Intentional Ignorance? – USAWC, PME, and Middle Eastern Theory and History

  • Lieutenant Colonel Shawn Leonard

Despite being engaged in the region for over 15 years, the United States Army War College does not offer a perspective on Middle Eastern thought regarding warfare. Yet the War College’s students—senior officers—continue to receive a Western-based foundation of strategic thought centered on the writings of Clausewitz and Jomini. This short survey seeks to explore the writings of the Islamic social scientist, Ibn Khaldun, who described the world’s first social cycle and the tribal phenomenon which fuels it, known as “asabiyyah.” Next, the paper focuses on two of Islam’s foremost commanders, Khalid Bin al-Waleed and Saladin, who demonstrate the innate Arab-turn-Muslim reliance on mobility and surprise to consistently defeat numerically and technically superior opponents. Finally, the paper offers a pedagogical recommendations section to further discuss the rationale for introducing these topics into the AWC curriculum. There are clear linkages between the concept of “asabiyyah” and the strategic acumen of Bin al-Waleed and Saladin to America’s contemporary adversaries throughout the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South Asia.