Military strategy

Military strategy

Overview
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organization
Military organization
Military organization is the structuring of the armed forces of a state so as to offer military capability required by the national defence policy. In some countries paramilitary forces are included in a nation's armed forces...

s to pursue desired strategic goal
Strategic goal (military)
A strategic military goal is used in strategic planning to define desired end-state of a war or a campaign. Usually it entails either a strategic change in enemy's military posture, intentions or ongoing operations, or achieving a strategic victory over the enemy that ends the conflict, although...

s. Derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 strategos
Strategos
Strategos, plural strategoi, is used in Greek to mean "general". In the Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires the term was also used to describe a military governor...

, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

", 'the art of arrangement' of troops. Military strategy deals with the planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement and disposition of forces, and the deception
Military deception
Military deception is an attempt to amplify, or create an artificial fog of war or to mislead the enemy using psychological operations, information warfare and other methods. As a form of strategic use of information , it overlaps with psychological warfare...

 of the enemy.

The father of modern strategic study
Strategic studies
Strategic studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning the relationship between politics, geography and natural resources, economics, and military power, such as the role of intelligence, diplomacy and threats in the preparation and use of force...

, Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

, defined military strategy as "the employment of battles to gain the end of war." B.
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Encyclopedia
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organization
Military organization
Military organization is the structuring of the armed forces of a state so as to offer military capability required by the national defence policy. In some countries paramilitary forces are included in a nation's armed forces...

s to pursue desired strategic goal
Strategic goal (military)
A strategic military goal is used in strategic planning to define desired end-state of a war or a campaign. Usually it entails either a strategic change in enemy's military posture, intentions or ongoing operations, or achieving a strategic victory over the enemy that ends the conflict, although...

s. Derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 strategos
Strategos
Strategos, plural strategoi, is used in Greek to mean "general". In the Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires the term was also used to describe a military governor...

, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

", 'the art of arrangement' of troops. Military strategy deals with the planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement and disposition of forces, and the deception
Military deception
Military deception is an attempt to amplify, or create an artificial fog of war or to mislead the enemy using psychological operations, information warfare and other methods. As a form of strategic use of information , it overlaps with psychological warfare...

 of the enemy.

The father of modern strategic study
Strategic studies
Strategic studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning the relationship between politics, geography and natural resources, economics, and military power, such as the role of intelligence, diplomacy and threats in the preparation and use of force...

, Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

, defined military strategy as "the employment of battles to gain the end of war." B. H. Liddell Hart's definition put less emphasis on battles, defining strategy as "the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy". Hence, both gave the pre-eminence to political aims over military goals.

Fundamentals


Military strategy is the planning and execution of the contest between groups of armed adversaries. Strategy, which is a subdiscipline of warfare and of foreign policy
Foreign policy
A country's foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries...

, is a principal tool to secure national interest
National interest
The national interest, often referred to by the French expression raison d'État , is a country's goals and ambitions whether economic, military, or cultural. The concept is an important one in international relations where pursuit of the national interest is the foundation of the realist...

s. It is larger in perspective than military tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

, which involves the disposition and maneuver of units on a particular sea or battlefield, but less broad than grand strategy
Grand strategy
Grand strategy comprises the "purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community". Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart says about grand strategy:...

, which is the overarching strategy of the largest of organizations such as the nation state, confederation
Confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

, or international alliance
Alliance
An alliance is an agreement or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests.See also military alliance and business alliance.-International relations:...

. Military strategy involves wielding diplomatic, informational, military, and economic resources against the opponent's resources to gain supremacy or reduce the opponent's will to fight, developed through the precepts of military science
Military science
Military science is the process of translating national defence policy to produce military capability by employing military scientists, including theorists, researchers, experimental scientists, applied scientists, designers, engineers, test technicians, and military personnel responsible for...

.

NATO's definition of strategy is "presenting the manner in which military power should be developed and applied to achieve national objectives or those of a group of nations. Strategy may be divided into 'Grand Strategy', geopolitical in scope and 'military strategy' that converts the geopolitical policy objectives into militarily achievable goals and campaigns. Field Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke
Viscount Alanbrooke
Viscount Alanbrooke, of Brookeborough in the County of Fermanagh, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 29 January 1946 for Field Marshal Alan Brooke, 1st Baron Alanbrooke. He had already been created Baron Alanbrooke, of Brookeborough in the County of Fermanagh, on 18...

, Chief of the Imperial General Staff and co-chairman of the Anglo-US Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee for most of the Second World War, described the art of military strategy as: "to derive from the [policy] aim a series of military objectives to be achieved: to assess these objectives as to the military requirements they create, and the pre-conditions which the achievement of each is likely to necessitate: to measure available and potential resources against the requirements and to chart from this process a coherent pattern of priorities and a rational course of action." Field-Marshal Montgomery
Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC , nicknamed "Monty" and the "Spartan General" was a British Army officer. He saw action in the First World War, when he was seriously wounded, and during the Second World War he commanded the 8th Army from...

 summed it up thus "Strategy is the art of distributing and applying military means, such as armed forces and supplies, to fulfil the ends of policy. Tactics means the dispositions for, and control of, military forces and techniques in actual fighting. Put more shortly: strategy is the art of the conduct of war, tactics the art of fighting."

Background


Military strategy in the 19th century was still viewed as one of a trivium of "arts" or "sciences" that govern the conduct of warfare; the others being tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

, the execution of plans and maneuvering of forces in battle, and logistics
Logistics
Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of destination in order to meet the requirements of customers or corporations. Logistics involves the integration of information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, and packaging, and...

, the maintenance of an army. The view had prevailed since the Roman times, and the borderline between strategy and tactics at this time was blurred, and sometimes categorization of a decision is a matter of almost personal opinion. Carnot
Lazare Carnot
Lazare Nicolas Marguerite, Comte Carnot , the Organizer of Victory in the French Revolutionary Wars, was a French politician, engineer, and mathematician.-Education and early life:...

, during the French Revolutionary Wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

 thought it simply involved concentration of troops.

Strategy and tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 are closely related and exist on the same continuum, modern thinking places the operational level between them. All deal with distance, time and force but strategy is large scale, can endure through years, and is societal while tactics are small scale and involve the disposition of fewer elements enduring hours to weeks. Originally strategy was understood to govern the prelude to a battle while tactics controlled its execution. However, in the world war
World war
A world war is a war affecting the majority of the world's most powerful and populous nations. World wars span multiple countries on multiple continents, with battles fought in multiple theaters....

s of the 20th century, the distinction between maneuver and battle, strategy and tactics, expanded with the capacity of technology and transit. Tactics that were once the province of a company of cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 would be applied to a panzer
Panzer
A Panzer is a German language word that, when used as a noun, means "tank". When it is used as an adjective, it means either tank or "armoured" .- Etymology :...

 army
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

.

It is often said that the art of strategies defines the goals to achieve in a military campaign, while tactics defines the methods to achieve these goals. Strategic goals could be "We want to conquer area X", or "We want to stop country Y's expansion in world trade in commodity Z"; while tactical decisions range from a general statement, e.g. "We're going to do this by a naval invasion of the North of country X", "We're going to blockade the ports of country Y", to a more specific "C Platoon will attack while D platoon provides fire cover".

In its purest form, strategy dealt solely with military issues. In earlier societies, a king or political leader was often the same person as the military leader. If he was not, the distance of communication between the political and the military leader was small. But as the need of a professional army grew, the bounds between the politicians and the military came to be recognized. In many cases, it was decided that there was a need for a separation.

As French statesman Georges Clemenceau
Georges Clemenceau
Georges Benjamin Clemenceau was a French statesman, physician and journalist. He served as the Prime Minister of France from 1906 to 1909, and again from 1917 to 1920. For nearly the final year of World War I he led France, and was one of the major voices behind the Treaty of Versailles at the...

 said, "War is too important a business to be left to soldiers." This gave rise to the concept of the grand strategy
Grand strategy
Grand strategy comprises the "purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community". Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart says about grand strategy:...

which encompasses the management of the resources of an entire nation in the conduct of warfare. In the environment of the grand strategy, the military component is largely reduced to operational strategy -- the planning and control of large military units such as corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 and divisions
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

. As the size and number of the armies grew and the technology to communicate and control improved, the difference between "military strategy" and "grand strategy" shrank. Fundamental to grand strategy is the diplomacy
Diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

 through which a nation might forge alliances or pressure another nation into compliance, thereby achieving victory without resorting to combat. Another element of grand strategy is the management of the post-war peace.

As Clausewitz stated, a successful military strategy may be a means to an end, but it is not an end in itself. There are numerous examples in history where victory on the battlefield has not translated into long term peace, security or tranquility.

