Manoeuvre warfare

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INTRODUCTIONHistorical Perspective Of Manoeuvre Warfare

1. The first Manoeuvre on a large scale in battle, recorded in history, was during the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC (ix Defence Services Staff College Precis: Manoeuvre Warfare 1, Jun 1998, p8.). In this battle, the Greeks under Miltiades scored a decisive victory through Manoeuvre when the outstretched Greek phalanx hit the Persians from both flanks inflicting a total defeat. However the first great practical exponent of the art of Manoeuvre was Alexander the Great. Most of his victories are classic examples of superiority of Manoeuvre over brute force. In the battle of Arbela in 331 BC he defeated the Persian monarch, Darius III who had a numerical superiority of 5:1 against him. In the Middle Ages, Genghiz Khan is probably the greatest warrior the world has ever known. He could be considered the exponent of `Aufragstaktik', or mission-oriented command (x Major General Werner Widder, Trademark of German Leadership (Military Review (Sep 02)).

2. The German Army of Second World War conquered Poland in twenty-seven days, Denmark in one, Norway in twenty-three, Holland in five, Belgium in eighteen, France in thirty-nine, Yugoslavia in twelve, and Greece in twenty-one. Its feats in vast space of Soviet Union and the North African desert remain remarkable to this day. Indeed, the impression quickly developed that the Army of the Third Reich was an excellent fighting machine, one of history's best. (ii Matthew Cooper - 'The German Army 1933-1945.'). The Korean War, which commenced, in 1950, has as its hallmark, one of the greatest manoeuvres in history, in the shape of the amphibious landing at Inchon. All the Arab-Israeli conflicts had manoeuvre as their main feature, which was amply highlighted during 1956 Sinai campaign, the six-day war and the Yom Kippur War.

3. The essence of manoeuvre warfare is to defeat the enemy's will to fight rather than his ability to fight. Defeating the enemy's ability to fight can be measured, and is tangible, however attacking the enemy's psychological will to fight is a intangible which is abstract to such an extent that when achieved is difficult to identify for some time. Manoeuvre warfare stresses on the dislocation of the enemy's physical and psychological balance by striking with rapidity when and where he least expects and with devastating results. In manoeuvre warfare, "the goal is to incapacitate enemy by systematic disruption and dislocation" (vii Liddel Hart, The Strategy of Indirect Approach , pp 194.). The target is the coherence of the adversary's combat systems, methods, and plans. The hope is that a very selective action can have a cascading effect- an effect disproportionately greater than the degree of effort. The basic principles of manoeuvre warfare as described by few of the proponents are:-

(a) By Robert Leonhard :- (viii Robert Leonhard, The Art of Manoeuvre. Defense spectrum books.pp84.).

(i) Identify and target enemy centres of gravity.

(ii) Set and maintain favourable terms of battle.

(iii) Find and exploit "gaps" in enemy strength.

(b) (b) By William S.Lind :- (William S.Lind, Manoeuvre Warfare Handbook.pp23).

(i) Mission-type orders.

(ii) Schwerpunkt (point of main effort).

(iii) Surfaces & /gaps.

4. Manoeuvre warfare has the potential to achieve victory at a lower cost in terms of men and material. Numerically weaker forces and also technologically and materially inferior forces can wage it. Surprise, initiative, intelligence about the enemy, tempo, time and high standards of leadership are the key elements of this form of warfare. It does not try to control the chaos of the battlefield but accepts the fact that no plan survives contact with the enemy. And since, no plan survives the contact, it aims at winning by acting faster, moving faster, taking decisions faster and by creating situations so fast for the enemy that he gets confused and bewildered at the pace of events and finally gets beaten psychologically and physically to throw in the towel. Manoeuvre warfare, focuses on the enemy, and not on ground objectives. It advocates avoiding the enemy's strength while attacking the enemy's weaknesses. To be victorious, it is necessary that one should act more quickly than the enemy can react, always designating a main effort, supporting Manoeuvre by fire, commanding from the front, issuing mission type orders, exploiting tactical opportunities, avoiding said rules and patterns.

