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Vol. 3 No. 1 | AY 2015 - 2016
A 'Bastard' Feud...

A 'Bastard' Feudal State:

Governance by the Military Class

in Late Medieval England

Dr. Andrew Mark Spencer 

Two key facts about late medieval England: The kingdom had no standing army and was at war for most of the period between 1294 and 1485. Given these circumstances, it might seem ambitious to identify a role for the military of the time in a non-war environment.


Nonetheless, this peacetime role existed, and created a state of preparedness that was crucial to success when the kingdom went to war. Under ‘bastard feudalism’ the leaders of the army, trained in war and incubated in a thoroughly military ethos and culture, through their efforts in domestic governance, provided the stability at home and the financial and material resources which were as vital to the victories of the Hundred Years’ War as the much better known and remembered archers of Crecy and Agincourt.


This article will provide background into medieval military and landed society before tracing how the governmental role of this group increased alongside ‘bastard feudalism’ in response to the crown’s need to find the resources for war. It will then show how ‘bastard feudalism’ worked for king, nobles and gentry in tandem and how this, in turn, created experienced administrators who were able to support the war effort. 


‘Feudalism’ is a term synonymous with the Middle Ages. The feudal pyramid, with the king at the apex, his nobles and knights beneath, and peasants on the bottom, will be familiar to readers from their school days. ‘Bastard feudalism’, on the other hand, is less well-known and usually has currency only in academic journals. Both are highly controversial terms among medievalists and some even deny the existence of one or the other, or both. Most historians, however, would accept that, in England at least, there was a gradual transition from feudalism—where the principal means by which the king or nobleman rewarded his followers was through a permanent grant of land—to ‘bastard feudalism’—where rewards were primarily paid in cash payments. Where historians do not agree, however, is on the timing, causes and results of such a change...


As a longer article, this piece will only be offered in PDF format for easier reading. Download the PDF to read more.


Dr. Andrew Mark Spencer 

Dr. Andrew Mark Spencer is a College Lecturer in Medieval History at Christ's College of the University of Cambridge. His research interests focus on governance and warfare in the Middle Ages with particular emphasis on the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the development of 'bastard feudalism.' In 2013, Dr. Spencer published his book Nobility and Kingship in Medieval England: The Earls and Edward I, 1272-1307.

Moving East and...

Moving East and South:

U.S. Navy and German Navy Strategy in the Eurasian Theater 1991- 2014, A View from Germany

by Dr. Sebastian Bruns
(Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo/Public Domain)



The Cold War ended rather suddenly in 1991. With it went the model on which the United States’ maritime strategy of the 1980s had rested. Driven by individuals like John Lehman, President Ronald Reagan’s long-time Secretary of the Navy, that series of strategic documents promulgated a forward, offensive, counter-force approach and the famous ‘600-ship Navy’ force structure. 


With the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, the sole challenger to U.S. naval power vanished practically overnight. Red Fleet warships were rusting away in port or dismantled altogether. In the United States, the military lost significant human capital through a number of force reduction rounds, which reflected how the U.S. Navy could and would take on the post-Cold War world intellectually. In the wake of this strategic recalibration, allied militaries and their navies—such as the Federal German Navy, soon to be renamed German Navy—also underwent substantial transformations. These were often guided by the shifting geopolitical landscape as well as the popular desire to reduce the inflated defense budgets of Cold War days in order to obtain a peace dividend.


This analysis will focus on the Eurasian theater—very broadly speaking, the waters that surround the European and Southwest Asian landmasses[1]—in U.S. and German naval strategy between 1991 and 2014. The maritime sphere has become increasingly important as a domain of emerging security since the end of the Cold War, yet comparatively little time and resources are being devoted to research on naval strategy and relationships between allies at sea. As a result, the use of naval force for political and diplomatic ends and the dynamics of maritime geopolitics have suffered.


This essay seeks to underline the challenges that have confronted the U.S. Navy in the past generation and analyze their long-term effects. While the U.S. Navy’s geographic focus and operational interests have increasingly shifted from Europe to the Middle East and Asia, and from control of the “blue water” high seas to the littorals, these key interests should not be overlooked.


In the view of the author, the fall of the Soviet Union and the implication that allies like Germany would do more to patrol their own maritime neighborhood provided the U.S. Navy with a convenient reason to de-emphasize their previously highly valued naval hub in the Mediterranean Sea. In rebalancing from the Sixth Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) to other regions of the world, the U.S. Navy accepted the consequences for fleet design and ship numbers, perhaps willingly using it as a bargaining chip for force reduction rounds in Washington, D.C. Implicitly, European allies and the U.S. Air Force[2] were expected to fill the gap left behind in terms of naval presence and crisis response, in particular after the successful campaigns in the Adriatic Sea in responding to unrest and war in the Balkans. European allies, however, were largely uninterested in stepping up to the plate; they considered their near abroad safe enough. Most importantly, they were somewhat wary of delivering a combined ‘pocket Sixth Fleet’ of their own. Finally, they were preoccupied with managing German unification, enlargement of the European Union, and establishing a common market and currency, among other things. Accordingly, this paper sheds a light on some key German strategic documents for a time when the reunited country sought its new place in the security environment of the post-Cold War world.  