Principles


Many military strategists have attempted to encapsulate a successful strategy in a set of principles. Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

 defined 13 principles in his The Art of War
The Art of War
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise that is attributed to Sun Tzu , a high ranking military general and strategist during the late Spring and Autumn period...

while Napoleon listed 115 maxims. American Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. He is remembered both as a self-educated, innovative cavalry leader during the war and as a leading southern advocate in the postwar years...

 had only one: "to git thar furst with the most men" or "to get there first with the most men".
The concepts given as essential in the United States Army Field Manual
U.S. Army Field Manuals
U.S. Army Field Manuals are published by the United States Army's Army Publishing Directorate. As of 27 July 2007, some 542 field manuals were in use. They contain detailed information and how-tos for procedures important to soldiers serving in the field. They are usually available to the public at...

 of Military Operations (FM-3-0, sections 4-32 to 4-39) are:
  1. Objective (Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective)
  2. Offensive (Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative)
  3. Mass (Concentrate combat power at the decisive place and time)
  4. Economy of Force (Allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts)
  5. Maneuver (Place the enemy in a disadvantageous position through the flexible application of combat power)
  6. Unity of Command (For every objective, ensure unity of effort
    Unity of effort
    Unity of effort is the state of harmonizing efforts among multiple organizations working towards a similar objective. This prevents organizations from working at cross purposes and it reduces duplication of effort. Multiple organizations can achieve unity of effort through shared common objectives...

     under one responsible commander)
  7. Security (Never permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage)
  8. Surprise (Strike the enemy at a time, at a place, or in a manner for which he is unprepared)
  9. Simplicity (Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and clear, concise orders to ensure thorough understanding)


Some strategists assert that adhering to the fundamental principles guarantees victory while others claim war is unpredictable and the general must be flexible in formulating a strategy. Field Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke expressed strategy as a system of "ad hoc expedients" by which a general must take action while under pressure. These underlying principles of strategy have survived relatively unscathed as the technology of warfare has developed.

Strategy (and tactics) must constantly evolve in response to technological advances. A successful strategy from one era tends to remain in favor long after new developments in military weaponry and matériel have rendered it obsolete. World War I, and to a great extent the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, saw Napoleonic tactics of "offense at all costs" pitted against the defensive power of the trench
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

, machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

 and barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

. As a reaction to her World War I experience, France entered World War II with a purely defensive doctrine, epitomized by the "impregnable" Maginot Line
Maginot Line
The Maginot Line , named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defences, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy, in light of its experience in World War I,...

, but only to be completely circumvented by the German blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

.

Development



Early military strategy


The principles of military strategy can be found as far back as 500 BC in the works of Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

 and Chanakya
Chanakya
Chānakya was a teacher to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta , and the first Indian emperor generally considered to be the architect of his rise to power. Traditionally, Chanakya is also identified by the names Kautilya and VishnuGupta, who authored the ancient Indian political treatise...

. The campaigns of Alexander the Great, Chandragupta Maurya
Chandragupta Maurya
Chandragupta Maurya , was the founder of the Maurya Empire. Chandragupta succeeded in conquering most of the Indian subcontinent. Chandragupta is considered the first unifier of India and its first genuine emperor...

, Hannibal, Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang , personal name Ying Zheng , was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 BC to 221 BC during the Warring States Period. He became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BC...

, Julius Cæsar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

, Zhuge Liang
Zhuge Liang
Zhuge Liang was a chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. He is often recognised as the greatest and most accomplished strategist of his era....

, Khalid ibn al-Walid
Khalid ibn al-Walid
Khālid ibn al-Walīd also known as Sayf Allāh al-Maslūl , was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He is noted for his military tactics and prowess, commanding the forces of Medina and those of his immediate successors of the Rashidun Caliphate; Abu Bakr and Umar...

 and, in particular, Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 demonstrate strategic planning and movement. Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan was a United States Navy flag officer, geostrategist, and historian, who has been called "the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century." His concept of "sea power" was based on the idea that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide...

 describes in the preface to The Influence of Sea Power upon History
The Influence of Sea Power upon History
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783 is a history of naval warfare written in 1890 by Alfred Thayer Mahan. It details the role of sea power throughout history and discusses the various factors needed to support and achieve sea power, with emphasis on having the largest and most...

how the Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 used their sea power to effectively block the sea lines of communication
Sea lines of communication
Sea lines of communication is a term describing the primary maritime routes between ports, used for trade, logistics and naval forces...

 of Hannibal with Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

; and so via a maritime strategy achieved Hannibal's removal from Italy, despite never beating him there with their legions.

Early strategies included the strategy of annihilation, exhaustion, attrition warfare
Attrition warfare
Attrition warfare is a military strategy in which a belligerent side attempts to win a war by wearing down its enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and matériel....

, scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 action, blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

, guerrilla campaign, deception
Deception
Deception, beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification, bad faith, and subterfuge are acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth . Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand. It can employ distraction, camouflage or concealment...

 and feint
Feint
Feint is a French term that entered English from the discipline of fencing. Feints are maneuvers designed to distract or mislead, done by giving the impression that a certain maneuver will take place, while in fact another, or even none, will...

. Ingenuity and adeptness was limited only by imagination, accord, and technology. Strategists continually exploited ever-advancing technology.

In 1520 Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

's Dell'arte della guerra (Art of War) dealt with the relationship between civil and military matters and the formation of the grand strategy. In the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
Gustav II Adolf has been widely known in English by his Latinized name Gustavus Adolphus Magnus and variously in historical writings also as Gustavus, or Gustavus the Great, or Gustav Adolph the Great,...

 demonstrated advanced operational strategy that led to victories in Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 area.

It was not until the 18th century that military strategy was subjected to serious study in Europe. In the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

 (1756–1763), Frederick the Great
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 improvised a "strategy of exhaustion" (see Attrition warfare
Attrition warfare
Attrition warfare is a military strategy in which a belligerent side attempts to win a war by wearing down its enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and matériel....

) to hold off his opponents and conserve his Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n forces. Assailed from all sides by France, Austria, Russia and Sweden, Frederick exploited his central position which enabled him to move his army along interior lines
Interior lines
Interior lines is a strategy of warfare that is based on the concept that lines of movement, communication, and supply within an area are shorter than those on the outside. As the area held by a defensive force shrinks, these advantages increase...

 and concentrate against one opponent at a time. Unable to achieve victory, he was able to stave off defeat until a diplomatic solution was reached. Frederick's "victory" led to great significance being placed on "geometric strategy" which emphasized lines of manoeuvre, awareness of terrain and possession of critical strongpoints.

Genghis Khan and the Mongols


As a counterpoint to European developments in the strategic art, the Mongol
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

 Emperor Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan , born Temujin and occasionally known by his temple name Taizu , was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death....

 provides a useful example. Genghis' successes, and those of his successors, were based upon manoeuvre and terror. The point of Genghis' strategic assault was nothing less than the psychology of the opposing population. By a steady and meticulous implementation of this strategy, Genghis and his descendants were able to conquer most of Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

. The building blocks of Genghis' army and his strategy were his tribal levies of mounted archers, scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

-style methods, and (just as important) the vast horse-herds of Mongolia.

Each archer had at least one extra horse; (it was an average five horses per man) thus the entire army could move with incredible rapidity. Moreover since horse milk and horse blood were the staples of the Mongolian diet, Genghis' horse-herds functioned not just as his means of movement but also as his logistical sustainment. All other necessities would be foraged and plundered. Khan's marauders also brought with them mobile shelters, concubines, butchers, and cooks. Through maneuver and continuous assault, Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Persian, Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 and Eastern European armies could be stressed until they broke, and then were annihilated in pursuit.

Compared to the armies of Genghis, all other armies were heavy and comparatively immobile. It was not until well into the 20th century that any army was able to match the rapidity of deployment of Genghis' armies. When confronted with a fortified city, the Mongol imperatives of maneuver and speed required that it be quickly subdued. Here the fear engendered by the awful reputation of the Mongolians helped intimidate and subdue.

So too did primitive biological warfare
Biological warfare
Biological warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war...

. A trebuchet
Trebuchet
A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the Middle Ages. It is sometimes called a "counterweight trebuchet" or "counterpoise trebuchet" in order to distinguish it from an earlier weapon that has come to be called the "traction trebuchet", the original version with pulling men instead of...

 or other type of ballista
Ballista
The ballista , plural ballistae, was an ancient missile weapon which launched a large projectile at a distant target....

 weapon would be used to launch dead animals and corpses into a barricaded city, spreading disease and death among the inhabitants, such as the Black Plague. If a particular town or city displeased the Mongolian Khan, everyone in the city would be killed to set an example for all other cities. This was early psychological warfare
Psychological warfare
Psychological warfare , or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations , have been known by many other names or terms, including Psy Ops, Political Warfare, “Hearts and Minds,” and Propaganda...

