Maneuver Warfare Theory

by Capt Michael R. Ramos

I read with interest LtCol Lauer’s article. “The Theory of Maneuver in USMC Doctrine and Force Structure” (MCG, Apr93), which challenges the Corps’ reliance on maneuver warfare theory as the basis for its doctrine.

While I agree wholeheartedly with him that the focus of the curriculum at The Basic School must be to teach lieutenants a solid grounding in tactics, techniques, and procedures, I believe the main point of his article is a faulty one. Maneuver warfare theory does not ignore the lessons of Marine combat experience. The theory of maneuver has evolved from a learned appreciation of what an expeditionary force will face in future engagements. We can no longer presume the luxury of having the vast numerical superiority over our enemy that we had in the past. Our doctrine must cope with reaching a rapid decision, with minimal casualties and limited external support, against a physically superior foe. Our doctrine of maneuver warfare, if understood and correctly applied, provides significant opportunity for success under these conditions.

Additionally, maneuver warfare theory does not discount the value of firepower. Indeed, firepower will often be essential in shattering the enemy’s moral and physical cohesion. The key is in not applying firepower indiscriminately, but concentrating overwhelming fire superiority at decisive points to suppress, neutralize, or destroy an enemy in order to achieve a larger purpose.

The MV-22, M1A1, LAVAG, MLRS, and other battlefield operating systems can and should be components of a force structure based on maneuver warfare doctrine. Our combat experience tells us that these systems and maneuver warfare offer the greatest chance for success in future conflicts.