The ‘Maneuver Warfare’ ConceptPosted on July 17,2019
Article Date Apr 01, 1981
by Capt G. I. Wilson
The term “maneuver warfare” is finding its way into the vocabulary of Marines and is appearing more frequently in journal articles. Several recent articles in the GAZETTE have touched upon the aspects of maneuver war and are discussed herein. Although the concept of maneuver warfare is not a current development in military thinking, it holds promise of fostering a dramatic reconceptualization of the “style” of modern day warfare. What is involved is really a question of maneuver warfare versus firepower-attrition warfare. Interest in the maneuver style of warfare is being generated by the increased likelihood that Marines will engage an adversary numerically superior in personnel and equipment.
What does maneuver warfare mean to the Corps? What does the maneuver style of war hold in store for Marines? These questions were best addressed by William Lind in his GAZETTE (Mar80) feature, Defining maneuver warfare for the Marine Corps. Lind’s presentation should be read, reread, and weighed carefully by all Marines both Regulars and Reserves, for the concept of maneuver warfare may be the very essence of the Corps’ future. The firepower-attrition approach with its “artillery conquers and infantry occupies” thinking cannot be employed effectively in scenarios where the enemy has numerical and materiel superiority. What, then, is this “maneuver warfare” concept that offers the most viable alternative to firepower-attrition concepts?
The key element of maneuver warfare is the disruption and disorganization of the enemy rather than a fixation with the kill-this-and-kill-that syndrome. The maneuver style of war is more psychological in its destruction of the enemy, whereas firepower-attrition war is more physical. With maneuver warfare, the precept is to create for the enemy as many unanticipated and threatening situations as possible, while at the same time seeking out tactical advantages on the battlefield. This seeking out of advantages will require the use of opportunity tactics coupled with bold aggressive action and individual initiative. Marines employing maneuver warfare concepts will have to possess the capability to go anywhere on the battlefield they, choose, creating a myriad of rapid, unexpected, and threatening events for the enemy as they go.
By creating a rapid sequence of unanticipated multiple events to which the enemy cannot react effectively or keep up with, the enemy’s cohesion is shattered. The enemy perceives he has lost control and becomes the victim of disruption, confusion, and disorganization. This rapid chain of unexpected events, which the enemy finds impossible to cope with effectively, is in concert with the “Boyd Theory” as described by Lind in his previously mentioned article.
In addition to creating this turbulent environment which overloads the enemy’s “observation-decision-action cycle,” maneuver warfare requires that reserves be used to reinforce success and exploit opportunity tactics. To accomplish this the combat commander (especially at the lower unit level) will need to have the ability to take well calculated risks when the opportunity arises. Maj W. C. Fite’s prize article in the GAZETTE (Sep80) addresses this very matter of calculated risks when writing about the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF):
Gen Ariel Sharon’s crossing of the Suez Canal in the October War of 1973 is an excellent example. Sharon’s actions are still debated even in Israel, where calculated risk-taking is almost an art form; however, it is difficult to argue with success. A week after crossing the canal the Israelis had surrounded and isolated the Egyptian Third Army of 300 tanks and 20,000 men. No gambler wins all the time, but the IDF has demonstrated that bold, unexpected moves can bring success against seemingly great odds. Israeli leaders dare to make the moves. We should note, too, that although the IDF has not been fettered by careerism, no nation has shown more concern for its own war casualties than Israel. Though inhibited, they continue to take risks because they know the value of surprise and they know that caution can be very costly to the side with fewer numbers.
However, as Maj Fite observes, this “dare to risk” approach is all too often dampened by careerism, and being careful becomes paramount:
A critical difference in the two systems, however, is that advancement in the IDF is based largely on initiative and competence in battle; in the U.S. Armed Forces a clean or “zero-defects” record may be the most common criterion for promotion. The importance of a nearflawless record of performance in the Fleet Marine Forces is greater than for other duty and greater still for performance while commanding in the Fleet Marine Forces. Our officer-assignment policy allows only brief, widely spaced opportunities to command in the Fleet Marine Forces, and command in combat is rarest of all. The message is clear to many; BE CAREFUL!