.

Note that of the above list of strategic terms, even this elementary summary indicates that the Mongols strategy was directed towards an objective (that schwerpunkt (main focus) being nothing less than the psychology of the opposing population) achieved through the offensive; the offensive was characterized by concentration of forces, manoeuvre, surprise and simplicity.

Napoleonic strategy


The French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 and the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 that followed revolutionized military strategy. The impact of this period was still to be felt in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and the early phases of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

.

With the advent of cheap small arms and the rise of the drafted citizen soldier, armies grew rapidly in size to become massed formations. This necessitated dividing the army first into divisions
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 and later into corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

. Along with divisions came divisional artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

; light-weight, mobile cannon
Cannon
A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees,...

 with great range and firepower. The rigid formations of pikemen and musketeer
Musketeer
A musketeer was an early modern type of infantry soldier equipped with a musket. Musketeers were an important part of early modern armies, particularly in Europe. They sometimes could fight on horseback, like a dragoon or a cavalryman...

s firing massed volleys gave way to light infantry
Light infantry
Traditionally light infantry were soldiers whose job was to provide a skirmishing screen ahead of the main body of infantry, harassing and delaying the enemy advance. Light infantry was distinct from medium, heavy or line infantry. Heavy infantry were dedicated primarily to fighting in tight...

 fighting in skirmish lines.

Napoleon I of France
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 took advantage of these developments to pursue a brutally effective "strategy of annihilation" (see scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

) that terrorized the populace and cared little for the mathematical perfection of the geometric strategy. Napoleon invariably sought to achieve decision in battle, with the sole aim of utterly destroying his opponent, usually achieving success through superior manoeuvre. As ruler and general he dealt with the grand strategy as well as the operational strategy, making use of political and economic measures.

While not the originator of the methods he used, Napoleon very effectively combined the relatively superior maneuver and battle stages into one event. Before this, General Officers had considered this approach to battle as separate events. However, Napoleon used the maneuver to battle to dictate how and where the battle would progress. The Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz
The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of Napoleon's greatest victories, where the French Empire effectively crushed the Third Coalition...

 was a perfect example of this maneuver. Napoleon withdrew from a strong position to draw his opponent forward and tempt him into a flank attack, weakening his center. This allowed the French army to split the allied army and gain victory.

Napoleon used two primary strategies for the approach to battle. His "Manoeuvre De Derrière" (move onto the rear) was intended to place the French Army across the enemy's lines of communications. This forced the opponent to either march to battle with Napoleon or attempt to find an escape route around the army. By placing his army into the rear, his opponent's supplies and communications would be cut. This had a negative effect on enemy morale. Once joined, the battle would be one in which his opponent could not afford defeat. This also allowed Napoleon to select multiple battle angles into a battle site. Initially, the lack of force concentration helped with foraging for food and sought to confuse the enemy as to his real location and intentions. This strategy, along with the use of forced marches created a morale bonus that played heavily in his favor.

The "indirect" approach into battle also allowed Napoleon to disrupt the linear formations used by the allied armies. As the battle progressed, the enemy committed their reserves to stabilize the situation, Napoleon would suddenly release the flanking
Flanking maneuver
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, also called a flank attack, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its...

 formation to attack the enemy. His opponents, being suddenly confronted with a new threat and with little reserves, had no choice but to weaken the area closest to the flanking formation and draw up a battle line at a right angle in an attempt to stop this new threat. Once this had occurred, Napoleon would mass his reserves at the hinge of that right angle and launch a heavy attack to break the lines. The rupture in the enemy lines allowed Napoleon's cavalry to flank both lines and roll them up leaving his opponent no choice but to surrender or flee.

The second strategy used by Napoleon I of France
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 when confronted with two or more enemy armies was the use of the central position. This allowed Napoleon to drive a wedge to separate the enemy armies. He would then use part of his force to mask one army while the larger portion overwhelmed and defeated the second army quickly. He would then march on the second army leaving a portion to pursue the first army and repeat the operations. This was designed to achieve the highest concentration of men into the primary battle while limiting the enemy's ability to reinforce the critical battle. The central position had a weakness in that the full power of the pursuit of the enemy could not be achieved because the second army needed attention.

So overall the preferred method of attack was the flank march to cross the enemy's logistics. Napoleon used the central position strategy during the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

.

Waterloo




Napoleon masked Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 and massed against the Prussian army, and then after the Battle of Ligny
Battle of Ligny
The Battle of Ligny was the last victory of the military career of Napoleon I. In this battle, French troops of the Armée du Nord under Napoleon's command, defeated a Prussian army under Field Marshal Blücher, near Ligny in present-day Belgium. The bulk of the Prussian army survived, however, and...

 was won, Napoleon attempted to do the same to the Allied/British army located just to the south of Waterloo. His subordinate was unable to mask the defeated Prussian army, who reinforced the Waterloo battle in time to defeat Napoleon and end his domination of Europe.

It can be said that the Prussian Army
Prussian Army
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...

 under Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt , Graf , later elevated to Fürst von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington.He is...

 used the "maneuver de derrière" against Napoleon who was suddenly placed in a position of reacting to a new enemy threat.

Napoleon's practical strategic triumphs, repeatedly leading smaller forces to defeat larger ones, inspired a whole new field of study into military strategy. In particular, his opponents were keen to develop a body of knowledge in this area to allow them to counteract a masterful individual with a highly competent group of officers, a General Staff. The two most significant students of his work were Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

, a Prussian with a background in philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, and Antoine-Henri Jomini
Antoine-Henri Jomini
Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini was a general in the French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of war...

, who had been one of Napoleon's staff officers.

One notable exception to Napoleon's strategy of annihilation and a precursor to trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 were the Lines of Torres Vedras
Lines of Torres Vedras
The Lines of Torres Vedras were lines of forts built in secrecy to defend Lisbon during the Peninsular War. Named after the nearby town of Torres Vedras, they were ordered by Arthur Wellesley, Viscount Wellington, constructed by Sir Richard Fletcher, 1st Baronet and his Portuguese workers between...

 during the Peninsular campaign
Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...

. French Armies lived off the land and when they were confronted by a line of fortifications which they could not out flank, they were unable to continue the advance and were forced to retreat once they had consumed all the provisions of the region in front of the lines.

The Peninsular campaign was notable for the development of another method of warfare which went largely unnoticed at the time, but would become far more common in the 20th century. That was the aid and encouragement the British gave to the Spanish to harass the French behind their lines which led them to squander most of the assets of their Iberian army in protecting the army's line of communications. This was a very cost effective move for the British, because it cost far less to aid Spanish insurgents than it did to equip and pay regular British army units to engage the same number of French troops.

As the British army could be correspondingly smaller it was able to supply its troops by sea and land without having to live off the land as was the norm at the time. Further, because they did not have to forage they did not antagonise the locals and so did not have to garrison their lines of communications to the same extent as the French did. So the strategy of aiding their Spanish civilian allies in their guerrilla or 'small war' benefited the British in many ways, not all of which were immediately obvious.

Clausewitz and Jomini


Clausewitz's On War
On War
Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

has become the respected reference for strategy, dealing with political, as well as military, leadership. His most famous assertion being:
"War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of policy carried out by other means."


Clausewitz dismissed "geometry" as an insignificant factor in strategy, believing instead in the Napoleonic concept of victory through battle and destruction of the opposing force, at any cost. However, he also recognized that limited warfare could influence policy by wearing down the opposition through a "strategy of attrition".

In contrast to Clausewitz, Antoine-Henri Jomini dealt mainly with operational strategy, planning and intelligence
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

, the conduct of the campaign, and "generalship" rather than "statesmanship". He proposed that victory could be achieved by occupying the enemy's territory rather than destroying his army.

As such, geometric considerations were prominent in his theory of strategy. Jomini's two basic principles of strategy were to concentrate against fractions of the enemy force at a time and to strike at the most decisive objective. Clausewitz and Jomini are required reading for today's military professional officer.

Strategy in the industrial age, 1860s-1900s


The evolution of military strategy continued in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 (1861–65). The practice of strategy was advanced by generals such as Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

, Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 and William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War , for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched...

, all of whom had been influenced by the feats of Napoleon (Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was said to have carried a book of Napoleon's maxims with him.)

