Small Wars Journal

FM 3-0: Operations on the Cusp of Postpositivism

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Complex operations require complex mental models. Our traditional model for developing and disseminating professional military knowledge has been tied to a kind of pseudoscience and as such doctrine has historically been akin to finding independent variables (e.g., variations of offensive and defensive activities), that when scripted correctly, are believed to create military effectiveness (with the dependent variables include variations of enemy outcomes, such as defeated or destroyed). The eighteenth century tradition of the Western positivist world view demands a single, best solution -- derived "objectively" from the best analysis and best course of action that together drive effects in a focused, Jominian-style pathway. We are on the cusp of shifting paradigms because a doctrine based in positivist philosophy is not working well for us. The text of the new Army FM 3-0, Operations, is an example of how the Army-at-war is transitioning from a positivist to a postpositivist philosophy.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Paparone is a retired US Army Colonel who served in various command and staff positions in war and peace in the continental United States, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Bosnia.  He is a graduate of the US Naval War College and received his PhD in public administration from The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg. He has published numerous articles, book chapters, and in 2013 published a Bloomsbury book titled The Sociology of Military Science: Prospects for Postinstitutional Military Design.  He considers himself a burgeoning "critical military epistemologist" and will feature an article on CME in a forthcoming Journal of Military and Strategic Studies special issue.