Responses to “Fighting in the Real World”

by Maj Frederick J. Whittle

Bravo zulu to Maj McKenzie. His article represents some new and original thinking on a subject of great interest to all Marines. Synchronization concepts have a place in our warfighting toolbox, and I am pleased to see that the debate over their role within our doctrinal structure has been kicked off by such an insightful, thoroughly sound article. I’m sure he will now be the subject of a “full court press” by dogmatic maneuver-warfare theorists, but I don’t think they’ll erase the significance of what he’s written. Good job-and keep writing!

by Capt Judith A. Orr, USMCR

Thanks to Maj McKenzie for pointing out that synchronization is not necessarily incompatible with either maneuver warfare or Marine air-ground task force operations. He reminds us that the danger is not in the adoption of methods aimed at improving the commander’s understanding of the battlefield or improving the allocation of limited assets, but in becoming a slave to a method and its products. By helping the commander make rapid and accurate decisions on the battlefield, commander’s preparation of the battlefield (CPB) and intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) may enable a commander to achieve one of the two qualities Clausewitz views as indispensable-coup d’oeil-a term that Clausewitz adopted to describe sound decisions taken in the midst of action.

It does not matter whether the process is called synchronization, CPB, or IPB; all that really matters is that the process reflects the commander’s intent and is flexible enough to describe a confusing and changing battlefield. Techniques for synchronizing battlefield operations are not new to warfare or the Marine Corps. Operations orders, landing plans, beach assignments, fire control plans, and on-call targets are all techniques used to help commanders at all levels to better coordinate combat, fire support, and combat support activities. When properly used, they allow a commander to bring the full force of his combat power to bear against the enemy; they can help him make rapid and accurate decisions. Used incorrectly, synchronization can tie the commander’s hands. The art is to not contuse technique with tactics or doctrine. Synchronization is simply a technique to help the commander to develop a tactical plan. Maneuver warfare is doctrine.

by Maj William T. DeCamp III

Maj Kenneth F. McKenzie delivered an open-minded, forward-thinking, intellectual, and articulate application of synchronization and its concomitant parts to maneuver warfare. In fact, Clausewitz would have been the first to admit that friction in war does not render unnecessary an attempt to create “inharmonious harmony” (Horace) through the construction of artificial arrangements to help clear the fog of war-even if the creation of such order were simply a figment of the commander’s imagination. If friction is reduced and a sense of order created through the processes of synchronization, intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB), battlefield activities, battlebooks, etc., so the commander’s coup d’oeil intuits or perceives activities on the battlefield whose forms or patterns he recognizes from those he previously envisioned in his mind’s eye; and if these activities are developed and metamorphosed during the course of battle, so that the commander anticipates the enemy’s next move; and if he acts relatively faster than the enemy (inside the enemy’s OODA loop) to achieve victory-then who is Bill Lind but a rigid ideologue, whose arguments hinge on a nonsequitur that equates use and abuse of a tool (synchronization). He is too busy counting angels on the head of his maneuver warfare pin (and pricking us with it) to see the laser clarity of the McKenzie logic and its potential for victory in mortal combat.