However, the adherence to the Napoleonic principles in the face of technological advances such as the long-range infantry breechloader rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

s and minie ball
Minié ball
The Minié ball is a type of muzzle-loading spin-stabilising rifle bullet named after its co-developer, Claude-Étienne Minié, inventor of the Minié rifle...

 guns generally led to disastrous consequences for both the Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 and Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

  forces and populace. The time and space in which war was waged changed as well. Railroads enabled swift movement of large forces but the manoeuvring was constrained to narrow, vulnerable corridors. Steam power and ironclads changed transport and combat at sea. Newly invented telegraph enabled more rapid communication between armies and their headquarters capitals. Combat was still usually waged by opposing divisions with skirmish lines on rural battlefields, violent naval engagements by cannon-armed sailing or steam-powered vessels, and assault on military forces defending a town.

There was still room for triumphs for the strategy of manoeuvre such as Sherman's March to the Sea
Sherman's March to the Sea
Sherman's March to the Sea is the name commonly given to the Savannah Campaign conducted around Georgia from November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864 by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army in the American Civil War...

 in 1864, but these depended upon an enemy's unwillingness to entrench. Towards the end of the war, especially in defense of static targets as in the battles of Cold Harbor
Battle of Cold Harbor
The Battle of Cold Harbor was fought from May 31 to June 12, 1864 . It was one of the final battles of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign during the American Civil War, and is remembered as one of American history's bloodiest, most lopsided battles...

 and Vicksburg
Battle of Vicksburg
The Siege of Vicksburg was the final major military action in the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War. In a series of maneuvers, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate army of Lt. Gen. John C...

, trenches between both sides grew to a World War I scale. Many of the lessons of the American Civil War were forgotten, when in wars like the Austro-Prussian War
Austro-Prussian War
The Austro-Prussian War was a war fought in 1866 between the German Confederation under the leadership of the Austrian Empire and its German allies on one side and the Kingdom of Prussia with its German allies and Italy on the...

 or the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

, manoeuvre won the day.

In the period preceding World War I, two of the most influential strategists were the Prussian generals, Helmuth von Moltke and Alfred von Schlieffen. Under Moltke the Prussian army achieved victory in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), the latter campaign being widely regarded as a classic example of the conception and execution of military strategy.

In addition to exploiting railroads and highways for manoeuvre, Moltke also exploited the telegraph
Telegraphy
Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages via some form of signalling technology. Telegraphy requires messages to be converted to a code which is known to both sender and receiver...

 for control of large armies. He recognised the increasing need to delegate control to subordinate commanders and to issue directives rather than specific orders. Moltke is most remembered as a strategist for his belief in the need for flexibility and that no plan, however well prepared, can be guaranteed to survive beyond the first encounter with the enemy.

Field Marshal Schlieffen succeeded Moltke and directed German planning in the lead up to World War I. He advocated the "strategy of annihilation" but was faced by a war on two fronts against numerically superior opposition. The strategy he formulated was the Schlieffen Plan
Schlieffen Plan
The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...

, defending in the east while concentrating for a decisive victory in the west, after which the Germans would go on to the offensive in the east. Influenced by Hannibal's success at the Battle of Cannae
Battle of Cannae
The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War, which took place on August 2, 216 BC near the town of Cannae in Apulia in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage under Hannibal decisively defeated a numerically superior army of the Roman Republic under command of the consuls Lucius...

, Schlieffen planned for a single great battle of encirclement, thereby annihilating his enemy.

Another German strategist of the period was Hans Delbrück
Hans Delbrück
Hans Delbrück was a German historian. Delbrück was one of the first modern military historians, basing his method of research on the critical examination of ancient sources, the use of auxiliary disciplines, like demography and economics, to complete the analysis and the comparison between...

 who expanded on Clausewitz's concept of "limited warfare" to produce a theory on the "strategy of exhaustion". His theory defied popular military thinking of the time, which was strongly in favour of victory in battle, yet World War I would soon demonstrate the flaws of a mindless "strategy of annihilation".

At a time when industrialisation was reaping major advances in naval technology, one American strategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan was a United States Navy flag officer, geostrategist, and historian, who has been called "the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century." His concept of "sea power" was based on the idea that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide...

, almost single-handedly brought the field of naval strategy
Naval strategy
Naval strategy is the planning and conduct of war at sea, the naval equivalent of military strategy on land.Naval strategy, and the related concept of maritime strategy, concerns the overall strategy for achieving victory at sea, including the planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement and...

 up to date. Influenced by Jomini's principles of strategy, he saw that in the coming wars, where economic strategy could be as important as military strategy, control of the sea granted the power to control the trade and resources needed to wage war. Mahan pushed the concept of the "big navy" and an expansionist view where defence was achieved by controlling the sea approaches rather than fortifying the coast. His theories contributed to the naval arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

 between 1898 and 1914.

Strategy in World War I


At the start of World War I strategy was dominated by the offensive thinking that had been in vogue since 1870, despite the more recent experiences of the Second Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

 (1899–1902) and Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 (1904–05), where the machine gun demonstrated its defensive capabilities. By the end of 1914, the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 was a stalemate
Stalemate
Stalemate is a situation in chess where the player whose turn it is to move is not in check but has no legal moves. A stalemate ends the game in a draw. Stalemate is covered in the rules of chess....

 and all ability to maneuver strategically was lost. The combatants resorted to a "strategy of attrition". The German battle at Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

, the British on the Somme
Battle of the Somme (1916)
The Battle of the Somme , also known as the Somme Offensive, took place during the First World War between 1 July and 14 November 1916 in the Somme department of France, on both banks of the river of the same name...

 and at Passchendaele were among the first wide-scale battles intended to wear down the enemy. Attrition was time-consuming so the duration of World War I battles often stretched to weeks and months. The problem with attrition was that the use of fortified defenses in depth
Defence in depth
Defence in depth is a military strategy; it seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space...

 generally required a ratio of ten attackers to one defender, or a level of artillery support which was simply not feasible until late 1917, for any reasonable chance of victory. The ability of the defender to move troops using interior lines prevented the possibility of fully exploiting any breakthrough with the level of technology then attainable.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of strategy in World War I was the difference among the British between the "Western" viewpoint (held by Field Marshal Haig) and the "Eastern"; the former being that all effort should be directed against the German Army, the latter that more useful work could be done by attacking Germany's allies. The term "Knocking away the props" was used, perhaps as an unfortunate consequence of the fact that all of Germany's allies lay south of (i.e. 'beneath') her on the map. Apologists and defenders of the Western viewpoint make the valid point that Germany's allies were more than once rescued from disaster or rendered capable of holding their own or making substantial gains by the provision of German troops, arms or military advisers, whereas those allies did not at any time provide a similar function for Germany. That is, it was Germany which was the prop, and her allies (particularly Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary) did not suffer significant reverses until Germany's ability to come to their aid was grossly impaired.

On other fronts, there was still room for the use of strategy of maneuver. The Germans executed a perfect battle of annihilation
Battle of annihilation
A battle of annihilation is a military strategy where an attacking army seeks to destroy the military capacity of the opposing army in a single planned pivotal battle...

 against the Russians at the Battle of Tannenberg (1914)
Battle of Tannenberg (1914)
The Battle of Tannenberg was an engagement between the Russian Empire and the German Empire in the first days of World War I. It was fought by the Russian First and Second Armies against the German Eighth Army between 23 August and 30 August 1914. The battle resulted in the almost complete...

. In 1915 Britain and France launched the well-intentioned but poorly conceived and ultimately fruitless Dardanelles Campaign, combining naval power and an amphibious
Amphibious warfare
Amphibious warfare is the use of naval firepower, logistics and strategy to project military power ashore. In previous eras it stood as the primary method of delivering troops to non-contiguous enemy-held terrain...

 landing, in an effort to aid their Russian ally and knock the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 out of the war. The Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 campaign was dominated by cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

, which flourished in the local terrain, and the British achieved two breakthrough victories at Gaza
Third Battle of Gaza
The Third Battle of Gaza was fought in 1917 in southern Palestine during the First World War. The British Empire forces under the command of General Edmund Allenby successfully broke the Ottoman defensive Gaza-Beersheba line...

 (1917) and Megiddo
Battle of Megiddo (1918)
The Battle of Megiddo took place between 19 September and 1 October 1918, in what was then the northern part of Ottoman Palestine and parts of present-day Syria and Jordan...

 (1918). Colonel T. E. Lawrence
T. E. Lawrence
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO , known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18...

 and other British officers led Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 irregulars on a guerrilla campaign
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 against the Ottomans, using strategy and tactics developed during the Boer Wars.

World War I saw armies on a scale never before experienced. The British, who had always relied on a strong navy
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 and a small regular army, were forced to undertake a rapid expansion of the army. This outpaced the rate of training of generals and staff officers able to handle such a mammoth force, and overwhelmed the ability of British industry to equip it with the necessary weapons and adequate high-quality munitions until late in the war. Technological advances also had a huge influence on strategy: aerial reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

, artillery techniques, poison gas, the automobile
Automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 and tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

 (though the latter was, even at the end of the war, still in its infancy), telephone
Telephone
The telephone , colloquially referred to as a phone, is a telecommunications device that transmits and receives sounds, usually the human voice. Telephones are a point-to-point communication system whose most basic function is to allow two people separated by large distances to talk to each other...

 and radio telegraphy.

