A Theory for the Modern Warfare

Her Historical Context

Her Theory and Evolution


The theory of the maneuver warfare tried to give a practical solution to the predisposition of the North American ground military forces of using exaggerated or inopportunely the heavy fire support. As their principal «argument» or action over the enemy, in the combats or in their preparation. Also she was seeking to consolidate the concept of operational strategy in the ground military operations. As new and precise level of action placed between the military strategy and the tactics.

The Principal Theoreticians and the Developed Situation.

Several are the theoreticians, both civilians and military, who helped to create a coherent, sufficient, practical and effective “doctrine body” for this new theory. We will point out the analyst and lecturer William S. Lind. Another fundamental personage was the colonel John Boyd, who was a former fighter pilot of the USAF. Also is important the contribution of the colonel professor of the Marines Corps Michael Wyly. Chronologically in a second row, stands out strongly, expanding the torrent of ideas of the theory in march, the colonel of the US Army Robert Leonhard.

The renowned Israeli military analyst Martin van Creveld was saying that «the Armies» were turning throughout the time in «paralyzed bureaucracies», losing in this process great part of their efficiency. They could continue killing, but they were doing it badly, slowly and expensively. Probably their excessive endogamy demands and forces them to allow that, from outside of the organization, renovating ideas are given them. At least, the North Americans did it and accepted them. And they tried to incorporate them into their doctrine, regulations and manuals. And, even they tried to put them into practice in their conventional following wars. They did not this way in their counterinsurgency wars, the lifelong guerrilla wars. To which now they call pompously “asymmetric wars” or wars of fourth generation.

In this introduction to a theory of the modern warfare we want to give a joint vision, holistic and applied of the developed ideas. And, sometimes, implemented, by those men,throughout a decade in last century: from first of the 80′ up to first of the 90′. Also we will permit to develop or to extend the concepts or the explanations. When the own development or account of the theory asks for it, for her better comprehension. And their authors and theoreticians have not been so explicit or prolific on having presented it.

The Fundamental Ideas of the Theory of the Modern Warfare.

The definition of tactics in this theory is important. Because from her firmly stems almost all her later development and applications. Tactic is the harmonic and sufficient combination of specific knowledge, experiences and military skills, to produce a surprising, sufficient, effective and powerful action on the enemy, in these given conditions of time, climate and opportunity. This «combination» must be tinged and modulated by the principal struggle and the “mission type” orders of the chief. And by the “resistances” and the “emptinesses” of the “combat capacity” that the enemy presents, in his tactical deployment and according to his intention.

«Combat capacity» are not only the present soldiers or military specialists. But also their equipment, their arms systems, the logistical support and their motivation, training, combat readiness and resting or existing combat deployment. She is the combined result of men, means, full situation and commands «cocktail». That usefully qualify the units for fullfilling their combat military operations. 

In the battle, in the combat one seeks to introduce the enemy in successive cycles of «observation, situation, decision and action». That are more rapid than his capacities of action. In such a way, that the enemy successive «elementary» tactical actions, turn out to be progressive and fatally increasingly inadequate and ineffective, to offset, to overcome or to be opposed to ours. This must tend to destroy his unit structural operational cohesion and to foment and to extend the panic between his men, before the manifest military uselessness of the actions that he tackles.

The basic skills of how to shoot the weapons, the physical training or the reading of the maps and the ground orientation, etc. Or the advanced skills of how to realize the different operations of march, advances cross-country running, defense, the employment of a system of combined arms, some special type of assault, etc. Those will be given at their moment in the schools, the academies and the destinies.

You can see that we have not touched yet the «foundations» of the theory. The important thing in this theory is the acceptance and the assumption of her new approach, which highlights the qualities of initiative and creativity in the commands. To save physical military and economic means, the lives and the invaluable time, being thus much more effective.

The Functioning of the New Style of Action.

If we want to be more rapid and effective than the enemy, we have to have a sufficiently decentralized military organization, acting on him. Let’s remember the “cycle of action” with his four phases. If the observations of the subunits in contact with the enemy must be passed up, following a chain of control. With the definition of the situation made and the decision taken at a high command level. And then, the order for action transmitted downwards, across the mentioned command chain, and, then, executed the action. You can deduce that the cycle of action is going to be slow. And, even, it can turn out to be late and unproductive, in a tactical very fluid and changeable environment, far from the outdated combat linear fronts.

But we do not want that the military subunits in contact with the enemy at the tactical “interfaces of action” wander senseless thorough the combat field. Without our command superior sense or without efficiency. To guide them profitably in their activity, their orders would be “mission type”. In them the chief shares, entrusts, a part of his military intention to the subunit. And he gives her freedom of action (the how to do her job). In return for the fact that she realizes this part of his intention (the what to do). Also the command establishes a principal

centripetal combined effort on the enemy. And the subunit that acts in the principal effort receives the cooperation of the actions of her companions and the majority of the supports of the unit. That the unit command receives of his Superior in tactical or of war subordination.

