The military strategy is an intelligence-driven, intellectual process that results in possible future or definite action.
The waging of war ie the implementation of strategy is conducted at four distinct yet inter-related levels. These levels are known as the levels of war and consist of:
1. The political level
2. The strategic level
3. The operational level
4. The tactical level.
The Political Level: Sometimes referred to as War by Political Means, this is the highest level of war and is often ignored by the military. Although the Grand Strategy or National Strategy is the highest level of strategy, the political level of war is, likewise, the highest level of war and is associated with political, economical and/or covert politico-military operations. Sometimes referred to as War by Political Means, it is the applying of political and/or economical sanctions against a country that is considered to be conducting unacceptable political practices. Likewise, financial sanctions aimed at wearing down or exhausting a country economically are further examples of war at the political level. Other examples of the war at the political level include expelling of diplomatic staff, pressure to ensure international isolation of a threat country, international boycotts, international support to nationalist groups, and the conduct of highly-sensitive, high-level covert operations aimed at achieving a specific political goal and so forth. The conduct of highly-sensitive, high-level covert operations are usually deniable by the government. Where war at the political level may require discretionary warfare, these types of operations straddle the boundary between political and strategic level warfare yet remain highly sensitive and are usually deniable. War at the political level is ultimately aimed at bringing about a regime change without overtly committing the armed forces to direct battle.
The Strategic Level: At this level of planning, strategists and planners will ultimately be left with four definitive choices of how the government will want to resolve the situation. These are:
· Neutralising rebel or insurgent forces intent on usurping government support through violent means
· Annihilating the opposing forces
· Exhausting the opposing forces
· Attrition of the opposing forces.
The threat, the terrain, Own Forces capabilities and the economy or support to sustain the war will determine how it will be fought at this level. Military operations conducted at this level are referred to as strategic warfare. War at the strategic level will encompass either distant or close strategic offensives as well as strategic defensive warfare. Strategic defensive warfare can take the form of conventional, unconventional and semi-conventional operations and can include long-distance offensives, cross-border raids (sanctioned or not sanctioned) and Counter Insurgency (COIN) operations.
The Operational Level: War at the Operational Level is aimed at achieving the strategic military objectives through a series of battles and/or campaigns, conventional or otherwise, aimed at achieving the theatre objectives and can last for weeks, months and even years. These actions are not restricted to operations beyond the borders of the country but may unfold nationally as well.
The Tactical Level: At this level of war, short term engagements are fought between Own Forces and the enemy utilising Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) as the foundation of the engagements.
It is at the levels of war that the strategy unfolds via the approved military strategy, commander’s intent, designs for battle, operational plans and action. However, a lack of sound intelligence will result in weak or poorly executed strategies that may bring about a collapse of the government or a defeat of the armed forces.
Prematurely extricating the armed forces from operations that have been poorly planned and executed may lead to grave embarrassment of the state and a decline in regional and international respect. In turn, this may adversely impact on both the security of the state and even the tenure of the government.