More so than in previous wars, military strategy in World War I was directed by the grand strategy of a coalition of nations; the Entente
Triple Entente
The Triple Entente was the name given to the alliance among Britain, France and Russia after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907....

 on one side and the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

 on the other. Society and economy were mobilized for total war
Total war
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

. Attacks on the enemy's economy included Britain's use of a naval blockade and Germany employing submarine warfare
Submarine warfare
Naval warfare is divided into three operational areas: surface warfare, air warfare and underwater warfare. The latter may be subdivided into submarine warfare and anti-submarine warfare as well as mine warfare and mine countermeasures...

 against merchant shipping
Merchant Navy
The Merchant Navy is the maritime register of the United Kingdom, and describes the seagoing commercial interests of UK-registered ships and their crews. Merchant Navy vessels fly the Red Ensign and are regulated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency...

.

Unity of command became a question when the various nation states began coordinating assaults and defenses. Under the pressure of horrendously destructive German attacks beginning on March 21, 1918, the Entente eventually settled under Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch
Ferdinand Foch
Ferdinand Foch , GCB, OM, DSO was a French soldier, war hero, military theorist, and writer credited with possessing "the most original and subtle mind in the French army" in the early 20th century. He served as general in the French army during World War I and was made Marshal of France in its...

. The Germans generally led the Central Powers, though German authority diminished and lines of command became confused at the end of the war.

World War I strategy was dominated by the "Spirit of the Offensive" where generals resorted almost to mysticism in terms of a soldier's personal "attitude" in order to break the stalemate, this led to nothing but bloody slaughter as troops in close ranks charged machineguns. Each side developed an alternate thesis. The British under Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 developed tank warfare with which they eventually won the war. The Germans developed a "doctrine of autonomy" the forerunner of both blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

 and modern infantry tactics
Infantry tactics
Infantry tactics are the combination of military concepts and methods used by infantry to achieve tactical objectives during combat. The role of the infantry on the battlefield is typically to close with the enemy and kill or capture him and infantry tactics are the means by which this is achieved...

 using groups of Stormtroopers who would advance in small mutually covering groups from cover to cover with "autonomy" to exploit any weakness they discovered in enemy defenses. Almost all the blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

 commanders of World War II, particularly Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

 were stormtroopers in World War I. After the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

 Germany launched and almost succeeded in a final offensive, however the new tactics of autonomy revealed a weakness in terms of overall coordination and direction. The March offensive, intended to drive a wedge between the French and British armies, turn on the latter and destroy it, lost direction and became driven by its territorial gains, its original purpose neglected.

World War I ended when the ability of the German army to fight became so diminished that Germany asked for peace conditions. The German military, exhausted by the efforts of the March offensives and dispirited by their failure, was first seriously defeated during the battle of Amiens (8–11 August 1918) and the German homefront entered general revolt over a lack of food and destruction of the economy. Victory for the Entente was almost assured by that point, and the fact of Germany's military impotence was driven home in the following hundred days. In this time, the Entente reversed the gains the Germans had made in the first part of the year, and the British Army (spearheaded by the Canadians and Australians) finally broke the Hindenburg defensive system
Battle of the Hindenburg Line
The Battle of St Quentin Canal was a pivotal battle of World War I that began on 29 September 1918 and involved British, Australian and American forces in the spearhead attack and as a single combined force against the German Siegfried Stellung of the Hindenburg Line...

.

Though his methods are questioned, Britain's Field Marshal Haig was ultimately proved correct in his grand strategic vision: "We cannot hope to win until we have defeated the German Army." By the end of the war, the best German troops were dead and the remainder were under continuous pressure on all parts of the Western Front, a consequence in part of an almost endless supply of fresh American reinforcements (which the Germans were unable to match) and in part of industry at last supplying the weakened Entente armies with the firepower to replace the men they lacked (whilst Germany wanted for all sorts of materials thanks to the naval blockade). Interior lines thus became meaningless as Germany had nothing more to offer its allies. The props eventually fell, but only because they were themselves no longer supported.

The role of the tank in World War I strategy is often poorly understood. Its supporters saw it as the weapon of victory, and many observers since have accused the high commands (especially the British) of shortsightedness in this matter, particularly in view of what tanks have achieved since. Nevertheless, the World War I tank's limitations, imposed by the limits of contemporary engineering technology, have to be borne in mind. They were slow (men could run, and frequently walk, faster); vulnerable (to artillery) due to their size, clumsiness and inability to carry armour against anything but rifle and machine gun ammunition; extremely uncomfortable (conditions inside them often incapacitating crews with engine fumes and heat, and driving some mad with noise); and often despicably unreliable (frequently failing to make it to their targets due to engine or track failures). This was the factor behind the seemingly mindless retention of large bodies of cavalry, which even in 1918, with armies incompletely mechanised, were still the only armed force capable of moving significantly faster than an infantryman on foot. It was not until the relevant technology (in engineering and communications) matured between the wars that the tank and the airplane could be forged into the co-ordinated force needed to truly restore manoeuvre to warfare.

Strategy development between World Wars


In the years following World War I, two of the technologies that had been introduced during that conflict, the aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 and the tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

, became the subject of strategic study
Strategic studies
Strategic studies is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning the relationship between politics, geography and natural resources, economics, and military power, such as the role of intelligence, diplomacy and threats in the preparation and use of force...

.

The leading theorist of air power was Italian general Giulio Douhet
Giulio Douhet
General Giulio Douhet was an Italian general and air power theorist. He was a key proponent of strategic bombing in aerial warfare...

 who believed that future wars would be won or lost in the air. The air force would carry the offensive and the role of the ground forces would be defensive only. Douhet's doctrine of strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 meant striking at the enemy's heartland—his cities, industry and communications. Air power would thereby reduce his willingness and capacity to fight. At this time the idea of the aircraft carrier and its capabilities also started to change thinking in those countries with large fleets, but no-where as much as in Japan. The UK and USA seem to have seen the carrier as a defensive weapon and their designs mirrored this, the Japanese Imperial navy seem to have developed a new offensive strategy based around the power projection these made possible.

British general J. F. C. Fuller, architect of the first great tank battle at Cambrai, and his contemporary, B. H. Liddell Hart, were amongst the most prominent advocates of mechanization and motorization of the army in Britain. In Germany, study groups were set up by Hans von Seeckt
Hans von Seeckt
Johannes Friedrich "Hans" von Seeckt was a German military officer noted for his organization of the German Army during the Weimar Republic.-Early life:...

, commander of the Reichwehr Truppenamt, for 57 areas of strategy and tactics to learn from World War I and to adapt strategy to avoid the stalemate and then defeat they had suffered. All seem to have seen the strategic shock value of mobility and the new possibilities made possible by motorised forces. Both saw that the armoured fighting vehicle
Armoured fighting vehicle
An armoured fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked....

 demonstrated firepower, mobility and protection. The Germans seem to have seen more clearly the need to make all branches of the Army as mobile as possible to maximise the results of this strategy. It would negate the static defences of the trench and machine gun and restore the strategic principles of manoeuvre and offense. Nevertheless, it was the British Army which was the only one truly mechanised at the beginning of the Second World War, the Germans still relying on horse traction for a portion of their artillery.

The innovative German Major (later General) Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

 developed the motorised part of this strategy as the head of one of the Truppenamt
Truppenamt
The Truppenamt or 'Troop Office' was the cover organisation for the German General Staff from 1919 through until 1933 when the General Staff was re-created. This subterfuge was deemed necessary in order for Germany to be seen to meet the requirements of the Versailles Treaty...

 groups and may have incorporated Fuller's and Liddell Hart's ideas to amplify the groundbreaking Blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

 effect that was seen used by Germany against Poland in 1939 and later against France in 1940. France, still committed to stationary World War I strategies, was completely surprised and summarily overwhelmed by Germany's mobile combined arms doctrine and Guderian's Panzer
Panzer
A Panzer is a German language word that, when used as a noun, means "tank". When it is used as an adjective, it means either tank or "armoured" .- Etymology :...

 Corps.

Technological change had an enormous effect on strategy, but little effect on leadership
Leadership
Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Other in-depth definitions of leadership have also emerged.-Theories:...

