One of the key principles of strategy is to “select and maintain the aim or objective”. This principle is furthermore found in the principles of war and in the principles of the offense.
This principle follows closely on the heels of another fundamental truth – Strategy must adhere to the political guidelines as contained in the political strategy. This is due to the fact that military strategy is simply an extension of the political strategy or a manifestation of a country’s foreign policy.
This principle is aimed at ensuring that commanders do not lose focus on their primary and secondary objectives but instead focus their forces on either destroying or neutralising those objectives. Additionally, this principle ensures that commanders are not side-tracked from their mission and that all possible deviations from the primary and secondary objectives have been carefully appreciated and planned.
The final military strategy is tested against the numerous principles of strategy and war.
Each operational plan is also tested against the principles of that particular phase(s) of warfare that is to be executed during the operation.
During the appreciation and plan, the Intelligence Officer (IO) represents the enemy commander and, based on his knowledge of the enemy, presents the enemy’s most likely and most dangerous courses of action. This allows the commander to ensure that his plan is both flexible and workable, that he never loses sight of the allocated objectives and that he is able to cope with any unexpected enemy actions.
In order to fulfil his task effectively, the IO needs “intelligence” if he is to advise his commander correctly. Without “intelligence”, commanders are blind as all strategies and tactical actions are intelligence driven.
However, a new word has crept into the military’s ever-expanding terminology - “mission creep”. Along with this comes “exit strategy” – something I regard as a “defeat and withdrawal with honour” – if there can be such a thing.
But of late, a lot has been said and written about “mission creep” and how important it is to counter this phenomenon.
Many will disagree with me but I believe that mission creep exists because strategists and planners have failed to strategise and plan. Alternatively, their strategies and plans were never intelligence-driven but instead were based on arrogance, guesstimates and best-case scenarios. Coupled to the lack of strategy and planning comes interference at political level, usually contrary to the initial guidelines supplied, which breaks the military focus and alters the objectives. This, in turn, forces commanders to adapt or change their unit’s mission profile and posture and alter their initial military objectives.
A lack of focus on the objective allows the commanders to become side-tracked with issues that are often unrelated to the objective and in order to cope with this deviation, more troops are called for. This is one of the reasons why “troop surge strategies” are implemented. But, I have had my say on what I perceive to be a misguided approach – unless of course, a war of attrition is being fought. But it is highly unlikely that modern society will adopt and execute a long-term war of attrition, especially in terms of casualties and costs.
I am therefore somewhat surprised when “mission creep” is mentioned as something that is inevitable. I believe it is due to a total intelligence failure and subsequent poor strategies and plans.
But, perhaps I am wrong?