Sun Tzu: The Art of Structuring Conflict (Boys Named Tzu Book 3)

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Surprise can decisively affect the outcome of combat far beyond the physical means at hand. Surprise is the paralysis, if only partial and temporary, of the enemy's ability to resist. The advantage gained by surprise depends on the degree of surprise and the enemy's ability to adjust and recover. Surprise is based on speed, secrecy, and deception. It means doing the unexpected thing, which in turn normally means doing the more difficult thing in hopes that the enemy will not expect it.

In fact, this is the genesis of maneuver- -to circumvent the enemy's strength to strike him where he is not prepared.

9e. Taoism and Confucianism — Ancient Philosophies

Purposely choosing the more difficult course because it is less expected necessarily means sacrificing efficiency to some degree. The question is" Does the anticipated advantage gained compensate for the certain loss of efficiency that must be incurred? While the element of surprise is often of decisive importance, we must realize that it is difficult to achieve and easy to lose.

Its advantages are only temporary and must be quickly exploited. Friction, a dominant attribute of war, is the constant enemy of surprise. We must also recognize that while surprise is always desirable, the ability to achieve it does not depend solely on our own efforts. It depends at least as much on our enemy's susceptibility to surprise--his expectations and preparedness.

From Sun Tzu to Xbox

Our ability to achieve surprise thus rests on our ability to appreciate and then dislocate our enemy's expectations. Therefore, while surprise can be decisive, it is a mistake to depend on it alone for the margin of victory. Boldness is a multiplier of combat power in much the same way that surprise is, for "in what other field of human activity is boldness more at home than in war? In other words, it is a genuinely creative force.

Boldness must be tempered with judgment lest it border on recklessness. But this does not diminish its significance. It is not enough simply to generate superior combat power. We can easily conceive of superior combat power dissipated over several unrelated efforts or concentrated on some indecisive object. To win, we must concentrate combat power toward a decisive aim. We obviously stand a better chance of success by concentrating strength against enemy weakness rather than against strength. So we seek to strike the enemy where, when, and how he is most vulnerable.

This means that we should generally avoid his front, where his attention is focused and he is strongest, and seek out his flanks and rear, where he does not expect us and where we can also cause the greatest psychological damage. We should also strike at that moment in time when he is most vulnerable. Of all the vulnerabilities we might choose to exploit, some are more critical to the enemy than others. It follows that the most effective way to defeat our enemy is to destroy that which is most critical to him. We should focus our efforts on the one thing which, if eliminated, will do the most decisive damage to his ability to resist us.

By taking this from him we defeat him outright or at least weaken him severely. Therefore,we should focus our efforts against a critical enemy vulnerability. Obviously, the more critical and vulnerable, the better.

But this is by no means an easy decision, since the most critical object may not be the most vulnerable. In selecting an aim, we we thus recognize the need for sound military judgment to compare the degree of criticality with the degree of vulnerability and to balance both against our own capabilities. Reduced to its simplest terms, we should strike our enemy where and when we can hurt him most. This concept applies equally to the conflict as a whole--the war--and to any episode of the war--any campaign, battle, or engagement.

From this we can conclude that the concept applies equally to the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. At the highest level a critical vulnerability is likely to be some intangible condition, such as popular opinion or a shaky alliance between two countries, although it may also be some essential war resource or a key city. At the lower levels a critical vulnerability is more likely to take on a physical nature, such as an exposed flank, a chokepoint along the enemy's line of operations, a logistics dump, a gap in enemy dispositions, or even the weak side armor of a tank.

In reality, our enemy's most critical vulnerability will rarely be obvious, particularly at the lower levels. We may have to adopt the tactic of exploiting any and all vulnerabilities until we uncover a decisive opportunity. This leads us to a corollary thought: exploiting opportunity. Decisive results in war are rarely the direct result of an initial, deliberate action. Rather, the initial action creates the conditions for subsequent actions which develop from it. As the opposing wills interact, they create various, fleeting opportunities for either foe.

Such opportunities are often born of the disorder that is natural in war. They may be the result of our own actions, enemy mistakes, or even chance. By exploiting opportunities, we create in increasing numbers more opportunities for exploitation.