As a consequence of the “be careful” mentality, Marine officers may run the risk of nurturing a bureaucratic mindset. Training today is conducted within a bureaucratic/political structure with all its governmental and environmental regulations. It is quickly perceived that whatever keeps the political/bureaucratic structure tranquil in training is also acceptable in combat. This bureaucratic/political compliance may prove disasterous for some. Suppose a Marine is restricted from digging a fighting hole in training for fear of disturbing some endangered species, the consequence of which would be an environmental violation. That same Marine in combat may fail to construct an adequate fighting hole. The “endangered species” at that point would be the Marine. The bureaucratic structure unwittingly undermines the efficiency of military training. Josiah Bunting in the September 1980 issue of Harper’s magazine accentuates this bureaucratic barb when writing of Marine boot camp training:
Only in combat can the efficacy of a military training program possibly be proved, but even then the connection between recruit training and disciplined enterprise can be inferred only tenuously. Boot camp cannot instill valor. It can at best habituate a young Marine to a certain kind of stress (that which approximates the erratic, capricious, wildly oscillating stresses of combat); but it is just this kind of stress that, paradoxically, the dogged rationalization of all aspects of boot camp at Parris Island, imposed by the reforms, has removed from training.
The military officer who becomes a product of the bureaucratic training and political compliance will be conditioned to cover his “six” with a paper trail. At the very best in combat, he will probably be reluctant “to dare to risk” maneuver warfare. And even worse, bureaucratic training and political compliance may have made it all but impossible to distinguish a competent commander from an incompetent one without the existence of combat.
In addition to the bureaucratic and political environment, careerism has restricted real leaders, eliminated strategists, and made management supreme. More often than not, Marine leaders generally end up managing Marines and leading things, when in fact they should be leading Marines and managing things. The management approach does lend itself to a degree of efficiency, but inevitably the conflict of managerial efficiency versus combat effectiveness emerges. What generally occurs is managerial efficiency deteriorates combat effectiveness. Our present day dilemma is best summed up by Dr. Edward Luttwak of Georgetown University: “We end up with gross materials to fight stupid.”
To be effective in combat, where a Marine unit will likely be pitted against an adversary with a preponderance of combat power, may require the adoption of the maneuver warfare concept. The characteristics of the battlefield of the future will include great speed and destruction; see-and-hit weapons of extreme accuracy; and lightweight, highly mobile weapon systems. Freedom of movement on the battlefield will be enhanced, and distances will become less important with advances in technology. To cope with the characteristics of future battlefields, it may be necessary to consider an alternative to the firepower-attrition style of warfare. The answer will be maneuver, for firepower-attrition will not measure up to the challenge.
Does the Corps lend itself to the maneuver warfare concept? Yes, it does, given its fairly small size, flexibility (land, sea, and air capabilities) and present technology favoring lightweight, highly mobile weapons. When considering maneuver war in terms of the Corps, attention should also be directed to the areas of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, command and control, combined arms, EW, air assets, NBC, mines, countermine measures, and flexible logistical systems.
Undoubtedly flexible logistical systems will be an essential and extremely important aspect of the maneuver warfare concept. The fast pace of future battle arenas will demand expeditious logistical support as events develop spontaneously. Capt R. C. Stout emphasizes the logistical aspect of warfare in the GAZETTE, Nov80:
Marines must recognize that the logistical dimension of warfare is, at least, on an equal footing with the operational, technological, and social dimensions. If we are to suceed in future combat, the Marine Corps’ logistics system must be maintained, and specialized, highly qualified, logistics officers must be available to cope with the vast array of problems that occur in this area.
There cannot be any doubt of the tremendous importance of the flexible logistical dimension of maneuver war.
