A Primer on Maneuver Warfare

by Maj G. Kevin Brickhouse

Long before I turned the pages of Sun Tzu, long before my father blew the dust off Rommel’s Attacks, even before I had a teacher introduce me to Machiavelli, I learned some of the nuances of maneuver. Years before a single trophy graced the shelf in my bedroom, I felt the blows from not running with my head up. I learned that the confines of the sidelines could be a hindrance or an advantage. Defensively, they anchored our flank; offensively they limited our room to maneuver. My team could win with cunning and speed. We welcomed gaps in our opponent’s defense. We learned that the most obvious was often the most difficult. We understood that a thorough understanding of the fundamentals gave us the edge. We learned that game plans were only as good as execution on the field. Skill, daring, and luck play a large part in any victory. We learned not just to play, not just to be present on the field, but to ruthlessly smash our opponent. We learned to win.

As we became older, bigger, and wiser, competition became keener, and subsequently the stakes became greater. The rewards became proportionately higher. We spent more time studying our opponents. We sought out his strengths and weaknesses. We tried to avoid the one and capitalize on the other. We sought to outthink our opponent. We never once broached the subject of the German General Staff. We were having fun! We blended strategy with technique. We worked hard, and we won.

What a time we had! We forced him to extend his line, and we penetrated it. We assailed his flanks with option plays. We enveloped his defense with short passes. We turned his focus with the bomb. We misdirected him with feints, fakes, and counterplays. He changed his plans; we changed ours first. We anticipated his moves. We were better because we were faster. We knew the fundamentals. We understood that each play was important. We understood that each member of the team was an integral part of the whole effort. We were ever vigilant.

We didn’t win every battle from scrimmage. We didn’t win every game. We understood, however, the futility of blame and recrimination. We drew ourselves up and learned from our mistakes.

Frequently the home field advantage belonged to the other team. As often as not, half the fans pulled for our opponents. We didn’t care.

The team didn’t have much money. Our films were old; our chalkboards cracked. We drew sketches in the dirt and argued a lot. We lay awake at night going over each game in our minds . . . what if . . . what if. . . . We prepared ourselves as best we could.

Maneuver warfare is not a new game. It is one played on the ice rinks, baseball diamonds, and football fields of even township and city in this great country. It is neither to be feared nor ignored. It is neither catchy foreign phrases nor slick presentations. It is merely a composite of intelligence, strength, courage, and decisiveness. It is the application of tactical, operational, and strategic fundamentals at the point of the adversary’s greatest weakness at a rate faster than his reactions.