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Old 09-15-2008   #1
SWJED
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Default Fraud or Fuzziness? Dissecting William Owen’s Critique of Maneuver Warfare

Fraud or Fuzziness? Dissecting William Owen’s Critique of Maneuver Warfare

By Eric Walters, Small Wars Journal blog

Quote:
See William Owen, "The Manoeuvre Warfare Fraud," in Small Wars Journal. Also published in August 2008, Vol 153, Vol 4. Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Journal.

As a very minor contributor to a couple of the Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication “White Books” outlining Maneuver Warfare and having once been a professor teaching Maneuver Warfare for American Military University, my attention was caught by William F. Owen’s piece, “The Manoeuvre Warfare Fraud," if nothing else than for its catchy title. One might expect it to get a fair amount of visibility due to its controversial thesis. Owen is rightly frustrated with the maneuver warfare concept, especially since he appears to rely on the U.S. Marine Corps publications FMFM-1 and its successor, MCDP-1 Warfighting as the best contemporary articulation. But to characterize the concept as a fraud? A perversion of the truth perpetrated on the U.S. military in order to deceive it? There are indeed difficulties with the maneuver warfare concept, but to label it a fraud seems a bit much. Owen argues that the “the community it was intended to serve” embraced maneuver warfare uncritically. So who is to blame—the advocates who maliciously perpetrated the concept or the U.S. Marine Corps that accepted it so naively and so readily? ...
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Old 09-16-2008   #2
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I'm gratified to see that I'm not the only one with some misgivings about this article.

=

As a civilian lifer I'm loath to critisize those who have or are serving in uniform. But this article seems (to me) to have several serious mistakes and/or unfounded conclusions that aren't supported by a casual glance at the historical record.

=

MCDP-1 is far from the only USMC manual and is pretty clearly part of an entire spectrum of such manuals. Is there a reason this manual was cherry picked out of that spectrum?

On pg5 Owen claims that Liddell-Hart "denigrated" the importance of Allenby's Palestine campaign, yet Liddell-Hart thought highly enough of Allenby and the Palestine Campaign to include them in a chapter of their own in his 'The Real War 1914-18' and Liddell-Hart wrote glowingly of Allenby in the aformentioned chapter.

To Wit;

"When full deduction is made for the advantages conditions of September 1918, the conclusion remains that the triumph immortalized by the already immortal name of Meggiddo is one of history's masterpieces by reason of breadth of vision and treatment. If the subject was not a difficult one, the picture is almost unique as a perfect conception perfectly executed."
-B.H.Liddell-Hart

Those are simpily not words of "denigration" by any definition or standard.

===

On a personal bias issue I have an issue with anybody or anything that quotes John Mearsheimer as an authority on anything beyond obtaining Saudi oil money grants for a university.

If we're going to rehabilitate Foch (who clearly seems to deserve it, as clearly his students do not), is it possible to do so without it being at the expense of Liddell-Hart (whose concepts have proven themselves over and over again), and without resorting to the veracity challenged (Mearsheimer) as a voice of authority?

===

On the conclusions...

I offer the Blitzkrieg (1939-41), The Israeli Six-Day War, and Operations Desert Storm, and Iraqi Freedom as examples of "manoeuvre warfare."

I offer Kursk, Stalingrad, Dien Bien Phu, Khe Sahn, and Grozny '95 as "attritional warfare."

Von Falkenhayn's "Bleed the French White" qoute is not of the MV school of thought, whatever that school may be determined to be.

["The purpose of manoeuvre is to gain position of advantage relative to an opponent. This advantage may be used to deliver overwhelming violent attrition."]

Not manoeuvering means fixed defenses, which may or may not have advantage relative to an opponent. This advantage may also be used to deliver overwhelming violent attrition.

- or the opponent could withdraw, surrender, just fade away, or all three.

EQUALLY
ASYMETRICAL,
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Old 09-16-2008   #3
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Default Response to Fuzziness!

First, off, as I am sure Eric is aware, you have limited space to pursue an issue such as this. This was not a Research MSc, so I went with what I was comfortable with. The limited number of writers I surveyed were the most influential, and well known.

