Misnamed Doctrine Misleading

by Capt David C. Andersen

To a new student, the name “Maneuver Warfare” seems to say it all. The concept implied is that of simple tactical movement. One will move a unit against another to win a battle. In truth, of course, to maneuver has another, more subtle meaning, which is to seek advantage in war. The common misconception among many Marines is to think maneuver means only physical movement.

Maneuver Warfare, however, is not an action we take but a mindset we must have. It is the framework we construct, around which we build a battle plan. We deal with the same basic problem, war, but solve it using a different mental approach.

It probably cannot be stated more simply than in Capt John E Schmitt’s article “Understanding Maneuver as the Basis For a Doctrine” (MCG, Aug90) where he states, “Maneuver derives from a very simple concept: creating and exploiting advantage. . . .”

Creating an advantage is a broad statement. Consider the range of methods that the modern Marine has to work with, not to mention the vast number of different approaches that can be taken in employing each method. The possibilities are virtually unlimited. We have an immediate advantage because the enemy cannot be absolutely sure of how we will engage him. We must exploit that advantage. My point is that we have moved to a higher plane by incorporating these new ideas and getting away from “standard drill” movements such as the envelopment. This is not to say the envelopment is an inappropriate option, but by employing the full concept of Maneuver Warfare and concentrating on creating and exploiting advantages, our power is greatly increased.

As stated earlier, the common misconception is originated by the actual name of our doctrine. “Maneuver” immediately leads one to think of physical movement I believe, and I am not the first, that if we adopted a different name it would solve many problems caused by initial misconceptions. The name should get away from the thought of simple movement; rather it should encompass all the elements of true Maneuver Warfare.

The name “indirect warfare” has been suggested a few times, and it would definitely focus one away from the idea of movement, but the term raises ideas of something other than actual combat, and is also misleading

The next logical sequence in this leller would be for me to suggest a name that would end all arguments. But I haven’t solved the dilemma. Others have suggested “MAGTF Warfare” and “Strategic Warfare” and maybe they are an improvement, but I am interested to hear ideas from the rest of our readers. There has to be a better name out there someplace.

Although the label we give this concept of warfighting is important, what is most important is that we grasp the concept itself. We cannot let the name become a barrier to understanding our doctrine. If a discussion about what to call the Marine Corps’ doctrine helps us to study and learn more about the doctrine, then that is a discussion worth having.