Keeping Up With Maneuver Theory

reviewed by Maj Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr.\

Maneuver Warfare: An Anthology edited by Richard D. Hooker, Jr., Presidio, Novato, CA, 1993, 414 pp., $35.00. (Member $31.50)

This is an eclectic collection of 21 essays dealing with maneuver warfare. It is organized somewhat loosely into three parts: “The Theory of Maneuver Warfare,” “Institutionalizing Maneuver Warfare,” and the “Historical Basis 7of maneuver Warfare.” It is an excellent one-volume source for much of the thinking behind maneuver warfare. It is useful regardless of a reader’s position on the value of maneuver warfare, because it makes much of the current literature readily accessible.

The authors are principally serving Army officers and defense academics. Followers of the maneuver warfare debate will recognize the work of William S. Lind; LtCol Daniel P. Bolger, USA; and Col James McDonough, USA, among others. Interestingly, Col Michael D. Wyly, USMC(Ret), and Maj Brace I. Gudmundsson, USMCR, are the only two Marines to contribute to this collection.There are no Navy or Air Force authors. An examination of the excellent footnotes-there are 554 in all-reflects no citations from the Marine Corps Gazette, ajournal that through mid-1993 had published no less than 50 articles on maneuver warfare.

Marine readers may want to ponder why this is so. Can it be that Marines have little worthwhile to say on the subject, or is it that the debate has moved beyond the Corps? Whatever the reason, it surely suggests that much of the maneuver warfare debate-so important to Marines-may be taking place outside the Marine Corps and away from its professional journal.

On balance, these essays do a good job of describing some of the major positions surrounding maneuver warfare. Their tone may be a little pretentious; some have the portentous zeal of proselytizers converting the masses. There is only one “anti” essay provided for critical balance, that of LtCol Bolger, whose sustained withering attack on the maneuverists stands conspicuously alone, yet is so powerful it needs no reinforcement. What this book does not do is provide a unitary, congruent group of essays. Maneuver warfare, it seems, is clearly in the eye of the beholder, and every beholder has his own vision. There is no consensus. Perhaps the best summary definition of maneuver warfare is found in Gen John R. Galvin’s introductory essay:

Maneuver warfare, as a concept, is a way of thinking about the purpose of engagements, battles, campaigns, one that asks the question, How can I seize and hold the initiative, stay ahead of my enemy’s ability to think and act, dismantle this enemy, cause his collapse, take him apart?

While there are many schools of thought on maneuver warfare, the feet that this collection of essays has been published bodes well for future open debate on this absolutely critical subject, and in that we find this book’s great contribution-it encourages independent critical thought and analysis by Marines. It is unfortunate that so few Marines participated in its preparation.

Marines should read this book. They should also read the excellent articles in the Gazette-some by these authors-on the same and allied subjects. Most important, they should write. This debate over the utility of maneuver warfare and its associated concepts is too important for Marines to leave to our Army comrades and a few defense intellectuals.