Robert Leonhard is a good friend of mine and I would suggest that his “Principles of Warfare for the Information Age,” actually stands in opposition to his “Manoeuvre Warfare” writing. Robert and I do not agree on all, but I have questioned the source closely. I have all his books, bar one. In my opinion, “POWFTIG” is one of the most of the most important and original works on military thought ever written, and understanding it lead to my rejection of MW of which I have previously been a rabid groupy!

I know and have great difficulty with Shimon Naveh’s work. I fear it is misleading, and draws erroneous conclusions. I am trying to find Shimon to get to grips with him on this before becoming any more strident. Nikolas Zetterling’s rebuttal of Naveh is well worth reading. I know and have read Franz Osinga’s book. I have also met and conversed at some length with Bill Lind, so I submit I have made not come to my conclusions lightly.
I also have Hookers book,
– but obviously my attempts to remove the fuzziness have not been successful.

The use of the Word, “Fraud” may have been better considered in terms of a question, rather than a statement. I do not name names, but submit that some of those progressing the adoption of MW knew that the reasoning was weak, but dismissed that shortcoming for a supposed “greater good.”

The OODA loop I addressed was that as written about by Lind, is not what Boyd had in mind (according to Chet Richards). I have issues with the OODA loop in general, but I was concentrating on Lind’s use of it. Lind did claim it as a unique element, as he did Recon Pull and Mission Command. The defining elements are nothing to do with MW. That is my issue.

I never said that Sun-Tzu thought of in terms of a bloodless victory. I actually said the opposite.

If Lind’s understanding of Recon Pull was so worthwhile, where is the Pamphlet definition? I have received 5-6 emails with “recon pull” explanations and all are different. If nothing else, the role of “recon” is to find the enemy. Not find “gaps”. As someone with some practical experience of conducting reconnaissance, I never understood how using my initiative, (which I was required to do) defined my actions as pull or push. If I was doing my job, stuff was following. Unless recon has good comms, recon is generally useless, so letting Command know where you are is inherent to the process and cannot be avoided.

All in all, if I am only right in the areas where Eric says I am, then I am a pretty happy rabbit!
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Old 09-16-2008   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Render View Post
I'm gratified to see that I'm not the only one with some misgivings about this article.
So am I!
=


Quote:
On pg5 Owen claims that Liddell-Hart "denigrated" the importance of Allenby's Palestine campaign, yet Liddell-Hart thought highly enough of Allenby and the Palestine Campaign to include them in a chapter of their own in his 'The Real War 1914-18' and Liddell-Hart wrote glowingly of Allenby in the aformentioned chapter.
My reference to the denigration comes from BLH's wording in his book, "Strategy of the Indirect Approach" - and yes BLH does contradict himself.


Quote:
On a personal bias issue I have an issue with anybody or anything that quotes John Mearsheimer as an authority on anything beyond obtaining Saudi oil money grants for a university.
I also have issues with Mearsheimer. That was why I cited 3 other sources.

Quote:
If we're going to rehabilitate Foch (who clearly seems to deserve it, as clearly his students do not), is it possible to do so without it being at the expense of Liddell-Hart (whose concepts have proven themselves over and over again), and without resorting to the veracity challenged (Mearsheimer) as a voice of authority?
Good question. Very interesting in any answer you may have. I think BLH did great damage and his work is still causing problems. I think Fuller was far brighter, but equally flawed.
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 09-16-2008   #5
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Default Seems to me this

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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
...I think BLH did great damage and his work is still causing problems. I think Fuller was far brighter, but equally flawed.
is accurate and a fair summation of reality -- to wit, no Great Guru exists with all the answers. Nor is any theory of warfare of which I'm aware at this time the answer to all questions.

I though your article was balanced and pretty accurate, it illustrated flaws but did not totally discard maneuver while illustrating that maneuver without a firepower and even attritional backup is dangerous. This is a long way of saying I don't think there's much real disagreement over the pros and cons shown in the two articles. Perhaps 'flawed' in lieu of 'fraud' might've meant no discussion -- but discussion is good.
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Old 09-16-2008   #6
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Default Thanks Ken!

