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Strategic goal (military)

Strategic goal (military)

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A strategic military goal is used in strategic planning
Planning in organizations and public policy is both the organizational process of creating and maintaining a plan; and the psychological process of thinking about the activities required to create a desired goal on some scale. As such, it is a fundamental property of intelligent behavior...

 to define desired end-state of a war
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 or a campaign
Military campaign
In the military sciences, the term military campaign applies to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war...

. Usually it entails either a strategic change in enemy's military posture, intentions or ongoing operations, or achieving a strategic victory
Strategic victory
A strategic victory is a victory that brings long-term advantage to the victor, and disturbs the enemy's ability to wage a war. When a historian speaks of a victory in general, it is usually referring to a strategic victory....

 over the enemy that ends the conflict, although the goal can be set in terms of diplomatic
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

 or economic conditions, defined by purely territorial gains, or the evidence that the enemy's will to fight has been broken. Sometimes the strategic goal can be to limit the scope of the conflict.

It is the highest level of organisational achievement in a military organisation, and is usually defined by the national defence policy
National defence policy
Defence policy is public policy dealing with international security and the military. It comprises the measures and initiatives that governments do or do not take in relation to decision-making and strategic goals, such as when and how to commit national armed forces.It is used to ensure retention...

. In terms of goal assignment it corresponds to operations performed by a front
Front (military)
A military front or battlefront is a contested armed frontier between opposing forces. This can be a local or tactical front, or it can range to a theater...

 or a fleet
Naval fleet
A fleet, or naval fleet, is a large formation of warships, and the largest formation in any navy. A fleet at sea is the direct equivalent of an army on land....

 on a theatre scale
Theater (warfare)
In warfare, a theater, is defined as an area or place within which important military events occur or are progressing. The entirety of the air, land, and sea area that is or that may potentially become involved in war operations....

, and by an Army group
Army group
An army group is a military organization consisting of several field armies, which is self-sufficient for indefinite periods. It is usually responsible for a particular geographic area...

 or, during the Second World War, by a Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

Front (Soviet Army)
A front was a major military organization in the Soviet Army during many wars. It was roughly equivalent to an army group in the militaries of most other countries except Germany...


A strategic goal is achieved by reaching specific strategic objective
Strategic objective (military)
A strategic military objective represent intermediary and incremental advances within the overall strategic plan in reaching the strategic goal....

s that represent intermediary and incremental advances within the overall strategic plan. This is necessary because "high-level" strategic goals are often abstract, and therefore difficult to assess in terms of achievement without referring to some specific, often physical objectives. However, aside from the obstacles used by the enemy to prevent achievement of the strategic goal, inappropriate technological capabilities and operational weakness in combat may prevent fulfilment of the strategic plan. As an example, these are illustrated by the failure of the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command during the winter of 1943/44.

A critical product of the analysis which leads to the strategic decision to use military force is determination of the national goal to be achieved by that application of force.

However, analysis of military history abounds with examples of the two factors that plague goal setting in military strategies, their change during the campaign or war due to changes in economic, political or social changes within the state, or in a change of how achievement of existing goal is being assessed, and the criteria of its achievement. For example,

The complex and varied nature of the Vietnam War made it especially difficult to translate abstract, strategic goals into specific missions for individual organizations.

This occurred because aside from the economic change that saw cost of war escalate beyond original predictions, and the change in political leadership was no longer willing to commit to the conduct of war, but also to the radical change which the United States society experienced during the war, and more importantly because

The American strategic goal was not the destruction of an organized military machine armed with tanks, planes, helicopters, and war ships, for which the United States had prepared, but the preservation of a fragile regime from the lightly armed attacks of both its own people and the North Vietnamese.

The United States did not intend to conquer North Vietnam for fear of a Chinese or Soviet military reaction. Likewise, the United States strategically assumed that the full extent of its power was not merited in Vietnam.