The officer corps will need to possess this same flexibility in its thinking. For the maneuver warfare concept to be effective, a reeducation of our officers will be necessary. Col J. C. Studt touched upon this when he wrote (GAZETTE, Jun80) of Lind’s remarks:
Mr. Lind’s article on maneuver warfare in the March GAZETTE was brilliant and thought provoking . . . I’m struck with the magnitude of what he is suggesting, which is far more than merely shifting emphasis from firepower-attrition to maneuver tactics. He is proposing a dramatic reeducation of our officer corps to develop a much higher level of self-reliance, individual initiative, and creative thinking which will result in flexible command on the battlefield.
Along with flexible command and logistics, the need to develop the Marine’s ability to perform independently on the spur of the moment and use his individual initiative will be indispensable in the scheme of maneuver warfare. Combat commanders will have to use initiative, aggressively seize opportunities, and issue mission type orders to subordinates to impose a turbulent environment on the enemy. Once the enemy perceives that he can no longer influence the action effectively, he is beaten. This is often more psychological than physical. Yet, the nemesis of maneuver warfare may be the micromanagement of the bureaucratic training structure. LtCol D. J. Myers bracketed the problem (GAZETTE, Nov80):
The modern battlefield more than ever requires leaders at all levels to exercise initiative and aggressiveness. Leaders who are not allowed to practice this in peacetime will not know how to do it in war. They will await orders because that is what they have been trained to do.
With the Corps deploying units to various parts of the world and the increased probability of Marines facing a numerically superior force, maneuver warfare may offer the only substantial hope of success in combat. It will be up to the individual Marine leader to act immediately upon receipt of mission type orders. The concept of maneuver warfare is generally thought of in terms of armor and this can be misleading. Maneuver warfare can be applied to the infantry. Mechanization alone does not necessarily mean maneuver warfare. It is important to remember what William Lind considers a key to comprehending maneuver warfare:
A key to understanding maneuver war is to realize that not all movement is maneuver. Maneuver is relational movement. Maneuver is not a matter simply of moving or even of moving rapidly. Maneuver means moving and acting consistently more rapidly than the opponent.
Moreover, maneuver warfare can logically be applied to the Corps’ amphibious capability. There are third world scenarios where an amphibious projection of combat power within a maneuver warfare concept would prove extremely valuable, even if only deterrent in nature. Gen Barrow in the AFJ (Nov80) pointed out the following:
True usefulness of amphibious capability begins with the deterrent aspects, even from the day of loading out. Because there’s no accurate forecast of where you’re going and what you’re going to do, and there’s no dependence on bases and overflight rights that require your commitment to be one that you can’t call back. The deterrence aspects of being in a given region or nearby a scene of some crisis merits better understanding. A decision to conduct an amphibious operation is always done with a full understanding that you’re going to have air superiority, and that you’re going to land in a place and time of our choosing, not the enemy’s. You do not choose to land where he’s strongest-you choose to land where he is weakest and where he’s less likely to reinforce quickly.
The Marine Corps must anticipate combat against forces steeped in Soviet doctrine, superior in numbers and materiel, and with logistical support near at hand. Even though outnumbered, Marines can with the maneuver warfare concept exploit the enemy’s vulnerabilities and win decisively. The time is now for actively accepting, teaching, and training for maneuver warfare. What is desperately needed is a doctrinal publication on maneuver warfare, a manual of maneuver warl To be sure, the Marine Corps does succinctly address maneuver warfare in Operational Handbook (OH) 9-3A, Mechanized Combined Arms Task Forces. However, the treatment of maneuver warfare is extremely brief, inadequate, and isolated from the rest of the text. OH 9-3A does contain the necessary “nuts and bolts” and “how to” material to organize a MCATF. Where OH 9-3A fails is in its handling of the manuever warfare concept itself. What one ends up with is only half of the equation. A complete doctrine of maneuver war must be developed. In conjunction with the development of a maneuver doctrine and publication, serious consideration needs to be given to the wheeled combat vehicle and the permanent integration of Marine infantry with tracked vehicles (LVTs). The development of “formulas” and “rules” for maneuver war, however, must be discouraged. Such an approach to maneuver warfare would serve only to impede the initiative of combat commanders at the lower unit level where initiative is needed most in the doctrinal scheme of maneuver war.