5. Clausewitz described war as, "A mere continuation of policies by other means." The aim in battle is to break the will of the enemy to wage a successful war. To this end, it is more a battle of wills, a psychological defeat more than physical defeat, that is advocated. Liddell Hart in his strategy of indirect approach talks of dislocation of the enemy. He says, " The aim is not so much to seek battle as to seek

6. A strategic situation so advantageous, that if it does not itself produce the decision, its continuation by battle is sure to achieve this." (vi Liddell Hart, 'The Strategy of Indirect Approach', p 192)

7. The debate gains greater significance in an era when greater responsibilities are placed on the armies and with fewer resources and smaller high tech forces. This brings us to the question as to which form of warfare is best suited to our requirements.

8. The debate over the usefulness of manoeuvre warfare has raged in professional military circles for the past few years. Opponents of manoeuvre theory argue that the theory is "all smoke and mirrors". Fans of manoeuvre warfare argue that the Germans had the right idea in their concept of "Auftragstaktik". It is often argued that manoeuvre and attrition are the primary styles of warfare; and that manoeuvre warfare offers cheap victories. Manoeuvre exponents claim that Operation Desert Storm vindicated manoeuvre theory concepts. Others argue that each military situation is unique; that Desert Storm vindicated the decisive, attrition role of firepower. (iii Antal, Major John F, Manoeuvre Versus Attrition (Military Review, October 1992) p 21)

9. No military operation has been known to succeed when employing solely either offensive or defensive elements of war. An offensive operation is predicated on a viable defensive posture to ensure balance; pauses for tactical and logistical regrouping by the elements of the offensive are characterised by defensive actions; laying siege to an objective during an offensive is characterised by defensive tactics. Similarly, the defensive operation of war is only a part of the whole and not a means within itself. (v Nair, Brig V K, 'Bringing Dynamism into the Defensive Battle' (Indian Defence Review))

10. As a nation we have been at war on four occasions. Except the 1971 Indo-Pak war we have more or less fought an attrition war on all other occasions. Kargil can be considered as an exception as the political directive gave no other option but to fight an attrition war. To fight a war on the principles of manoeuvre warfare which is fought more on the mental plane rather than on physical plane, we need to change our approach in training, thinking and also our day to day functioning. There is a requirement to have the ability & the capability to think through and perform our tasks just on the knowledge of intent. Moreover the proactive approach and the short war being envisaged will pressurise us to reach the desired end state at the earliest which can be achieved only by manoeuvre warfare. However our commanders are not trained adequately on this aspect. Thus there is a need to examine the applicability of manoeuvre warfare in India and evolve our training and functioning to suite the theory.

11. Leaders must be trained to operate within the framework of the commander's intent to achieve a desired result. Commanders should never insist on rigid adherence to prescribed format or method, but they should demand results and regularly critique a subordinate's decision process. Aggressiveness, risk taking, initiative and innovation should be rewarded, not punished. Wisdom will come with age and experiences, but the willingness to shoulder responsibility and act decisively can be fragile. Commanders must encourage, not discourage, young leaders with these traits. As a rule, commanders should personally conduct leader training which will often take place while individual â€" or squad/crew level training is in progress. In every conceivable way, every leader must be imbued with the fundamentals of manoeuvre warfare. Leaders at every level must understand that what matters most is results.

Carl von Clausewitz, On War.pp120.

Defence Services Staff College Precis: Manoeuvre Warfare 1, Jun 1998, p8.

Major General Werner Widder, Trademark of German Leadership (Military Review (Sep 02).

Liddel Hart, The Strategy of Indirect Approach , pp 194.

Robert Leonhard, The Art of Manoeuvre. Defense spectrum books.pp84.

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