It is often the ability and the willingness to ruthlessly exploit these opportunities that generate decisive results. The ability to take advantage of opportunity is a function of speed, flexibility, boldness, and initiative. The theory of war we have described will provide the foundation for the discussion of the conduct of war in the final chapter. The warfighting doctrine which we derive from our theory is one based on maneuver.

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This represents a change since, with a few notable exceptions--Stonewall Jackson in the Valley, Patton in Europe, MacArthur at Inchon--the American way of war traditionally has been one of attrition. This style of warfare generally has worked for us because, with our allies, we have enjoyed vast numerical and technological superiority. But we can no longer presume such a luxury. In fact, an expeditionary force in particular must be prepared to win quickly, with minimal casualties and limited external support, against a physical superior foe.

This requirement mandates a doctrine of maneuver warfare. Action has three stages: the decision born of thought, the order or preparation for execution, and the execution itself. All three stages are governed by the will. The will is rooted in character, and for the man of action character is of more critical importance than intellect. Intellect without will is worthless, will without intellect is dangerous. During times of peace the most important task of any military is to prepare for war. As the nation's rapid-response force, the Marine Corps must maintain itself ready for immediate employment in any clime and place and in any type of conflict.

All peacetime activities should focus on achieving combat readiness. This implies a high level of training, flexibility in organization and equipment, qualified professional leadership, and a cohesive doctrine. Planning plays as important a role in the preparation for war as in the conduct of war. The key to any plan is a clearly defined objective, in this case a required level of readiness.

We must identify that level of readiness and plan a campaign to reach it. A campaign is a progressive sequence of attainable goals to gain the objective within a specified time.

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The plan must focus all the efforts of the peacetime Marine Corps, including training, education, doctrine, organization, and equipment acquisition. Unity of effort is as important during the preparation for war as it is during the conduct of war. This systematic process of identifying the objective and planning a course to gain it applies to all levels.

The Fleet Marine Forces must be organized to provide forward deployed or rapidly-deployable forces capable of mounting expeditionary operations in any environment. This means that, in addition to maintaining their unique amphibious capability, the Fleet Marine Forces must maintain a capability to deploy by whatever means is appropriate to the situation. The active Fleet Marine Forces must be capable of responding immediately to most types of conflict. Missions in sustained high-intensity warfare will require augmentation from the Reserve establishment.

MAGTFs are task organizations consisting of ground, aviation, combat service support, and command components. They have no standard structure, but rather are constituted as appropriate for the specific situation. To the greatest extent practicable, Fleet Marine Forces must be organized for warfighting and then adapted for peacetime rather than vice versa. Tables of organization of Fleet Marine Force units should reflect the two central requirements of deployability and the ability to task- organize according to specific situations. Units should be organized according to type only to the extent dictated by training, administrative, and logistic requirements.

Further, we should strealine our headquarters organizations and staffs to eliminate bureaucratic delays in order to add tempo. Commanders should establish habitual relationships between supported and supporting units to develop operational familiarity among those units. This does not preclude nonstandard relationships when required by the situation. Doctrine is a teaching advanced as the fundamental beliefs of the Marine Corps on the subject of war, from its nature and theory to its preparation and conduct Doctrine establishes a particular way of thinking about war and a way of fighting, a philosophy for leading Marines in combat, a mandate for professionalism, and a common language.

In short, it establishes the way we practice our profession. In this manner, doctrine provides the basis for harmonious actions and mutual understanding. Marine Corps doctrine is made official by the Commandant and is established in this manual. Our doctrine does not consist of procedures to be applied in specific situations so much as it establishes general guidance that requires judgment in application. Therefore, while authoritative, doctrine is not prescriptive. Marine Corps doctrine demands professional competence among its leaders.

As military professionals charged with the defense of the nation, Marine leaders must be true experts in the conduct of war. They must be men of action and of intellect both, skilled at "getting things done" while at the same time conversant in the military art. Resolute and self-reliant in their decisions, they must also be energetic and insistent in execution.