But battle matters are fluid and highly unpredictable. Because we do not have all the factors, decisions, actions and circumstances that concur, perfectly known and controlled. The subunit acting in the unit principal effort can be going, without entering, to an enemy hasty prepared bag of fire or to an obstacle covered by the fire, not detected by the exploration, or to a defense position, reinforced with campaign fortifications. And a subunit companion could have flanked the not continue positions of the enemy. And being in conditions to accede easily to a park of trucks or to a position of mortars, deployed in the enemy tactical rearward. Then the chief would name to this another unit his principal effort and would stimulate his new promising action, giving her heavy fire supports and the cooperation of others. With this way of undertaking the actions, if a subunit remains isolated or get lost temporarily, she will know what to do during enough time. To be able to be surprising, unbalancing and going forward the enemy, the command must observe and feel the combat from enough ahead. But without taking part or been mentally trapped in it. And to be hearing (through his forward HHQQ) in the network of communications of the unit.

Except the known and evident cases, the indications about the battle ground should be that, explanatory indications of his intention, limits of the sectors of advance, points of control, and not direct units goals. It is better to order a subunit: » prevent that the enemy crosses the “Blue, 32 height, Red, beeches groups line». That to say her «you should occupy and defend the 63 height» (the dominant height over that line in her sector). This last does not guarantee that the enemy does not infiltrate, working at the micro ground area, taking his time. Or finds a no enfilade line of advance (a waviness of the ground of 2,5 or 3 m. can conceal main battle tank to the horizontal enemy sight), up to the other side of the front «line». The command has to split hairs, thinking, making concrete in words, briefing well, always observing and taking responsibility for everything. And his secondary commands have to be active and creative and taking responsibility of his actions.

The Consequences, Responsibilities and Results.

There start appearing some fundamental characteristics of the military organization, in order that this works well. A double and high responsibility of the commands and commands of the subunits. And an indispensable reciprocal confidence between them, created by the experience and the cooperation shared before. A major implication of the NCO in the bureaucratic and routine tasks of the administration of the unit and a better and intense dedication of the officials in conceptualizing the combat: looking in the decision or in the exploitation for his operational transcendence.

As inevitable consequence of this form of decentralized, fluid, surprising and rapid resilience action, mistakes will always arise in the realized actions. These will add to the inevitable «friction» generated by all the tactical and operational actions. And because the almost countless number of «individual and collective actions», that meet to shaping a warlike action and the inevitable absence of “total complete” information. It is necessary in general to agree and assume the mistakes as a minor, surmountable evil. And whose ballast is more than enough compensated by the goodness inherent to the followed operational method. But never accepted, not tolerated, as result of a previous incompetence, of the passiveness, of the negligence or of the lack of active commitment with the goal intention of the unit. You can enlarge these ideas in my book “On the Nature of War”, chapter 2, “Chaos and Error as Practical and Conceptual Spaces of War”.

Finally, there is a general approach towards the decisive and transcendent action in the operative level. Guided by the superior command intention, transmitted and entrusted to the chief of the unit. And for this to his subunits and supports units, with the cited direct and resilience methods.

Situations and Tactical Favorite Means of the Theory.

In the modern warfare is necessary a great activity of the combat reconnaissance, to generate the sufficient information to create the intelligence for the application of the appropriate skills and the definition of the general situation and the enemy situation, means and intentions (the first phase of the cited “cycle of action”). The deployment of the subunits in the “interfaces of tactical contact” might be in the shape of “snub reversed wedge”, when the enemy situation is not clarified at all. Or, at the other end, to take the approximate form of the “sharp long wedge”, when we are working in the micro emptinesses of the enemy deployment “combat capacity”. To cleanly burst in the rearward of the enemy defense zone (its first lower belly).

The means of the command emphasized in the maneuvers war are the reserve, the counterattack and the intelligent use of the supporting heavy fires. The reserve must always exist and, at least initially, must be in the hands of a capable, experienced and energetic subordinate. The reserve is the bet of the chief for his tactical transcendent victory. She must not be used to reinforce an effort or to compensate, without further ado, a mistake. For this various tasks, there are the bigger heavy fires, or the tanks and engineers, used in cooperation. Or the tightening of the units advance sectors or the units deployment in depth. Or to realize a secondary assault or a diversion. Therefore, the modern reserve is not a secondary subunit. Nor one that is reorganizing and having scanty means, poor in combat disposition and moral.