. The use of telegraph
Telegraphy
Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages via some form of signalling technology. Telegraphy requires messages to be converted to a code which is known to both sender and receiver...

 and later radio, along with improved transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

, enabled the rapid movement of large numbers of men. One of Germany's key enablers in mobile warfare was the use of radios, where these were put into every tank. However, the number of men that one officer could effectively control had, if anything, declined. The increases in the size of the armies led to an increase in the number of officers. Although the officer ranks in the US Army did swell, in the German army the ratio of officers to total men remained steady.

German strategy


The main political goals of Adolf Hitler were the fight against bolshevism and communism, the re-establishment of Germany as a European superpower ("Third Reich"), the persecution and annihilation of Jewish people, and the accumulation of Lebensraum
Lebensraum
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

("Living space") for the Germanic race. Another primary goal of Hitler's foreign policy was the complete anulment of the Versailles treaty, which he had already secretely undermined for several years, especially parts restricting the rearmament of Germany. Before the second World War, Hitler used the broad disdain for the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 among the German population and the grim economic situation due to the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 to gain support for his leadership. His strategy was to build up military strength and bolster German nationalism, while trying to prevent a two-front-war by setting up non-aggression-pacts with Britain (Appeasement
Appeasement
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

) and Russia (Stalin-Hitler Pact), and by annexing neighbouring countries at first only gradually and without using full military force (the Austrian Anschluss
Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

(annexation), and the occupation in two stages of Czechoslovakia
German occupation of Czechoslovakia
German occupation of Czechoslovakia began with the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia's northern and western border regions, known collectively as the Sudetenland, under terms outlined by the Munich Agreement. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's pretext for this effort was the alleged privations suffered by...

). This political strategy proved successful at first, and the occupations together with the Remilitarization of the Rhineland
Remilitarization of the Rhineland
The Remilitarization of the Rhineland by the German Army took place on 7 March 1936 when German military forces entered the Rhineland. This was significant because it violated the terms of the Locarno Treaties and was the first time since the end of World War I that German troops had been in this...

 stifled opposition and gave Hitler great prestige.

A turning point had been reached with the German invasion of Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

. Both France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Britain had hesitated to get involved in a war so soon after World War I, and while still being affected by the worldwide economic crisis, but after observing the fate of Czechoslovakia, they signed a treaty promising aid to Poland if it was attacked by Germany. Consequently, Britain and France declared war when Germany invaded Poland under a false pretense
Gleiwitz incident
The Gleiwitz incident was a staged attack by Nazi forces posing as Poles on 31 August 1939, against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany on the eve of World War II in Europe....

.

German military strategies at the beginning of World War II were largely successful The Wehrmacht at this early stage of the war had tactical superiority over the Allies, and flexibility and manouvere characterised their offensives. "The Wehrmacht used a holistic approach to command and control." General of Panzer Troops Herman Balck explained that "we lived off a century long tradition which is that in a critical situation the subordinate with an understanding of the overall situation can act or react responsibly. We always placed great emphasis on the independent action of subordinated."

The German application of rapid battlefield manouveres with concentrated armoured divisions supported by motorised infantry regiments acting under air superiority took the Allied opponents completely by surprise. They had anticipated a defensive war, and thus relied on defensive structures, a stable frontline with tanks incorporated into infantry divisions and secure headquarters in the hinterland, which resulted in long chains of command. German tanks were organized in specialized divisions, were equipped with radios to call in air strikes, and were accompanied by their commanding officers to assess the tactical situation directly on the front. This allowed for an effective combination of tank assaults and air strikes ("Blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

"), which brought about decicive victories for the German army early in the war.

In the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

, the German Army Group A evaded the defensive Maginot line
Maginot Line
The Maginot Line , named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defences, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy, in light of its experience in World War I,...

 by rapidly moving through the poorly defended rough terrain of the Ardennes and invaded France behind enemy lines. The British Expeditionary Force
British Expeditionary Force (World War II)
The British Expeditionary Force was the British force in Europe from 1939–1940 during the Second World War. Commanded by General Lord Gort, the BEF constituted one-tenth of the defending Allied force....

 was thus cut off from the main bulk of the French army. Army Group B approached the Allies from the other side, resulting in the Allied frontline being encircled and cut off from supplies.

The strategies of Generals Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

, Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

 and the German Chief strategist, Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein was a field marshal in World War II. He became one of the most prominent commanders of Germany's World War II armed forces...

 were especially significant in the German victories early in the war, and in slowing down the German defeat in the years after.

Hitler insisted on designing or condoning strategies himself, and often demanded significant changes of strategies, often also at the operational level. The initial success of the German unconventional and aggressive strategies, both military and political (e.g. Czechoslovakia
German occupation of Czechoslovakia
German occupation of Czechoslovakia began with the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia's northern and western border regions, known collectively as the Sudetenland, under terms outlined by the Munich Agreement. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's pretext for this effort was the alleged privations suffered by...

, Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

, France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

), were thus often attributed to Hitler himself. Combined with the mythical attributes ascribed to him (Führerprinzip
Führerprinzip
The Führerprinzip , German for "leader principle", prescribes the fundamental basis of political authority in the governmental structures of the Third Reich...

), this led to wide support for his leadership, both among the German population and the military. In reality, many of his strategic decisions and the overreliance on his personal will were considered largely detrimental to the German war effort. Examples are Hitler's initial orthodox strategy for the invasion of France, which were changed after the original plans were discovered by allied intelligence
Mechelen Incident
The Mechelen Incident of 10 January 1940, also known as the Mechelen affair, was an event during the Phoney War. A German aircraft with an officer on-board carrying the plans for Fall Gelb , a German attack on the Low Countries, crash-landed in neutral Belgium near Vucht, in the modern-day...

; his orders to stop the German troops at Dunkirk, which allowed the main bulk of the surviving French and British armies to escape to England; his orders against production of the first assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

 StG 44 and his decisions leading to and during the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

.

In the later years of the war, Hitler's strategy became more and more based on paranoia, intuition, flawed logic, and unrealistic assumptions. However, the strength of his terrible hold on domestic policy remained so strong, that his authority was not questioned, any challenge was quickly suppressed. Later, he ordered continued bombing of Britain and the uneconomical prosecution of the Eastern front efforts despite the strategic costs and failures. In the final stages of the war, his actions and orders could no longer be said to be an attempt to conduct a coherent strategy.

British strategy


Confronted with the rise of Hitler's power on the continent, and fearing a change in the balance of power, the British gradually turned to a fierce opposition and finally a war declaration over the invasion of Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

. Britain wasn't prepared for war, especially on land, and the initial years were a series of defeats, as they got thrown off the European continent everywhere (France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

, Norway
Norwegian Campaign
The Norwegian Campaign was a military campaign that was fought in Norway during the Second World War between the Allies and Germany, after the latter's invasion of the country. In April 1940, the United Kingdom and France came to Norway's aid with an expeditionary force...

, Greece
Battle of Greece
The Battle of Greece is the common name for the invasion and conquest of Greece by Nazi Germany in April 1941. Greece was supported by British Commonwealth forces, while the Germans' Axis allies Italy and Bulgaria played secondary roles...

). After air superiority over the Channel was secured in the battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

, and the anti-submarine weapons were perfected to win the battle of the Atlantic, Britain itself was not threatened anymore. Strategic plans could turn to the offensive, especially with the USA leaning more and more to a war with Germany.

After the United States entered the war, Europe (as opposed to the Pacific) was chosen as the prime theater of operations by the formulation of the "Germany first
Europe first
Europe first, also known as Germany first, was the key element of the grand strategy employed by the United States and the United Kingdom during World War II. According to this policy, the United States and the United Kingdom would use the preponderance of their resources to subdue Nazi Germany in...

" principle at the Arcadia Conference
Arcadia Conference
The First Washington Conference, also known as the Arcadia Conference , was held in Washington, D.C. from December 22, 1941 to January 14, 1942. It was the first meeting on military strategy between the heads of government of the United Kingdom and the United States following the United States'...

. However, their land armies wouldn't be capable of invading the mainland of Europe for years, even as Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 pleaded for this to alleviate pressure on the Russian front. Instead, the Allies decided to take an indirect approach by invading Europe from the South. After cleansing North Africa of Axis forces (the invasion of French North-Africa
Operation Torch
Operation Torch was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942....

 and El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 20 days from 23 October – 11 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery...

), Sicily
Allied invasion of Sicily
The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major World War II campaign, in which the Allies took Sicily from the Axis . It was a large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of land combat. It launched the Italian Campaign.Husky began on the night of...

 and southern Italy
Allied invasion of Italy
The Allied invasion of Italy was the Allied landing on mainland Italy on September 3, 1943, by General Harold Alexander's 15th Army Group during the Second World War. The operation followed the successful invasion of Sicily during the Italian Campaign...

 were invaded, effectively knocking Italy out of the war. Given that the terrain circumstances in this area were unviable to turn this route into the main thrust on Germany itself, the main purpose of these operations weren't mainly territorial, but focused on tying up as many German forces in southern Europe as possible, thereby thinning the garrison
Garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

 forces in France, where the main Allied force was still planned to invade.

