Gustavus Adophus, King of Sweden, is widely heralded in military circles as one of the greatest military commanders of all time. He is credited as the “father of modern warfare” through his innovative use of combined arms, the integration of multiple branches (in his day, infantry, cavalry, artillery, and reconnaissance) under a unified command, to achieve military success. He is less widely known for his role as the father of the modern military disciplinary/criminal code. Legal scholars commonly trace the British and American codes to Adolphus’ Articles of War of 1621. Though most prominent scholars credit him with inventing his military code from scratch, it is more likely, as others have proposed, that he should be credited instead for being a student of history and synthesizing centuries of efforts before his time into a disciplinary code that contributed to the transformation of a weak army into one of the most effective fighting force of its time.
Though no Gustavus Adolphus the Great, I became fascinated with the history of military discipline during my clerkship at the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. This only grew after I began to interact with military society through my role as a judge advocate. So, this blog serves multiple purposes for me.
First, it is an outlet for me to express my thoughts more frequently than through longer articles that I am not able to publish as often because of the demands my day job. It keeps me honest to keep reading, thinking, and writing. Second, the more I read, the more I’ve found that a wealth of articles in this area are not available through services such as Westlaw or Lexis. On more than one occasion, I have stumbled across an article incredibly helpful that did not show up on a search result because it was written before Westlaw or Lexis began digitizing volumes. The most current bibliography I’ve come across to date is from the 1970s, so I’ve begun to keep a running list on my own. This also applies to books in the area. There may be a central list somewhere, but I have not found it. Third, this blog is also simply an expression of my passion. I can share what I read, study, and think about the topics I am interested in.
One of these topics is military legal history. There are fascinating stories to be told about institutions within the military legal system and individuals that have shaped those institutions. Another is how the Constitution interacts with this system. The story of the Constitution and the military is complex and, at times, uncomfortable. It is somewhat unfinished business that deserves serious attention. Connected to this is understanding the assertion that military society is different and thus requires a different application of the law. What is this society? Why is it so different? How is it different? A third is holding up military legal practice to the light and examining it in light of its purpose, institutions, and history. And there are many more, to be sure.
In the end, I am a trained lawyer but merely an amateur student of history. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and I hope you will enjoy it and interact with me on this journey.