The psychological barriers of “play it safe,” “be careful,” and “avoid obvious risk” are significant and pose the greatest threat to doctrinal acceptance in the immediate future. There is a “clear and present danger” that Soviet expansionism will attempt to profit from the turmoil in the Third World and that U.S. national interests will be severely threatened. We can no longer afford to wait to develop an effective maneuver warfare capability. We need it now. Let’s get on with it!
>>>Editors Note: Col John E. Greenwood
At least a partial answer to Capt Wilson’s call for more comprehensive maneuver warfare doctrine will be found in a new instructional booklet just published by the Education Center at Quantico for student use and field consideration.
ECP 9-5 Marine Amphibious Brigade Mechanized and Counter-mechanized Operations, which was approved by MajGen B. E. Trainor on 20 January 1981, is subdivided into three main chapters. Chapter 1 deals with the initial employment-the ship-to-shore movement and establishment ashore-of a mechanized force of MAB size. Chapter 2 discusses how the mechanized MAB would defend the force beachhead. Chapter 3 covers offensive operation.
A listing of a few of the principles stressed throughout the manual will serve to indicate the extent to which maneuver warfare concepts are incorporated:
- The primary objective of the force employed must be the destruction of the enemy’s combat cohesiveness. (High priority is to be given to destroying enemy air defense units, engaging enemy command and control elements, separating enemy infantry from his tanks, and attacking combat service support elements.)
- The enemy must be exposed to the full combined array of our weapons and potential threats. Stereotyped operations must be avoided.
- The commander must anticipate battlefield chaos and be prepared to maneuver in spite of it. He must be able to mass und disperse his forces quickly and react rapidly to the changing situation.
- Command and control must be decentralized at all levels and maximum reliance placed on mission orders.
- Commanders, their control elements, and many service support elements must be as mobile as assault elements.
Numerous other principles thrust in the same direction as the examples above. Although the text runs only to 37 pages, it is an extremely good treatment of maneuver warfare concepts and suggests in a tangible, realistic manner how they might be employed in Marine amphibious operations.
By LtCol Michael D. Wyly
I receive a disquieting signal whenever I hear a briefing on a Marine Corps exercise that uses the computer, TWSEAS (Tactical Warfare Simulation, Evaluation and Analysis System), to measure the would-be casualties. It is that perhaps we have lost sight of the important measure of good tactics. We seem to be focusing on the wrong thing. The signal comes whenever I hear an officer saying, “our air strike will attrite their armor” or “our forces have been attrited.”
The problem is one of both English and tactics. To try to make a verb out of attrite, which cannot be properly used as such,* is ineffectual (and discordant!). But the disquietment comes with the realization that the officer’s tactical sense may be equally ineffectual. We may have to live with bad English, but bad tactics will kill us.
“Attriting the enemy” too often becomes the central activity toward which every effort is directed. Tactics are ineffectual when they focus on the wrong objective. After all, a force that is attrite but full of tenacity and wisely employed is more formidable than an opposing force, fresh, without attrition, but timid and unwisely employed against a poorly selected objective.
Attrition is not even relevant to winning or losing. It is but one of many factors that bear on the course of war. Our war games should focus on meaningful things, such as destruction, not attrition. We destroy the enemy when we destroy his will to resist. We will need much more than attrition to destroy his will, unless he is woefully short on resolve.
The computer is a valuable tool that can be adapted to measure the things that count in battle. Unless we can so adapt it, TWSEAS may well be a hindrance rather than a help in teaching tactics.
If we are amusing ourselves with bean counts of friendly and enemy casualties in our exercises, we are guilty of the same crime for which I blame commanders who ordered their troops to risk their lives counting dead enemy bodies in the Vietnam War. The name of the crime is waste. The count doesn’t mean anything. Where you strike the enemy does. By skillfully selecting objectives, you can throw him off balance so that he can’t pick himself back up. You can destroy him by attacking his command and control or his logistic lifeline. You cannot destroy him by attrition.