In the air war, superiority was gained fairly early. After that, the Allies launched a strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 campaign against Germany. After initial emphasis on economic targets (factories, infrastructure, etc.), the Allies turned more and more towards terror bombing of German cities.

Soviet strategy


Early Soviet strategy intended to postpone entry into the war for as long as possible. While the purging of the Red Army officer corps
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 had been conducted to strengthen the party's hold of the army and thus the state, the consequences led to severe disappointments when the army was shown as unfit to conduct any kind of serious war in Poland, the Finnish winter war
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 and the establishment of Soviet rule in the Baltic republics. With the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

, Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 believed he had accomplished a position of superiority over the warring sides.

The Barbarossa campaign
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 of 1941 came as a complete surprise to the Soviets. Nevertheless, they reacted swiftly, particularly in the civilian aspect. As the army was being defeated and gave ground at an amazing speed, a gigantic operation was staged to move the economic capacity from the Western areas that were about to be overrun, to Eastern regions that were out of reach for the Germans, like the Ural. Entire factories, including their labour force, were simply moved out of reach from the Germans, and what couldn't be taken was destroyed ("Scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

"). Thus, even though huge territories were captured by the Germans, the production potential of the Soviet economy was not correspondingly harmed, and the factories shifted to mass production of military equipment quickly, soon outproducing the German economy.

After achieving numerical superiority, the Soviets were still qualitatively inferior. To compensate for this, they emphasized gaining an even larger quantitative edge. The later offensive Soviet campaigns all saw a massive employment of manpower, often resulting in extremely bloody battles. It wasn't unusual that Soviet "victories" inflicted far larger casualties on themselves than on the Germans. However, the numeral superiority, compounded by the opening of a second front by the western allies (D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

), and the efficient mass production of comparatively simple but highly effective weaponry, especially the T34
T34
T34 may refer to:* T-34, a 1940 Soviet tank* T-34, a rock band featuring Al Murray* T34 , a z80 compatible Zilog microprocessor* T34 Calliope, a 1943 U.S. tank-based rocket launcher* T-34 Mentor, a 1953 U.S. military trainer aircraft...

-Tank and the PPSh-41
PPSh-41
The PPSh-41 was a Soviet submachine gun designed by Georgi Shpagin as an inexpensive, simplified alternative to the PPD-40. Intended for use by minimally-trained conscript soldiers, the PPSh was a magazine-fed selective-fire submachine gun using an open-bolt, blowback action...

 machine pistol, ultimately brought about the Russian victory.

Japanese strategy


Japanese World War II strategy was driven by two factors: the desire to expand their territories on the mainland of Asia (China and Manchuria), and the need to secure the supply of raw resources that they didn't have themselves, particularly oil. Since their quest after the former (conquest of Chinese provinces
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

) endangered the latter (an oil boycott by the USA and its Allies), the Japanese government saw no other option than to conquer the oil sources in South-East Asia. Since these were controlled by American allies, war with the USA was also inevitable; and given that fact, they decided it would be best to deal a big blow to them first. This was executed in the Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 strike, crippling the American battle fleet.

Japan hoped that it would take America so long to rebuild, that by the time they were back in force in the Pacific, they would consider the new balance of power a "fait accompli", and barter for peace. They had underestimated the psychological effect of the Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 strike; the USA wouldn't negotiate with an enemy that had struck them in this way. Even though South-East Asia was quickly conquered (Philippines, Indochina, Malaysia(formerly known as Malaya), Dutch East Indies, the early sea battles in the Pacific were tied. After the vital aircraft carrier force was destroyed in the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

, the Japanese had to revert to a stiff defense that they kept up for three years after that.

American strategy


With both Japan and the US fighting two-front wars (against each other in the Pacific, and additionally the USA in Europe and the Japanese in China) the far greater American economic power enabled the US forces to replace battle losses considerably faster and to eventually outgun the Japanese. In several aircraft carrier battles, the initiative was taken from the Japanese, and after the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

, the Japanese navy was rendered helpless, effectively giving the Americans vast naval superiority.

After the Japanese were forced into the defensive in the second half of 1942, the Americans were confronted with heavily fortified garrisons on small islands. They decided on a strategy of "island hopping
Island hopping
Island hopping is a term that refers to the means of crossing an ocean by a series of shorter journeys between islands, as opposed to a single journey directly across the ocean to the destination.- Forms :...

", leaving the strongest garrisons alone, just cutting their supply, and securing bases of operation on the lightly defended isles instead. The most notable of these Island battles was the Battle of Iwo Jima
Battle of Iwo Jima
The Battle of Iwo Jima , or Operation Detachment, was a major battle in which the United States fought for and captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Empire of Japan. The U.S...

, where the American victory facilitated the aerial bombing of the Japanese mainland, which culminated in the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

 that effectively ended the war.

Australian strategy


Australia's historical ties with Britain meant that with the commencement of World War II her armies were sent overseas to contribute to battles in Europe. Fear from the north was so understated that at the outbreak of open warfare with Japan, Australia itself was extremely vulnerable to invasion (possible invasion plans were considered by the Japanese high command, though there was strong opposition). Australia's policy became based entirely on domestic defense following the attacks on Pearl Harbor and British assets in the South Pacific. Defying strong British opposition, Australian Prime Minister John Curtin
John Curtin
John Joseph Curtin , Australian politician, served as the 14th Prime Minister of Australia. Labor under Curtin formed a minority government in 1941 after the crossbench consisting of two independent MPs crossed the floor in the House of Representatives, bringing down the Coalition minority...

 recalled most troops from the European conflict for the defense of the nation.

Australia's defensive doctrine saw a fierce campaign fought along the Kokoda track
Kokoda Track
The Kokoda Trail or Track is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs overland — in a straight line — through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea...

 in New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

. This campaign sought to further stretch Japanese supply lines, preventing the invasion of the Australian mainland until the arrival of fresh American troops and the return of seasoned Australian soldiers from Europe. This can be seen as a variant of the war of attrition strategy, where the defender - out of necessity - had to hold the aggressor at a semi-static defensive line, rather than falling back in the face of superior numbers. This method is in stark contrast to the Russian scorched earth policy against Napoleon in 1812, where the defenders yielded home territory in favour of avoiding open battle. In both cases the lack of supplies was successful in blunting the assaults, following exhaustive defensive efforts.

Cold War strategy


The strategy of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 was that of containment
Containment
Containment was a United States policy using military, economic, and diplomatic strategies to stall the spread of communism, enhance America’s security and influence abroad, and prevent a "domino effect". A component of the Cold War, this policy was a response to a series of moves by the Soviet...

 and it was a generation dominated by the threat of total world annihilation through the use of nuclear weapons. Deterrence
Deterrence theory
Deterrence theory gained increased prominence as a military strategy during the Cold War with regard to the use of nuclear weapons, and features prominently in current United States foreign policy regarding the development of nuclear technology in North Korea and Iran. Deterrence theory however was...

 was a part of containment via retributive intimidation from the risk of mutually assured destruction. As a consequence it was also a war in which attacks were not exchanged between the two main rivals, the United States and the Soviet Union. Instead, the war was fought through proxies
Proxy war
A proxy war or proxy warfare is a war that results when opposing powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly. While powers have sometimes used governments as proxies, violent non-state actors, mercenaries, or other third parties are more often employed...

. Instead of mainly being confined to Europe or the Pacific, the entire world was the battlefield, with countries rather than armies acting as main players. The only constant rule was that troops of the Soviet Union and the United States could not overtly fight with each other. Military strategy involved bipolar
Polarity in international relations
Polarity in international relations is any of the various ways in which power is distributed within the international system. It describes the nature of the international system at any given period of time. One generally distinguishes four types of systems: Unipolarity, Bipolarity, Tripolarity, and...

 powers with global actors who could strike an opponent with nationally debilitating destruction in a matter of minutes from land, air, and sea.

With the advent of weapons of mass destruction
Weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...

 that could decide a war by themself, strategies shifted away from a focus on the application of conventional weaponry to a greater focus on Espionage
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 and Intelligence assessment, especially after the exposure of the Atomic spies
Atomic Spies
Atomic Spies and Atom Spies are terms that refer to various people in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada who are thought to have illicitly given information about nuclear weapons production or design to the Soviet Union during World War II and the early Cold War...

.

