week of the Strategy and War Course examines the American War for Independence as a study in sea power, joint and combined operations, and irregular warfare.

An in-depth examination of this case is of the greatest importance in the education of American military officers because the war brought their country and military into being.

Through seminars and lectures covering the war, students in the course have the opportunity to study three different types of war at once.

The American Revolution was really a war within a war within a war. It featured an irregular or partisan war for the allegiance of the American people, while at the same time it was also a conventional war between the Continental Army under George Washington and a British army.

After the British defeat at Saratoga in 1778, the war evolved into a global conflict among the great European maritime powers that stretched beyond North America to include fighting in the English Channel, the Mediterranean, the West Indies, the South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean.

Moreover, the war is of operational interest because its decisive battle, the joint and combined operation of French and American forces at Yorktown, compels us to investigate the circumstances and conditions under which such campaigns are most likely to yield strategic results.

To help prepare the students for seminar, U.S. Naval War College (NWC) professors Charles Edel, Michael Pavković and Marc Genest provide lectures why the British failed and the Americans, the weaker power by any conventional standard, achieved their independence in a protracted revolutionary war that foreshadows many of the insurgencies against occupation forces of the modern era.

The concepts of irregular warfare and strategic communications are salient points to these lectures.

In keeping with the historical legacy of the NWC as a center for thought for the U.S. Navy, professor John Maurer provided the case study’s final lecture on Alfred Thayer Mahan. As a member of the faculty and president of the NWC in its early days, Mahan wrote his most famous book, "The Influence of Sea Power upon History."

By examining Mahan’s critique of British naval strategy during the war, we confront enduring strategic issues: geopolitics, commerce and the material foundations of strategy, naval preparedness, land versus sea power, naval concentration, when to risk a fleet, decisive battle, and the uses and limits of blockades.

Posted by Dan Marciniak
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