Saturday, November 20, 2010

Maneuver Warfare: A Wargamer's Notebook - Introduction

This series of blog entries are about the so-called "maneuver warfare" as explained by William Lind. The writings of Robert Leonhard will also be included. I claim neither expertise in the subject nor devotion to this way of waging wars and thus, I am not trying to convert you into anything. This series is not an analysis or a review of all ideas about maneuver warfare but rather some explorations about the topic based on computer war games and simulations. Future entries will be delivered based in readership.

Much has been written and debated about maneuver warfare and chances are you heard about this before.As a said in the opening paragraph, this is not a review, analysis or tutorial about maneuver warfare. For a complete coverage of the ideas you will have to check out any of the literature available. I can recommend two books as a starting point.

Maneuver Warfare Handbook, by William Lind, is the book that I will be using as a premier source for this series of entries.

The Art of Maneuver, by Robert Leonhard, is a discussion of maneuver warfare in the context of the now defunct AirLand Battle doctrine. Leonhard is borderline genius in his explanation of the art of war and this book is no exception.

More books will be added to this list in future entries.

What is maneuver warfare? That's a difficult question.

Let's start with what is not. Maneuver warfare is sometimes confused with "fire and maneuver" (the tactical moving and positioning of weapon systems in order to deliver fires onto the enemy). Although maneuver warfare involves "fire and maneuver", the former is a more encompassing way of fighting.

In Maneuver Warfare Handbook, Lind comes a bit short of defining it in a formal sentence or paragraph. One gets the impression that Lind is not very fond of summing up a way of fighting in a single grammatical salvo. Waging wars shouldn't be about applying fixed recipes and drills, and his reluctance to deliver a single definition is replaced by thought provoking tactical narrative.

However, there is a common theme to all the scenarios that Lind explains and that is the focus in incapacitating the enemy's command decision process. That is not to say that destroying the enemy is the ultimate focus. After all, we want to kill the enemy, not just annoy him. But it is easier to defeat a foe whose decision process has been targeted early on.

Lind recognizes three major guidelines (he calls them "filters") to shape a battle plan:

  1. Mission type orders: you can't defeat the enemy's tactical decision process if yours is very slow. Let your subordinates accomplish their mission or exploit opportunities as the see fit instead of waiting for your orders at every speedbump.
  2. Main effort or schwerpunkt: even when you don't want a battle-group of robots that wait for every detailed instruction, you don't want a circus where every captain thinks is an army group commander either. Your battle plan should have a point of main effort to glue all your subordinates' tactical actions  
  3. Surfaces and gaps: this one is very simple, put your strength onto the enemy's weaknesses. 

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