I am actually reading Fullers thoughts on Air Power. They are far more rational and balanced than his ideas on tanks and what is more, history has shown them to be generally true! - unlike his ideas on tanks!

... and I think that "tanks" actually seem to be the start of this all MW malarkey for reasons I cannot quite yet fathom. For as much as we have gained, their seems to be much we do not yet understand.
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Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 09-16-2008   #7
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Default Fuller has a great deal to recommend him, not least

his ideas on staffs and age of Generals...

I think the Tank led us to Maneuver Warfare simply because it existed and offered a combination of offensive power and mobility that begged to be exploited, a combination that nothing previous could provide. Fuller's swarms were not outrageously impossible but they were and are beyond the state of technology, training and human capability available to large Armies -- and by definition, swarms take numbers...

Unattended Vehicles, air or ground, OTOH...

I think the natural tendency of combat between individuals or Armies and most conglomerations in between is to stasis which leads to pure attritional warfare. Instinctively, most realize this is not good and thus a desire to avoid it yet such opportunities to preclude having to "...fight it out on this line if it takes all Summer..." are offered only by a relatively rare combinations of synergistic events, a significant mistake on the part of one side or the other -- or by a truly exceptional and innovative Commander literally making an opportunity.

Lengthy way to say maneuver warfare is important and desirable but rarely able to be practiced much above Battalion level however any decent Army must have the capability of employing the techniques when that chance or stroke allows.
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Old 09-16-2008   #8
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Default Other references

One point that I agree with in this argument is that there is very little apparently written about "attrition warfare"--or whatever could be considered the opposite of manuever warfare. I'd offer the following:

A History of Modern Wars of Attrition. Carter Malkasian. Malkasian is better known to the SWJ community for his recent book on counterinsurgency, but I enjoyed this earlier effort that looked at campaigns whose focus was to attrite the enemy. Surprisingly to some, Slim's Imphal-Kohima battles in Burma (1944) are listed as purely attrition battles--to good effect.

One of Malkasian's case studies is that of Ridgeway in Korea. For that reason, Ridgeway's book on the Korean War is a good companion. In there, Ridgeway discusses his philosophy on limited war where the intent is to cause a continual stream of enemy casualties (pain) to support achieving political objectives.

"Naval Maneuver Warfare" Wayne Hughes (Naval War College Review Summer 1997). Hughes is also the author of the excellent Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat. In this essay, he discusses manuever as not really being applicable to Navy tactics, but that "Power Warfare" is the opposite of Maneuver. He defines Power Warfare as creating a spiraling attrition effect on the enemy.

Regarding the discussion on Liddell Hart, I'd recommend Azar Gat's take in his tome A History of Military Thought. While this is off the current MW debate, Gat credits Liddell Hart with developing the thoughts that led to concept of limited war and applying measured responses rather than overwhelming force to strategic problems.
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Old 09-16-2008   #9
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Ken - I would think the tank returned us to the maneuver warfare of the past. In that the tank provided the cavalry with a way to get past those horse killing machine guns.

=

Phil, somebody out there really doesn’t like Carter Malkasian’s A History of Modern Wars of Attrition.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m..._/ai_116732507

I haven’t read it (65 bux!) so I’ll refrain from further comment on that.

=

Ironically, Captain Wayne Hughes’s Fleet Tactics was mentioned on another blog I frequent…

http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/

As I mentioned on that blog, I only have the much older Cold War (1986) version of Fleet Tactics, so I’m just a couple of decades late on that subject…

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Old 09-16-2008   #10
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Default Cavalry was never unstoppable

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Ken - I would think the tank returned us to the maneuver warfare of the past. In that the tank provided the cavalry with a way to get past those horse killing machine guns.
Tanks under many circumstances are.

Cavalry offered mobility, not maneuver warfare. Other than the Mongols, most Cavalry supplemented but did not replace Infantry and combat was at Infantry speed, maneuver at an Infantry pace. The Tank changed that.
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Old 09-17-2008   #11
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Default What is maneuver warfare exactly?

