Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Susan Woodward

Committee Members

Peter Liberman

Zachary Shirkey

Subject Categories

American Politics | Comparative Politics | International Relations


Military Doctrine, United States Army, Domestic Politics, International Politics, Bureaucratic Politics


The US Army made four significant shifts in the content of its capstone operations doctrine, Field Manual (FM) 100-5 / FM 3-0, along a spectrum of war since the end of WWII: 1) in 1954 it made a shift from a doctrine focused almost exclusively on mid-intensity conventional warfare to a doctrine that added significant emphasis to high-intensity nuclear warfare; 2) in 1962 it made an even greater shift in the opposite direction toward low-intensity unconventional warfare doctrine; 3) in 1976 it shifted back to an almost exclusive focus on mid-intensity conventional warfare content; 4) and this is where Army doctrine remained for 32 years until 2008, when it made a doctrinal shift back toward low-intensity unconventional warfare – five and seven years into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively. Did politics have an impact on any of these shifts? Understanding how politics might affect Army doctrine is important considering that the US Army is a doctrine-based military organization. Through this research, I examine whether and how domestic, international, and bureaucratic politics shaped or constrained Army doctrinal choice preceding these four shifts. I found that domestic politics had a minor impact on one shift and a moderate impact on two; that international politics had a moderate impact on one shift and a minor impact on two; and that bureaucratic politics had a significant impact on one shift, a moderate impact on a second, and a minor impact on a third. Overall, politics had more of an impact on the two earlier cases than the latter two, suggesting that as the Army began to rely more on doctrine from 1976 and beyond, that same doctrine may have served to insulate the Army from politics to some degree.