Monday, December 15, 2014

How Strategy Impacts Tactics and Operations

From a Forward Observer Magazine article by John Mosby entitled "Tactics for Non-Generational Warfare: A Thinking Man's Approach."
Every mentor I ever had in the military made it a mission to point out that we have to “think strategic, plan operational, and fight tactical.” What does that mean to the layman though? At its most fundamental level, it means that choosing tactics must be driven by the strategy you select to confront whatever fight you are facing.
He gives an example of defending a community against raiders using two different strategies: wipe out the raiders versus keep the raiders away from the community. The first will require offensive operations and related tactics; the second defensive operations and those tactics. Although some of the tactics and operations may the be same (e.g., setting ambushes or conducting patrols), some may differ in frequency and scope (e.g., an offensive strategy will probably use more raids than a defensive strategy). In other words, the overall thrust and scope of operations will differ.

He concludes:
Ultimately however, all tactics boil down to fire-and-maneuver. Without that fundamental level of skill, no tactics work, period. Without knowing what your overall strategy is, and thus having the ability to determine what your resulting operations will be, there is no way to determine how you will specifically apply fire-and-maneuver, or any other element of tactical expertise. 
So, when you start thinking about how you are going to utilize “tactics,” stop, back up, and start considering what your strategy will be, within the context of the conflict you believe you will be facing.
To use an analogy, tactics and skills could be thought of as individual Lego bricks (or types of Lego bricks). Strategy is what you want to build. Operations are the steps for assembling the Legos. For instance, if you are building a castle, you might build a foundation, then build towers, then build the keep inside the walls, then build the walls, etc. Which Legos you use and how you put them together will depend on the ultimate goal. Obviously, a castle or a space ship may use many of the same types of bricks, but the building steps will be different, and the end result will look very different.

Anyway, read Mosby's whole article.

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