By taking a unique view from Germany, one of the U.S. Navy’s premier NATO allies, this analysis also considers the transformation of the Bundesmarine from an escort navy to an expeditionary navy.[3] It seeks to conceptually explain how Germany’s security policy addressed the maritime challenges of the new era. The German Navy was principally drawn south- and eastward geographically after 1991, usually in close cooperation with other allied and friendly navies (and mandated by NATO, the EU, or the UN).[4] It was increasingly asked to address maritime security challenges to which the U.S. Navy no longer, or only in a supporting role, responded. The German Navy went into the breach with what were essentially Cold War assets and a mindset fundamentally dominated by the inability to think strategically.


This paper is split into two sections. The first section discusses the 1991-2001 timeframe and the second section covers the period from 2001-2014. 2001 marked the inauguration of President George W. Bush in January and the terrorist attacks on September 11 eight months later. Each section looks at the strategic developments of the U.S. Navy and the German Navy, their major naval operations, and some areas of cooperation between the two navies in Eurasia...


As a longer article, this piece will only be offered in PDF format for easier reading. Download the PDF to read more.



[1] The Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the Arctic Sea, the (Eastern) Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea, the Arabian Gulf, and the (Western) Indian Ocean.

[2] Peter Swartz, email to author, 04 September 2015.

[3] Chiari (2007), pp. 127-139.

[4] White Paper on the Security of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Situation and Future of the Bundeswehr 1994


Dr. Sebastion Bruns 


Dr. Sebastian Bruns directs the Center for Maritime Strategy & Security at the Institute for Security Policy (University of Kiel Germany). This paper was prepared for the McMullen Naval History Symposium, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD (September 2015) for the section From Interregnum to Rivalry: U.S. Navy Strategy in the Post-Cold War World, 1991-2014. Abbreviations and acronyms are explained in the appendix.

The Bypass: Ah...

The Bypass:

Ahmad Chalabi, Dick Cheney and the Disbanding of the Iraqi Army

Michael Wackenreuter
(Lisa M. Zunzanyika/USAF/DOD 040223-F-0881Z-001)

On March 12, 2003, a week before the invasion of Iraq, a Principals Committee meeting of the National Security Council was held at the White House to formally decide the fate of the Iraqi Army.[1]  The participants, having all received extensive briefings on the subject prior to meeting, voted unanimously and with little discussion that after disbanding the Republican Guard, the “regular soldiers” of the Iraqi Army would be called “back to duty.”[2]  In spite of this decision, on May 23, 2003, L. Paul Bremer III—President Bush’s “special envoy” in Iraq—announced Coalition Provisional Authority Order No. 2, “Dissolution of Entities.”  Among the relevant entities to be dissolved by the decree was the Iraqi Army.[3]


In an interview with the journalist Robert Draper at the end of his presidency, President Bush commented on this apparent dissonance when he remarked, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”  When asked further of his reaction when he found out about the decree, Bush replied, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’”[4]  Having endured significant criticism over CPA Order No. 2, Mr. Bremer was quick to defend himself, providing letters to The New York Times to and from the president “in order to refute the suggestion in Mr. Bush’s comment that Mr. Bremer had acted to disband the army without the knowledge and concurrence of the White House.”[5]


Such a puzzling exchange over such an important topic serves to illustrate a larger point.  That is, despite its centrality to America’s involvement in Iraq, from the emergence of the insurgency onward to its current conflict with ISIS, it still remains unclear how and why the decision to disband the Iraqi Army was made. 


In this paper, I demonstrate that the impetus for CPA Order No. 2 came from the prominent Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, and was carried out under the authority of Vice President Richard “Dick” Cheney by a small group of Chalabi’s supporters in the Office of the Vice President and the Pentagon.  I do so first by establishing the lengths to which those in the vice president’s office, in concert with like-minded officials at the Defense Department, were willing to go in order to support Chalabi, who favored disbanding the army.  Secondly, I identify the striking similarities between the events surrounding the order and other instances involving the vice president that involved a bypass of the normal interagency policy-making process... 


As a longer article, this piece will only be offered in PDF format for easier reading. Download the PDF to read more.



[1] The Principals Committee of the National Security Council serves as the senior interagency forum for consideration of policy issues affecting national security.  It is composed of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Chief of Staff to the President, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (who serves as chair).  The purpose of the particular meeting referenced was to decide on several matters related to postwar Iraq, including De-Ba’athification and the Iraqi Army.  “National Security Presidential Directive 1: Organization of the National Security System.”  Federation of American Scientists, February 13, 2001. 

[2] Kaplan, Fred.  “Who Disbanded the Iraqi Army?”  Slate Magazine, September, 7, 2007.

[3] Gordon, Michael R. “Fateful Choice on Iraq Army Bypassed Debate.”  The New York Times, March 17, 2008. 

[4] Andrews, Edmund L. “Envoy’s Letters Counters Bush on Dismantling of Iraq Army.”  The New York Times, September 3, 2007. 

[5] Andrews, Edmund L. “Envoy’s Letters Counters Bush on Dismantling of Iraq Army.”  The New York Times, September 3, 2007.


Michael Wackenreuter 


Michael Wackenreuter is a candidate for a MALD at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Prior to his graduate studies, he served in the United States Army as an Infantryman for three and half years, and in that capacity deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. Mr. Wackenreuter received his undergraduate degree from Tulane University.

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