Those Confusing Ms

by LtCol M.D. Wyly

Maneuver, movement, mobility, mechanization, and motorization, all have distinctive meanings; yet, they often become muddled.

First of all, it is important to understand maneuver because all the others may be employed as ingredients that are blended together to form a maneuver. Maneuver is an action on your part that places the enemy at a disadvantage and forces him to respond to you. Thus, he who is maneuvering continuously against the enemy keeps the initiative in the way of a chess player who, toward the end of the game, places his opponent in check with every new move. The opponent, placed at a disadvantage, must be preoccupied, every turn, with getting out of check, to prevent losing the game. He cannot afford the moves necessary to close in on his maneuvering opponent’s king.

While maneuver may include movement and the other “confusing Ms,” it may also include other ingredients. There is no defined limit to what these ingredients may be, but strategem, deception, and ambiguity are some of the most useful.

Movement, itself, is any displacement from one position to another. By itself, movement need not have any adverse effect on the enemy. The distance or speed of the movement does not render it maneuver. Its design does. Its timeliness is extremely important to whether the design will work. Thus, through strategem, or deception, or ambiguity designed to confuse the enemy, movement, at the right time, may have an effect on the enemy that places him at a disadvantage and forces him to respond. Movement timed to coincide with fire, or to enable your force to employ fire, might place the enemy at the desired disadvantage. Thus we have the classic combination of “fire and movement.” Note, here, why purists often object to the term “fire and maneuver” and prefer “fire and movement.” It may be that fire, or the ability to fire, is the factor that renders the movement a maneuver. Fire combined with movement, may be a necessary ingredient that makes the maneuver possible. Without fire-power, a would-be manuever may be reduced to simple movement, having no tangible effect on the enemy. Therefore, the term “fire and maneuver” is usually inappropriate inasmuch as it treats fire and maneuver as if they were separate, unrelated entities, when, really, maneuver is usually totally dependent on the possession of firepower by the maneuvering force.

Mobility is the ability to move. A force may be given mobility by fire-power, if its movement has been restricted as a result of heavy enemy fire. Its mobility may come from breaking loose from a heavy logistic tail and moving by foot in high mountains or jungle. Or, in trafficable flatlands, such as deserts, mobility may come from mechanization. Where road networks are extensive and adequate, motorization may impart mobility.

Motorization is mounting a force on motor vehicles. Motorization, then, enables mobility in some terrain. In close terrain, however, motorization may reduce mobility or cancel it out altogether. If the motorized force can fight from its vehicles without dismounting, it is said to be mechanized. Mechanization, therefore, can enhance both mobility and maneuver but, again, only in some circumstances.

Though all these ingredients may be blended together to form maneuver, no single one of them can be seen as always essential in any measurable quantity. This is why “maneuver warfare” proponents object when their critics accuse them of thinking too much of mechanization. Mechanization may be an ingredient that lends mobility, which enables movement, which combined with fire, outmaneuvers the enemy. In different circumstances, however, more mobility may be achieved with foot infantry, lightly equipped, which may outmaneuver the enemy more decisively than lumbering formations of armor.