This is the real issue here, and we can see it in the various posts on this discussion thread. I'm not even sure I understand what William Owen thinks it is. I agree that the MCDP 1 definition as articulated is not much help. Robert Leonhard's definition works much better for me, but that isn't exactly the way Bill Lind, John Boyd, and others would see it. For them, it's either German School Maneuver Warfare (Auftragstaktik) or nothing.

A lot of worthwhile points to discuss and I'm going to wade into this since Mr. Owen seems willing. But I need to get through a bit of truth in advertising before diving into this so everybody understands my particular bents and biases.

When I came into the U.S. Marine Corps in 1980, I was pretty dismayed at what I found. I'd been a military history buff and wargamer since I was 14, and what I was seeing in the Marine Corps (I was a tank officer) wasn't squaring with what I was reading and experiencing on the historical board wargame maps. Of course, the USMC had a rich tradition of storming fortified areas and throwing bodies/ordnance/ammo against it. But I noted that we all too often went for the "thickest part of the hedge" instead of going around when that chance was offered. I still see this today, believe it or not. More on that in a bit.

Met Bill Lind in 1988 and we became fast friends. It was then I first got exposed to MW and got the terminology I needed to explain things that just didn't seem quite right. Through him I met John Schmitt, the author of FMFM 1 who was working on a "white book" on campaigning. We seemed to see things in much the same way. In 1993 as an AMU masters student, I met Colonel Mike Wyly (who figures so prominently in the Marine Corps adoption of MW) and Bruce Gudmundsson, author of STORM TROOP TACTICS, a seminal work on German tactical innovation in WWI that busted a lot of myths about storm troop tactics in that era. Bill and Bruce ran a TV show called "Modern War" in 1994 that I was fortunate enough to have participated in. I'm still in contact with all of them. I will admit all these men affected my thinking a great deal. In 1994 I was part of "The Great Synchronization Debate" in the pages of the MARINE CORPS GAZETTE and carried on a lengthy correspondence with Robert Leonhard who was writing PRINCIPLES OF WAR FOR THE INFORMATION AGE--that's me as a Major in the acknowledgements. We didn't agree on a number of things, but I think I can articulate his views relatively well after all that. His work affected me greatly, particularly his book FIGHTING BY MINUTES as I quote it extensively in my chapter on Soviet decentralization in Stalingrad, 1942 in John Antal's and Brad Gericke's anthology, CITY FIGHTS.

So here is the "Apostles of Mobility" creed--yes, I am a maneuverist. I need to say that up front. Hopefully I can make points better than what we have often seen in the advocacy rhetoric. That said, I am not one to claim MW is the end all be all warfighting philosophy. I happen to particularly like it, but that's because I grew up in a Marine Corps that was unable to think beyond the beachhead and/or fortified line, that had been seared by its institutional experience against the Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese that seemed inured to any other approach than "kill them all and let God sort them out." There is certainly a time and place for that, but what I noticed was that we were seemingly incapable of doing anything else, even when the situation seemed to call for it.

I'll just make two points before I address the specific items brought up here in future postings.

1) MW was a medicine designed to address a particular warfighting "disease," borne out of Vietnam war experience. Like any medicine, it loses a great deal of its relevance when the disease goes away. I have a hard time talking and thinking about maneuver warfare in any instance other than when seeing attritionist approaches applied to situations that aren't suited for such a style of warfare--but the attritionist approach is applied nevertheless.

2) I am not sure MW has really been embraced by the USMC. I'd say there are those who have--and they are about 10-20% of the total. That may be enough. Sure, many can parrot the manuals and the buzzwords, but they show little practical understanding in the cases, TDGs, field exercises, and combat situations handed to them. For those who point to the doctrine, I will simply say that doctrine has no force if it is not followed. Additionally, many of the doctrinal tenets in the USMC "White Books" are not carried through to the detailed Marine Corps Warfighting Publications that contained more of the "how to" guidance. In fact, in some situations they are actually contradictory.

Some will point to Grenada, the Persian Gulf War, and OIF I to prove that I am wrong--that the Marine Corps had leaders who understood and applied MW. I can't disagree with that--we were lucky to have had them. And perhaps one should not expect more than this, that our senior leadership understands and can apply the concept. It's far from clear that our juniors can. It's very much a mixed bag. And much depends on how you define the term "maneuver warfare," which brings this particular reply back full circle to where I open.