The difference between tactics, strategy and grand strategy began to melt during the Cold War as command and communication technologies improved to a greater extent, in first world armed forces. The third world
Third World
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

 armed forces controlled by the two superpower
Superpower
A superpower is a state with a dominant position in the international system which has the ability to influence events and its own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests...

s found that grand strategy, strategy and tactics, if anything, moved further apart as the command of the armies fell under the control of super power leaders.

American cold warrior
Cold warrior
Cold warrior is a phrase used to describe the men and women involved in the shaping and executing of American and Soviet policy during the Cold War....

s like Dean Acheson
Dean Acheson
Dean Gooderham Acheson was an American statesman and lawyer. As United States Secretary of State in the administration of President Harry S. Truman from 1949 to 1953, he played a central role in defining American foreign policy during the Cold War...

 and George C. Marshall
George Marshall
George Catlett Marshall was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense...

 quickly recognized that the key to victory was the economic defeat of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had adopted an aggressive posture of Communist expansionism following the end of World War II, with the United States and its strong navy quickly finding that it had to aggressively defend much of the world from the Soviet Union and the spread of communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

.

Strategies
Nuclear strategy
Nuclear strategy involves the development of doctrines and strategies for the production and use of nuclear weapons.As a sub-branch of military strategy, nuclear strategy attempts to match nuclear weapons as means to political ends...

 during the Cold War also dealt with nuclear attack and retaliation. The United States maintained a policy of limited first strike throughout the Cold War. In the event of a Soviet attack on the Western Front, resulting in a breakthrough
Breakthrough (military)
A breakthrough occurs when an offensive force has broken the enemy defensive line, and is rapidly exploiting the gap.Usually, large force is employed on a relatively small portion of the front to achieve this...

, the United States would use tactical nuclear weapon
Tactical nuclear weapon
A tactical nuclear weapon refers to a nuclear weapon which is designed to be used on a battlefield in military situations. This is as opposed to strategic nuclear weapons which are designed to menace large populations, to damage the enemy's ability to wage war, or for general deterrence...

s to stop the attack.
So, if the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 attacked using conventional weapons, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would use tactical nukes. The Soviet Union would respond with an all out nuclear attack, resulting in a similar attack from the United States, with all the consequence
Consequence
Consequence may refer to:* In logic, consequence relation, also known as logical consequence, or entailment* In operant conditioning, a result of some behavior...

s the exchange would entail.

By contrast, Soviet strategy in the Cold War was dominated by the desire to prevent, at all costs, the recurrence of an invasion of Russian soil. The Soviet Union nominally adopted a policy of no first use
No first use
No first use refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons...

, which in fact was a posture of launch on warning. Other than that, the USSR adapted to some degree to the prevailing changes in the NATO strategic policies that are divided by periods as:

  • Strategy of massive retaliation (1950s)
  • Strategy of flexible reaction (1960s)
  • Strategies of realistic threat and containment (1970s)
  • Strategy of direct confrontation (1980s) one of the elements of which became the new highly effective high-precision targeting weapons.
  • Strategic Defense Initiative (also known as "Star Wars") during its 1980s development which became a core part of the strategic doctrine based on Defense containment.


Fortunately for all sides, the all-out nuclear World War III between NATO and the Warsaw Pact did not take place. The United States recently (April 2010) acknowledged a new approach to its nuclear policy which describes the weapons' purpose as "primarily" or "fundamentally" to deter or respond to a nuclear attack.

Post Cold War strategy


Strategy in the post Cold War is characterized by a number of potent powers in a multipolar array and has come to be defined by the hyperpower
Hyperpower
A hyperpower is a state that dominates all other states in every sphere of activity. A hyperpower is traditionally considered to be one step higher than a superpower. The definition and use of the term varies....

 status of the United States, which is increasingly relying on advanced technology to minimize casualties and improve efficiency. The technological quantum leaps brought by the Digital Revolution
Digital Revolution
The Digital Revolution is the change from analog mechanical and electronic technology to digital technology that has taken place since c. 1980 and continues to the present day. Implicitly, the term also refers to the sweeping changes brought about by digital computing and communication technology...

 are essential for this strategy.

The gap in strategy today (from a Western viewpoint) is in what the Americans call "asymmetric warfare
Asymmetric warfare
Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly....

": the battle against guerrilla forces by conventional national armed forces. The classical strategic triumvirate of politics/military/populace is very weak against protracted warfare of paramilitary forces such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

, Hezbollah, ETA
ETA
ETA , an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and has since evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Greater Basque Country...

, PKK, and Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

. The ability of conventional forces to deliver utility (effect) from their hugely powerful forces is largely nullified by the difficulties of distinguishing and separating combatants from the civilian populace in whose company they hide. The use of the military by the politicians to police areas seen as bases for these guerrillas leads to them becoming targets themselves which eventually undermines the support of the populace from whom they come and whose values they represent.

The primary effect of insurgent elements upon conventional force strategy is realized in the twofold exploitation of the inherent violence of military operations. Conventional armies face political attrition for each action they take. Insurgent forces can cause harm and create chaos, whereby the conventional army suffers a loss of confidence and esteem; or they can drive the conventional elements into an attack which further exacerbates the civilian condition.

The militaries of today are largely set up to fight the 'last war' and hence have huge armoured and conventionally configured infantry formations backed up by air-forces and navies designed to support or prepare for these forces. Many are today deployed against guerrilla-style opponents where their strengths cannot be used to effect. The mass formations of Industrial War are often seen as much less effective than the unconventional forces that these organisations also possess. The new opponents operate at a local level whereas Industrial armed forces work at a much higher 'theatre' level. The nervous system of these new opponents is largely political rather than military hierarchical and adapted to the local supporting populace who hide them. The centre provides the political idea and driving logic perhaps with overall direction and some funding. Local groups decide their own plans, raise much of their own funds and may be more or less aligned to the centre's aims. Defeat of forces when revealed does not disable this type of organisation, many modern attack strategies will tend to increase the power of the group they are intended to weaken. A new more political strategy is perhaps more appropriate here with military backing. Such a strategy has been illustrated in the war between the IRA an adoption and codification is unclear.

Netwar


An extra issue concerning asymmetric warfare concerns the nature of some paramilitary organizations which are involved in guerrilla military actions, but which are not traditional organizations with a central authority defining their military and political strategies. These organizations (such as Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

) may exist as a sparse network of groups lacking central coordination, making them extremely difficult to confront following standard strategic approaches. This new field of strategic thinking is tackled by what is now defined as Netwar
Netwar
Netwar is a term developed by RAND researchers John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt to describe an emergent form of low intensity conflict, crime, and activism waged by social networked actors...

.

See also



General
  • Strategy
    Strategy
    Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

  • Grand strategy
    Grand strategy
    Grand strategy comprises the "purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community". Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart says about grand strategy:...

  • Naval strategy
    Naval strategy
    Naval strategy is the planning and conduct of war at sea, the naval equivalent of military strategy on land.Naval strategy, and the related concept of maritime strategy, concerns the overall strategy for achieving victory at sea, including the planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement and...

  • Operational mobility
  • Military doctrine
    Military doctrine
    Military doctrine is the concise expression of how military forces contribute to campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements.It is a guide to action, not hard and fast rules. Doctrine provides a common frame of reference across the military...

  • Principles of War
    Principles of War
    The Principles of War were tenets originally proposed by Carl von Clausewitz in his essay Principles of War, and later enlarged in his book, On War. Additionally, Napoléon Bonaparte had pioneered the "Principles of War," and "The armies of today are based on the organization created by Napoleon...

  • Military tactics
    Military tactics
    Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

  • List of military strategies
  • List of military writers
    • List of military strategy books 
  • Roerich Pact


Examples of military strategies
  • Schlieffen Plan
    Schlieffen Plan
    The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...

  • Mutual assured destruction
    Mutual assured destruction
    Mutual Assured Destruction, or mutually assured destruction , is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two opposing sides would effectively result in the complete, utter and irrevocable annihilation of...

  • Blitzkrieg
    Blitzkrieg
    For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

  • Shock and Awe
  • Fabian Strategy
    Fabian strategy
    The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employing this strategy harasses its enemy through skirmishes to cause...



Related topics
  • Asymmetric warfare
    Asymmetric warfare
    Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly....

  • Battleplan
    Battleplan
    Battleplan is a military television documentary series examing various military strategies used in modern warfare since World War I. It is shown on the Military Channel in the U.S. and UKTV History...

    (documentary TV series)
  • Force multiplier
  • Strategic bombing
    Strategic bombing
    Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

  • Strategic depth
    Strategic depth
    Strategic depth is a term in military literature that broadly refers to the distances between the front lines or battle sectors and the combatants’ industrial core areas, capital cities, heartlands, and other key centers of population or military production...