*Attrite is an adjective. It means “worn down.” It also has a meaning in Christian theology. An attrite spirit is remorse for one’s sins that arises from motives lower than that of the love for God. A contrite spirit is the perfect sorrow, i.e., remorse for having sinned against God.*
The key is concentrating on the right objective. When we attack our objective, we most certainly must in-flict casualties ruthlessly. We may have to accept as many casualties as we inflict. What counts is that we destroy the enemy in the right place and control something that he cannot do without. Then, when he is off bal-ance, we may exploit and pursue until he is defeated beyond recovery.
I wonder whether anyone supposes that the Soviet Union would be dis-couraged by attrition. If ever they are, it will be the first time in their history. If we are going to fight a war of attrition with the Soviets, we are not likely to win. Their population exeeds ours by more than 40 million.
How crucial is attrition to a U.S. unit? Is it important that we hook up a computer to find out whether our units will lose 10, 30, or 60 percent. Such statistics are helpful in planning for replacements; however, I submit that if such statistics preoccupy us, we are in trouble already. War means casualties. The next war will probably mean more casualties at a greater rate than the last one. We had best engen-der the spirit that will keep our of-ficers and men fighting, even when their ranks have been thinned.
Let us consider history. The Soviet Union lost 8.6 percent of its popula-tion, killed, in World War II. Some 13 percent of its population had been mobilized and 34 percent of those mobilized were killed. The Soviet Union did not lose its will to resist. Germany did. Germany’s casualties were lighter, whether you measure percentage killed or raw numbers. Germany lost only 5 percent of its population, killed. Of the 14 percent that was mobilized, only 31 percent died. In raw numbers, 3,250,000 Ger-man soldiers were killed in action or died of wounds, compared to 7,500,000 Russian soldiers, who met the same fate. No matter how you look at it, then, the Soviet Union, the winner, suffered more casualties than Germany, the loser. The statistics show that higher casualties do not mean defeat, even though I have made no attempt to point out that Germany’s somewhat lighter casual-ties were inflicted by British and Americans on the western front, as well as by the Soviets. Although Germany singlehandedly inflicted tremendous casualties on the Soviets, she failed to find and strike the decisive point. The Soviets’ will to win never faltered.
How do we Americans stand up under casualties? At Chosin, between 27 November and 15 December 1950, the strength of the 1st Marine Division fell from 25,473 to 19,520, a net loss of 5,953 men. Yet, these Marines’ will and resilience while fighting outnumbered stand to remind us of the real meaning of tenacity. On Guadalcanal the 1st Marine Division was, by December 1942, worn down by four months of fighting in the jungle. The tremendous expenditure of Japanese lives that figured in the process of inflicting attrition on our Marines was wasted, however, because the 2d Marine Division and the Americal replaced the 1st with fresh men and equipment. The Japanese could not sustain their operation. They finally evacuated the island, not because of attrition, but because they had lost control of the surrounding seas. They had been defeated at the decisive point. All else, as a result, gave way.
History bears out, then, that casualties have not led to American defeats. This in no way relieves a commander of the responsibility to conserve the lives of his men. He conserves them by attacking only against wisely selected objectives. In this way, the lives that are lost, are not wasted.
Did attrition defeat us in Vietnam? One thing is certain. Attrition did not defeat the North Vietnamese, who lost far more men that we did. Our Marines unquestionably had still the will to resist, right through the day of their departure. If attrition broke the American will at home, we ought to consider a bit of Napoleon’s philosophy. That is, never enter a war that you are unwilling to see through to its successful conclusion, even when winning means expenditure of resources. Great Britain made this mistake in 1775 when she began a war for those colonies, for which she was unwilling to expend the resources required to win.
If indeed, then, we mean to place great emphasis on the body count or how the computer “attrites” our forces, we probably should not be tampering with a thing so demanding as war. If we have become preoccupied with thought of attrition, we would be better off drafting our surrender instead of preparing to fight. For if we do not win, and we will not without being strong in the face of losses, then attrition will amount only to waste.