In short, I want to make sure I understand what flavor of MW we are talking about. Are we talking the USMC definition? Lind/German School definition? Or Leonhard definition?
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Old 09-17-2008   #12
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Default Can't speak for others but for me,

it's an amalgamation of all three plus Fuller, et.al. and others even including De Saxe and Gustavus Adolphus; probably best summarized as the Lind/German school for most purposes. It is IMO a valuable form of warfare but it is not a panacea that will fit all situations; it's a tool in the toolbox for use if possible by the substitution of innovation, surprise and agility for mass...
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Old 09-17-2008   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericmwalters View Post
This is the real issue here, and we can see it in the various posts on this discussion thread. I'm not even sure I understand what William Owen thinks it is. I agree that the MCDP 1 definition as articulated is not much help. Robert Leonhard's definition works much better for me, but that isn't exactly the way Bill Lind, John Boyd, and others would see it. For them, it's either German School Maneuver Warfare (Auftragstaktik) or nothing.
Being from a branch which worships at the altar of Auftragstaktik in the pages of ARMOR but has had significant trouble putting it in practice, great summary.

Very enlightening history of why MW was conceived and pushed to the USMC. At Knox in the 1990's I had a conversation with two former enlisted Marines who became Army officers. I asked why they didn't go back to the USMC as an officer. Their answer has stayed with me.

"If the Marine Corps thinks it will take 30 men killed to take a hill, they'll send 31."

Glad to see things have changed.
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Old 09-17-2008   #14
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Originally Posted by ericmwalters View Post
A lot of worthwhile points to discuss and I'm going to wade into this since Mr. Owen seems willing. But I need to get through a bit of truth in advertising before diving into this so everybody understands my particular bents and biases.
Very willing, and always interested in the truth. My inclination to question the dogma that became MW is based on exactly this.

Quote:
1) MW was a medicine designed to address a particular warfighting "disease," borne out of Vietnam war experience. Like any medicine, it loses a great deal of its relevance when the disease goes away.
This is what I call the "TX Hammes" position and it is true on one level. Was it a medicine or a placebo? The problem is that it provably morphed way beyond being a medicine. The British and Australian Armies picked it up as a "doctrine." As a a medicine, for the USMC, OK. But someone took the medicine and wrote doctrine on it. Is it useful. Yes, very!, but not when considered in isolation or by the poor historical evidence used.

Quote:
2) I am not sure MW has really been embraced by the USMC. I'd say there are those who have--and they are about 10-20% of the total. That may be enough.
It's in the manuals and everyone thinks they are. How do we judge? Why does it matter?

My point being that what is required is a sound doctrine. Sound doctrine rears its head in success in the face of challenge. I would say the USMC conduct of the 2nd Fallujah Operations provides a great deal of material for discussion on this. Strange you mention John Antal, as I was discussing this all with him, just a month ago, when he dropped by my neck of the woods.

Quote:
In short, I want to make sure I understand what flavor of MW we are talking about. Are we talking the USMC definition? Lind/German School definition? Or Leonhard definition?
What makes Leonhard so different, is his approach, and, to repeat myself, it was he that got me to question the whole idea of there being something useful in swallowing the idea of MW.

The point of my article was to show that the reasoning and evidence used to advocate MW was weak/non-existent. As I said,

Quote:
In all its various definitions a premise of MW is the acceptance of the idea that there is a separate and distinct alternative ‘style’ of warfare identified as Attrition Warfare.
That's my "break in battle" right there. This is the problem with modern military thought. (What is EBO? What "Information Operations?") Yes, Fuzziness is an issue and some people assured us that there was no Fuzziness. They told us MW was a sound Doctrine. Where is the evidence?