The counterattack offers initiative and tactical mobility to a more or less looked temporary or necessary defense. He must be opportune, powerful and launched when the enemy has passed the climax of his assault, has suffered losses and the situation can be recovered by us. The support heavy fires must seek to stimulate the maneuver of the unit. Their tasks must be blind, disturb or neutralize the enemy forces, more than destroy them. Because the last mentioned turns out to be costlier, very difficult to obtain and needs much more time to be gotten. And time is a precious tactical and operational independent and essential factor. Finally, the combined weapons or inter arms systems and the engineers or pioneers are used constantly in the war of maneuvers. And the last ones, in the principal effort, though also they supply his specialized means to all the subunits of their parent unit.

Something on the more Common, Dangerous and Frequent Guerrilla Warfare.

Nothing says specifically the new military theory about the guerrilla warfare. It is a shame. Because the Western countries face more frequently the danger or the challenge of a war of “fourth generation” or “asymmetrical”. That one of “third generation” or conventional modern mechanized war. And not by changing her name to the guerrilla war, the “prism and our knowledge”, with which we can «observe, analyze and define, decide the procedures and actions and put them into practice «, they change or improve.

We must indicate that this is an eminently mobile, subterranean and active war. With multiples objectives to reach. But highly different from those of the wars of the three first generations. Objectives subtle, but fruitful; more difficult to determine, but forceful in their results; more politicians and social that pure military and always compounded by these tree branches. But, as always, the goals must be confronted or defended or converted or taken. Like it is necessary to defend a strengthened position or to take a hill. But, the means and the ways are different and more various. Here the “meat mincer” of the modern supposed highly precise “heavy fire” of support, does not serve either.

The propaganda constitutes a strategic basic aim of all the taliban and al-Qaida rebels, with which the agencies and the western communications means collaborate filled with enthusiasm. Any successful and showy rebellious attack or ambush is immediately broadcast to the world. This always debilitates the will of permanency of the USA and his ISAF allies. His legions called by his families, want to return, to enjoy the varied and superfluous consumption goods and the exotic vacations. The Spartan mothers, something unthinkable nowadays, were saying to her children when they were going out in campaign, when the benign station came and they leave the winter barracks: «you shall return with the shield or on the shield». When they were fleeing, the big and heavy shield of the Greek hoplite, capable of resisting the tremendous blows of the Sarisas or long lances of 5 m., principal weapon of their phalanxes, was a hindrance and they were rejecting it.

The insurgents taliban and al-Qaida nets are secret or latent and operate aggressively only against the mobility of the army and the police, which they surprise, are a nuisance, cause damages, kill and mutilate. The attacks from several directions creates bags of fire and enfilade zones on the enemy. This produces besides a synergistic and enervating effect in the attacked forces. That is similar to the result of multi traumatize or to that of multiple nº 8 or 9 pellets in a minor hunting piece. They lack of enough punch to give decisive blows or to finish off an important enemy. They erode a military unit (not a small unit or isolated elements), but they do not annihilate it.

Against the prepared military positions established in depth they are not effective, though it exists afraid of the guerrillas and a lot of money is expended protecting them. Their bands lack important combat capacity and are also easily canalized towards approximation avenues with registered heavy fire and medium grazing fire. For the moment, they lack engineers’ training, which would allows them the punctual break of the static protector barriers. And of superior training, to use the crawling individual approximation, without time limitation, in their diverse missions out and inside the military and police camps and facilities. The big and large military forces bases only serves as refuge and rest for them. But removing them from their guerrillas civil and military goals. And isolating them from the Afghan people.

The logistics is a great disadvantage, especially the supply of equipment and no handmade goods. They possess many small active rears or bases, many full surrounded by their enemies, which activities can be detected always. The supply of the bands is provided by the support organization.

The patience must be a characteristic of all the implied in this irregular war. Also it is necessary for to be effective, to reach a minimum of trade and seniority. In the zones most favorable to the bands, it is very easy that the operations of search and siege are initially closed in emptiness. It is necessary to go gaining and selecting their zone population, as we have said before, in order that the military trade and the people loyalty combined should produce its military and social incomes. The successive victories of the Afghan National Army and Police will be gaining to them the favor of the people. Because all they want to be emotionally with the winning side. And because the interests of the Afghans are volatile, unlike and yet contradictory, based on the loyalty to the family, to the clan and to the tribe.

In this type of war the armed forces cannot defend from the enemy all its possible targets. Besides, never there would be enough remaining troops to keep the initiative and to carry out a multiple, flexible and mobile offensive action against the armed rebels. Here there are no linear fronts to establishing and cozy, protective and supplying operative rears. What exists are armed enemies groups, their logistic support and information groups and many groups of sympathizers with and surrounding them. That are integrated all according to the different personal courage of their different members. And all of them widespread and established through a big territory without limits or classic rears.

You can see more on military strategy, operational strategy, tactics and skills on guerrilla warfare, in its “Appendix” in my book “On the Nature of War”.