I use the term, body count, because I hope that it emphasizes the folly of the attrition game. I do not, however, mean that the folly of the game stops at counting bodies. Counting dead tanks, downed aircraft, or damaged artillery is equally misleading. In the 1973 War, Israelis repaired disabled Egyptian tanks and put them to use against their enemies. Likewise, German and British tanks changed hands between both sides in the North African desert in 1942. Our country’s abortive raid in Iran in 1980 failed as a direct result of our preoccupation with numbers of men and machines. The victory goes to the side that has the resilience to replace and repair its losses, or do without. It goes to the side that can use the enemy’s equipment against him and that knows where to strike to destroy the enemy’s will.
Nothing that purports to measure success in combat, no TWSEAS, no computer, no controller, no war game, is worth its cost if it ignores the value of surprise, deception, attacking the flank as contrasted against the front, striking weak points compared to strong. One should look intently at the value of an attack on the enemy’s command and control with electronic warfare, and the effects on us if he attacks ours.
Do we need to count casualties to learn how to employ economy of force? Of course not. You apply economy of force by keeping your reserves out of the battle until the decisive moment.
Napoleon said to find a single point, the decisive point, concentrating our power there to create a situation where the “equilibrium is broken and the rest is nothing.” Clausewitz said “in war, the aim is to disarm the enemy.” Sherman said to put the enemy “on the horns of a dilemma.” All three saw their principles applied against their enemies, whose forces crumbled. Let us use the war game and the computer, therefore, not to count casualties. Instead, let them help us to discover where the decisive point is, what disarms our enemy when denied him, and what dilemma can put him on its horns.
As for attrite as a verb, let us not politely discourage its use. Pounce on it. Jump up and down on it. Forbid its mention. And, destroy it.
By William S. Lind
MajGen Trainor’s article, New thoughts on war, Dec80 GAZETTE makes some good points. His warning against attrition warfare is particularly important, since many Marine officers seek guidance from Army FMs, which express a firepower-attrition doctrine. Some Marines may absorb a firepowerattrition mind-set from these FMs without realizing they are doing so.
However, a few questions do need to be raised about some of Gen Trainor’s views:
- The Initiative. If understood in terms of the Boyd theory-maintaining a more rapid observation-orientation-decision-action cycle than the opponent-the initiative is a useful concept. Gen Trainor clearly understands it in this way. But if we use the term “the initiative” to mean the Boyd cycle, we run the risk of being misunderstood. Some may understand the term in more traditional senses, such as keeping pressure on the enemy at all times, or maintaining the offensive. In those senses, Pickett had the initiative one afternoon at Gettsyburg and Haig had it at the Somme, which is not what anyone (including, I’m certain, Gen Trainor) is recommending. If we put new wine in old bottles, we risk having it mistaken for old wine.
- Intelligence. Intelligence is of course important, and Gen Trainor correctly notes it must go beyond the usual order of battle to include an understanding of the psychology and personality of the opponent. But every intelligence officer should have a sign on his door reading, “The more you depend on intelligence, the more vulnerable you are to surprise.” The key word here is “depend.” If you structure your operations plan, locate your reserve, and establish your center of gravity (Schwerpunkt) solely on the basis that intelligence says, “The enemy will attack frontally,” and he hits you in the flank instead, you may be in trouble. You need to structure both to take advantage of your intelligence and to maintain a high degree of agility to deal with/take advantage of the unexpected. The two requirements are often in tension, but that is why war is an art, not a science.
- Maneuver. I must disagree with Gen Trainor when he defines maneuver as “physically disposing the enemy at a disadvantage to himself and an advantage to us.” This definition is too narrow, in that it fails to portray maneuver as a continuous, psychological as well as physical process. It is also unclear, in that it could be read to mean, “maneuver is getting the enemy in a position most advantageous to my firepower, and least advantageous to his.”
Maneuver is best understood as a continuous process of change in both reality and appearance whereby the enemy’s actions and counteractions are rendered irrelevant in time and place. Both Gen Trainor’s definition and the definition of maneuver as getting into good firing positions are valid subsets of maneuver warfare, but they cannot be seen as its entirety.
