Another bit of blatant advertising – an abridged extract from my in-process book Techniques of War (a working title).
If we arrive, as our forefathers did, at the scene of battle inadequately equipped, incorrectly trained and mentally unprepared, then this failure will be a criminal one because there has been ample warning — Michael Elliot-Bateman
In the modern, conflict-ridden world, Elliot-Bateman’s comment remains as relevant as ever. After all, part of battle orders are to ensure that the correct men (unit), arrive at the correct time and place, adequately prepared and equipped to do battle with the opposing forces – and win. But these orders are derived from the battle appreciation. This appreciation is a thorough assessment of all the factors that can impact on the plan and include factors such as the enemy, terrain, climate, weapons, deployments and so forth. The appreciation, in turn, leads to the formulation of the commander’s tactical plan. This plan encompasses the deployment of forces under his command and is taken right down to section and sub-section level.
Getting to the tactical plan requires careful thought and an in-depth appreciation of the situation – all based on good, sound and credible intelligence. But the tactical plan is rooted in the military strategy, a process that is on-going and constantly adjusted.
The development of the military strategy is descendent from the grand strategy of the state. It is the grand strategy that defines how the state would like to position itself in the world and how it will want to be perceived. Additionally, the grand strategy comprises the government’s action and/or reaction to real or perceived threats, opportunities, weaknesses and strengths.
From the grand strategy is born the National Security Strategy (NSS) – considered by many strategists to be part of the grand strategy and by others as a strategy developed with the aim of supporting the grand strategy with all of the security components at the state’s disposal. It is the NSS that ultimately defines “who” and “what” the enemy is.
If viewed as a separate strategy instead of a continuum of the grand strategy, the NSS entails the art and science of assessing, developing, applying, coordinating and monitoring all instruments of national power to achieve objectives that will enhance and ensure the national security of the nation. Additionally, it gives rise to the creation of an ability to deter an enemy threat and when necessary, to project force (usually military force) in order to secure the state’s national security interests and goals. The projection of force can be overt, clandestine or covert in nature.
The NSS (or alternatively the grand strategy) provides the guidelines for the development of the military strategy. This strategy consists of the planning, preparation, implementation, execution and coordination of the military forces at the disposal of the state to pursue its desired strategic goals. The formulated strategic goals may be offensive, defensive or containment in nature and will involve the military, intelligence, law-enforcement, diplomatic and economic resources at the disposal of the state.
The aim of the military strategy is, ultimately, to gain supremacy over the opposing forces/state(s) and reduce or destroy their will to fight. It is therefore the application of military resources aimed at achieving grand or national strategic objectives. As a strategy, it culminates in a violent act and should, in the main, be tested against the principles of strategy. These principles are often viewed as similar to the principles of war.
Constant changes in the operational environment will shape the military strategy and, therefore, such changes need to be constantly monitored and the military strategy adapted to these changes. These changes may, additionally, impact on any broad, pre-set tactical plans.
In Africa, many governments have neglected the formulation of, and adherence to, a grand strategy. In such a scenario, the development of the military strategy needs to be carefully coordinated with the government’s general policy. These policies, in turn, tend to be very party political in nature and it is, therefore, necessary to confirm the strategy at the highest level, pointing out all realistic advantages and disadvantages – as well as the potential political impact, both nationally and internationally. It needs to be pointed out that the political impact of a military strategy in Africa will differ from that of a Western nation.
Given the complexities regarding ethnicity, language, culture, tradition, beliefs and so forth, African military strategies tend to be very theatre-bound and usually re-active in nature inst4ead of pre-emptive. Many of these complexities are part of the historic legacy of drawing country borders during times of colonisation and splitting tribes into different countries.
Considering the battle for resources that is currently being waged in Africa, another part of the problem lies with the physical location of the natural resources, especially where a particular resource straddles international borders or is located within the domain of a specific grouping of people or tribe.
Adding fuel to this volatile mix is the funding of a specific group of armed guerrillas/rebels or terrorists who use the natural resources to fund their actions. It is especially in this area of interest that the military strategy should focus – deprive the opposing forces from their source of funding but in such a manner that the NSS or grand strategy remains intact.