As I told the Australian Army's Land Warfare Conference, I swallowed MW whole. There is some self-flagellation here! If anyone took bait, I did!
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- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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Old 09-17-2008   #15
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Being from a branch which worships at the altar of Auftragstaktik ...
So you were in the Royal Navy in the 18th and early 19th Century

Seriously, there is an excellent work called "Rules of the Game" which should be required reading for anyone interested in this area!
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 09-17-2008   #16
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Lind let me borrow his copy of Rules of the Game, and he said it was one of the best books to understand his vision of MW.
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Old 09-17-2008   #17
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Lind let me borrow his copy of Rules of the Game, and he said it was one of the best books to understand his vision of MW.
Yep, it's an excellent book, by all accounts. Strangely Bill never mentioned it to me. I only found about it, as I was sitting next to Andrew Gordon at a conference at Watchfield a couple of years back.
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 09-17-2008   #18
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I turned Bill onto Gordon's book because he was always talking about how the Navy had no comparable historical work that married well with Maneuver Warfare theory. Of course, RULES OF THE GAME is all about command and control, and that's what is most controversial about MW, and that's why Bill loves it. I found out about RULES OF THE GAME from Don Hanle, an Air Force officer. Well, Boyd was an Air Force guy, after all...
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Old 09-17-2008   #19
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Default Framing the MW Discussion--Definitions

Please bear with me on this, but in my experience in grappling with the issues surrounding MW, we have to agree on what we are talking about. Otherwise, we'll talk past each other.

William Owen has already well described the problem with the MCDP-1 statement on MW, but there's much more to this definition that we need to pull out. The USMC says one thing but really means another; to understand this, I've got to walk everyone through a few things. Once I do this, some of the implications of Lind and Leonhard will become much more clear.

On pages 37 and 38 of MCDP 1 we get what I consider to be the best "definition" of MW in the publication, and you'll see I say that because I tend to agree with Leonhard's characterization in The Art of Maneuver. The below paragraph follows a brief charaterization of Attrition Style of warfare:

Quote:
On the opposite end of the spectrum is warfare my maneuver which stems from a desire to circumvent a problem and attack it from a psotion of advantage rather than meet it straight on. Rather than pursuing the cumulative destruction of every component in the enemy arsenal, the goal is to attack the enemy "system"--to incapacitate the enemy systematically. Enemy components may remain untouched but cannot function as a cohesive whole." Rather than being viewed as desirable targets, enemy concentrations are generally avoided as enemy strengths. Instead of attacking enemy strength, the goal is the application of our strength against selected enemy weaknesses in order to maximize advantage....Maneuver relies on speed and surprise for without either we cannot concentrate strength against enemy weakness. Tempo itself is a weapon--often the most important. Success by maneuver--unlike attrition--is often disproportionate to the effort made. However, for exactly the same reasons, maneuver incompetently applied carries with it a greater chance for catastrophic failure. With attrition, potential losses tend to be proportionate to risks incurred.
There is no discussion on command and control here, but the two statements regarding the reliance on speed and surprise and the idea that tempo itself is a weapon are key ideas that are intended to justify decentralized C2, with attendant improvisation, initiative, adaptation and cooperation between elements, particularly laterally. We don't really get to that until nearly the end of the publication, at the top of page 78, when MCDP-1 "drops the hammer" in a section called "Philosophy of Command:"

Quote:
It is essential that our philosophy of command support the way we fight. First and foremost, in order to generate the tempo of operations we desire and to best cope with the uncertainty, disorder, and fluidity of combat, command and control must be decentralized. [emphasis in the original--EMW]
This is practically unchanged from the version orginally published in FMFM-1 Warfighting. Not can, not should, not possibly or probably--C2 must be decentralized to "support the way we fight," which is a maneuver style. If MW requires decentralized C2, then it's easy to conclude that if there is no decentralized C2, you cannot then do the MW style.

Given the influence of John Boyd and Bill Lind on the development of MW in the Marine Corps, it's understandable that, to the USMC, decentralized C2 is quite possibly the defining characteristic of MW, but you have to get to page 78 to get there. Interestingly, we don't see this explicit linkage in the earlier description of the "maneuver style."