- Combined arms. Let me here suggest some definitions: Combined arms is hitting the enemy with two or more weapons, systems or arms simultaneously, in such a manner that the actions he must take to avoid one make him more vulnerable to another. In contrast, supporting arms is hitting the enemy with two or more weapons, systems or arms in sequence, or if simultaneously, then in such a manner that the actions he must take to avoid one also protect him against the others.
Gen Trainor’s discussion of combined arms reflects the tendency in the Marine Corps to call both of these phenomena combined arms. This is even more evident at Twentynine Palms where the so-called “combined arms exercises” are focused on what I define as supporting arms. Yet the distinction between the two is critical, because from the opponent’s standpoint, they are very different. Combined arms puts the enemy on the horns of a dilemma, and is thus qualitatively different. It not. only increases his physical problems, it also pulls him apart psychologically. If Marines understand the difference between combined and supporting arms clearly (as some analysts believe the Soviets do), they will be in a better position to achieve true combined arms, and thus make more effective use of their firepower.
I must also disagree with Gen Trainor’s statement that, “battle itself must be sought, because war is a killing game . . . only physical punishment (will break the enemy’s will to resist).” This cannot be stated as a rule, because whether it is valid or not depends on the specific opponent. Some opponents will only break after being punished physically, but for others, being outmaneuvered may suffice. How successful would Rommel have been at Caporetto if he had followed a rule that said he had to force the Italians to fight? How often in the Chinese civil war did whole units change sides? War is not a killing game, it is a game to defeat the enemy, which may or may not require much killing, depending on circumstances.
- C^sup 3^. Gen Trainor has not addressed the dilemma facing C^sup 3^: better C^sup 3^ enables higher levels of command to be better informed and to exercise greater control, but maneuver warfare requires giving subordinate commanders greater latitude. We cannot use C^sup 3^, when it is available, to exercise detailed control of subordinates, then expect these same subordinates to operate independently, showing initiative, when it breaks down. And it is not clear centralized control is desirable even when it is feasible. We need to make a conceptual choice: centralized control through high-technology C^sup 3^, or mission-orders tactics. Gen Trainor presents both as a continuum. They are not; they are in tension, because commanders have great difficulty in giving subordinates sufficient latitude when the means of control are readily at hand.
Finally, I suggest there is a danger in saying, “superiority in the six factors of modern warfare will lead to victory.” The only formula for victory is to recognize there are no formulas. Everything must be relational to the specific opponent in the specific time and place. We can develop understandings of what generally leads to success, but not formulas or check lists. We must see tactics as a process, combining learned techniques with an educated understanding of the art of war, all applied in a unique way to the unique circumstance that is each opponent, each battle. This is not a prescription for a “gut reaction” approach to the battlefield, for a view that says, “since there are no formulas, each commander’s hunch is as valid as any other approach.” Rather, it is a call for education as opposed to rote training, for developing the “sense” for opportunities and enemy weaknesses so often shown by German commanders. Not every officer can do it. But as Gen Balck has remarked, “In the last analysis, military command is an art: one man can do it and most will never learn. After all, the world is not full of Raphaels either.”
By MajGen B.E. Trainor
True to form, Bill Lind has contributed to the dialogue on war in the modern world. I am grateful for Mr. Lind’s development of the thoughts expressed in my essay on the six factors of warfare. I view most of his comments as an extension of the essay rather than a contradiction. For example, there is nothing incompatible between “physically disposing the enemy at a disadvantage to himself and an advantage to us” and rendering the enemy’s actions and counteractions “irrelevant in time and place.” Likewise, the combined arms “factor” is meant to include more than supporting arms (hence my inclusion of EW). It is weapons plus technique of employment.
I do have a problem with Mr. Lind’s treatment of the C^sup 3^ “factor.” Good C^sup 3^ does not necessarily inhibit subordinate commanders, but it can prevent units running nilly-willy over the battlefield. As for my view that war is a “killing game,” I plead guilty to being a hostage of my Service. Marines never seem to fight enemies who capitulate when the rules of chess would so dictate. Until we do, I still think it’s wiser for an enemy to know that we intend to kill him, not psych him.