"The emperor's new clothes." Manoeuvre warfare and operational art

Jorstad, Nils (2004) "The emperor's new clothes." Manoeuvre warfare and operational art. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Wars can be categorised in a number of ways, for example according to the conduct during conflicts, the means used and with regard to the belligerents' strategy, aims and objectives. One reason for categorising is to add precision to the language so we can better develop proper theories and methods, thus aiming at improving our fighting capability. In the wake of these theoretical exercises, new terms and sometimes, old terms used in a new way, are introduced. Since the late 1970s, many lobbyists, military theorists and officers have described warfare in terms of a dichotomy: attrition and manoeuvre warfare. Manoeuvre warfare theory is a hybrid of selected historical examples and military theories developed under different contextual circumstances. The alleged paradigm shift in our approach to war has provided us with, or so we believe, a new methodology for conduct in war and the number of terms suited to describe an unambiguous theory. True manoeuvre warfare is expressed through operational art. This distinct approach to war has now been adopted by military forces throughout the western world. This thesis looks closer at what manoeuvre warfare aspires to be, in the context of its terminology, methodology and its different national expressions. The first part of the thesis is concerned with a comparative analysis of different national manoeuvre warfare doctrines by using general systems theory and non-linear dynamics. The analysis reveals that, what we call manoeuvre warfare theory, has expressions that contradict each other and differ to the extent that the theory exists only in name. The second part of the thesis is concerned with the historical substantiation of manoeuvre warfare. German military conduct, but first and foremost the Blitzkrieg-campaigns are often used to add credibility to the methods prescribed by manoeuvre theory. Some proponents of the theory have chosen General Guderian as the human manifestation of the true manoeuvrist. By using the Clausewitzian term "Centre of Gravity", essential in manoeuvre theory as a departure point, the second part of the thesis analyses German military conduct and thought prior to the Second World War and the campaign in France 1940. Emphasis in the second part is put on German planning prior to the campaign and the conduct of the Wehrmacht's Army Group A during the execution. The analysis reveals that the German military interpreted Clausewitz in a way that is not compatible with strategic thought in modem democratic societies. The German pursuit of military effectiveness led to a tacticisation of strategy. Battles of attrition were fought with the highest degree of mobility. German military thought in the 1930's, manifested in the field manual Truppenfihrung, reveals a pragmatic approach to war, which indicates that there was no Blitzkrieg concept as such. Army Group A's conduct during the campaign in France also contradicts many of the principles and the methodology prescribed by the manoeuvrists. It appears that the ambiguous terms and selective historical examples have been interpreted and distilled to a degree where they eventually conform to the manoeuvrist thought.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Military studies
Date of Award: 2004
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2004-71170
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 10:49
Last Modified: 10 May 2019 10:49
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71170

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