And that is where Robert Leonhard lives in his first book. Mr. Owen brings up Leonhard's misgivings in later works (and I'll get to that eventually, and it's a very worthwhile discussion, but I won't right now). Leonhard sticks very closely to the description of the "maneuver style" without characterizing the C2 philosophy that achieves it. To Leonhard, defining the C2 characteristic is too narrow. He appears to agree with Colonel Mike Wyly who is reputed to have said that the two defining principles of MW are "speed and focus." That accords well with the USMC description we have. So all agree that this is what discriminates MW. Where the differences emerge is whether or not you can do MW without decentralized C2. Leonhard in his book The Art of Maneuver will say you can, and we call that Soviet School MW.

Speaking from an academic standpoint and as a former analyst of Soviet military theory (my first masters was a Soviet concentration), I agree with Leonhard. The Russians perfected by 1944 a system where they could mount maneuver warfare style in very much the way our MCDP 1 page 37-38 description would conform, only they had a much more hierarchical and centrally controlled method, one that persisted for decades afterwards.

But as a frustrated Marine junior officer who bridled under what I perceived to be as an oppressive training regime where intiative was routinely stifled and compliance to orders was prized above all (even if it compromised success), I am far more sympathetic to the German School and am ready to concede that--for the Marine Corps--I've signed up to the USMC/Boyd/Lind definition that you can't do MW without decentralized C2. What's extremely interesting to me is that Bob Leonhard grumbles about much the same thing in The Art of Maneuver--the Army may preach initiative and mission tactics, but it practices something else in AirLand Battle, despite the doctrine.

The Soviets had no choice but to do things the way they did, especially after The Great Patriotic War when they had short conscriptions and still had a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic force. They did not exhibit a lot of characteristics for independent thinking (at least successfully) and individuality that we see in the American military. German school fit more with American talents and capabilities, although I kept seeing U.S. military doctrine begin to look more and more like their Soviet enemies, particularly with regard to command and control. I first wrote about this in 1993 and 1994 and haven't seen much--at least regarding conventional U.S. warfare--that makes me change my mind. The Soviet model, while achieving speed and focus, meant more stifling of initiative, more rigid compliance to orders regardless of success at a particular level, and so on. The U.S. is wedded to synchronization, an impossible goal given the original definition for it, and I'd argue Soviet Troop Control methods did a better job of it in the 1970s (at least from a doctrinal standpoint) that does our most recent official articulation of the concept. But that's a whole seperate discussion.

So where does this leave us?

Regarding the MCDP-1 quote that William Owen gives us, it contains the gist of the MW style, but doesn't really get at what the USMC thinks is the necessary component--decentralized C2. Even Owen's restatement of the quote doesn't treat this, but that's because he is going elsewhere with his argument:

Quote:
The US Marine Corps seeks to shatter the enemy’s cohesion through a variety of rapid, focused, and unexpected actions, which create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation with which the enemy cannot cope.
He goes on to say that:

Quote:
However, the usefulness of this aspiration is in the precise nature of those unexpected actions. Identifying what these actions should be and how to perform them is a necessary step in defining the concept.
He's absolutely right, of course, but it's at this point where he and I part ways. I focus on the C2 issue as being the problem, whereas he attacks the issue of the dichotomy that MW set up, a contrast between "the attrition style" (or Attrition Warfare) and "the maneuver style." He's got good reason to do this and we'll get into that, but it fails to scratch the itch of those of us who are watching our superiors, peers, and subordinates oftentimes pit strength against strength, fail to be discriminating in what, where, and how we attack, and innumerable other things that the "maneuverists" associate with the attrition style.

So I'll propose this before going forward. If we are talking about MW as a "style" (speed and focus) compared to something else, we'll keep calling it MW. If we're talking about "German School" MW (as Leonhard would call it) which is what the USMC, Boyd, and Lind would term MW, then I suggest we call that "mission tactics" which is really all about decentralized C2. Just so we can keep the ideas straight. "Maneuver Warfare" without all this qualification is just too slippery a term, meaning too many things to too many people.

Any problems with that?
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Old 09-17-2008   #20
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Default I don't agree at all with your assertion that the

Quote:
"..."German School" MW (as Leonhard would call it) which is what the USMC, Boyd, and Lind would term MW, then I suggest we call that "mission tactics" which is really all about decentralized C2.
is anywhere near that simplistic but I'll certainly accept the stipulation for now to further the discussion.
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