An Historical Application of the Principle of the Aim in the War.
A clear and simple example of the application of this principle in the operational strategy, we have in the campaign of Ulm. In May, 1805 broke out the war between France and the Third Coalition, formed by Russia, Austria and England, its promoter. The main body of the French army was deployed along the coast of the English Channel, preparing itself to invade England. But the threat for the French army in campaign, which was the real strategic aim in the Napoleonic wars (let’s remember that the occupations of Madrid, Vienna, Moscow, were not decisive), was arising in the East Europe, from the armies of the Russian and Austrian empires. In September, 1805 Napoleon moved his «Army of England» to the Rhine, deploying it between Mainz and Strasbourg and renamed the «Great Army». The Great Armée was formed by 145.000 infantrymen and 38.000 riders, joined 7 army corps. Each one at the orders of a French marshall, a great cavalry reserve, at the orders of the marshall Prince Murat, and the Imperial Guard, directly under Napoleon. To them 25.000 Bavarian allies were added.
Taking the initiative, as was habitual with him, Napoleon decides to give the first strategic blow against the army of 72.000 Austrians, which, at the orders of the general Mack and the archduke Fernand, son of the emperor Francis II, was advancing towards Ulm, without waiting for the arrival of the Russian help. Napoleon maneuvered his army corps in a centripetal spiral over Ulm. It supposes the joint action of all the means in his “lines of action”. Of the «branched out» activity of all the units and the services, not necessarily coincidental in the time, but convergent and resultant in his efficiency and in the result. By means of the different and coordinated,lines of advance or action, the uncertainty and insecurity is induced in a prepared enemy. And always his rejection capacity is dispersed and is disturbed his plan of defense and its systematic conduction.
The general Mack went out at the doors of Ulm, to surrender to Napoleon, at the foothills of mounts Michelsberg.
In a wide advance of his independent army corps, the great Armée quickly crossed the center of Germany, from the Rhine to the Danube, between septiembre, 25 and October, 6. With this he operationally intervened between the Austrians and the Russian allied forces, still distant.
The Austrians did not understand the need of the rapidity of these movements. They were thinking only about the battle, as the only instrument of the decision. Their operational strategy did not exist. And they waited his enemies, centred on Ulm and expectant. The Frenchmen initiated the crossing of the Danube on the 7th. And, during the whole week, Napoleon made converge, on an enormous constrictive maneuver, the majority of his forces on Ulm. While, an army corp was monitoring the possible arrival of the general Kutuzov from the East. The trap was remaining closed in irresistible force.
The general Mack uselessly realized several attempts of breakthrough, with the major efforts in Haslach and Elchingen. Both Austrian commanders fought between them. And the archduke Fernand separated from the main body with his 6.000 riders and tried to escape in North-East direction. But, near Trochtelfingen, his forces were surrounded and defeated by the Murat’s corps cavalry. Other 12.000 Austrians gave up themselves in Neustadt. The general Mack and the rest of his men (around 27.000, after the combats and mentioned incidents), with Napoleon in scandalous majority at the doors of Ulm from October, 14, went out to surrender their weapon at the foothills of mounts Michelsberg. The general Mack signed the capitulation of the army on the 20th. The campaign, without battles in strict sense, cost to Austria more than 50.000 men, almost 70 % of his initial troops.
The Current Process of Definition and Follow-up of the Aim.
The retreat of the USA of Vietnam produced a readjustment and another appreciation of the principle of the aim. The later evaluations of the politicians and military men led to proclaiming the imperious need to give always to their armed forces in any future conflict: the support without fissures of the people; a few clear and expressly defined operational and strategic aims and the necessary means for its achievement. This «check list» of supports of the national strategy to the military strategy, appears today as a good summary of the moral and material commitment that the peoples and the controls have with their military men, when they send them to the war for reasons of «national interest».
In the practice, the development of the operational strategy will be defining new operational and tactical aims. That are the surveyor’s poles of the sinuous way that leads to obtaining the strategic aims raised to the military men. That can be so precise and so general as: the occupation of an enemy territory, the recovery of a some provinces pillaged by that one, his effective military defeat or his surrender with or without conditions. Let’s remember that Moltke the Old was saying that the own initial plans only were resisting or were viable up to the first contact in force with the enemy.
The western democracies are provided with extensive, direct and deep communications through all their social tissue. Everything appears easily at first sight. And all the persons take the right or the obligation to debate about everything. But, in the «political military area» that is great more unstable, insecure and opaque. This does not want to say that the operational requirements should not exist. And that the need to prescribe and keep the discretion and the security necessarily limit the «universal exhibition» to the mass media in the area of the national safety.
The Senate of the United States controls the evolution of the wars objectives.
It is necessary to define and to give clear aims to the military men. It implies the need of that the politicians study and compromise themselves with the high or national strategy. And, as necessary and inevitable corollary, that they give the sufficient operational autonomy to his military men. In order that they do not waste lives, efforts and a material means. In order that they neither get entangled, do not even be distracting in unproductive or secondary actions. In order that they do not lose the respect and the support of his people and gain the scorn of the neutrals and potential enemies.
But, closing an ideological and practical «curl», the age of the communications also offers advantages of rapidity and constant, reasonably trustworthy and sufficient intelligence using the military information and his management. Even in the fleeting and delicate cases, with the wireless communications of several levels and accesses, it is possible to obtain a «virtual presence» of the military chiefs and of certain politicians, in the operational distant field. This would facilitate to these controls, a successive approximation and the graduation of the actions of the military means in presence, towards the operational action. And it would facilitate the dilution in the space and the time of the need to fix the successive secondary aims, already from the beginning of a “cycle of military operations”. Keeping always a constant acceleration of the «cycles of action» on the enemy, to dislocate his rejection capacity and to seek and to act on his operational weaknesses. Already those must seek to go successively forward to the enemy, progressively turning ineffective his actions and induce in his men the abandonment of not being capable of offsetting nor overcome our tactical actions guided by our “in real time” operational strategy.