Author: 

Geoffrey Sloan

Military doctrine is one of the conceptual components of war. Its raison d’être is that of a force multiplier. It enables a smaller force to take on and defeat a larger force in battle. This article’s departure point is the aphorism of Sir Julian Corbett, who described doctrine as ‘the soul of warfare’. The second dimension to creating a force multiplier effect is forging doctrine with an appropriate command philosophy.

The challenge for commanders is how, in unique circumstances, to formulate, disseminate and apply an appropriate doctrine and combine it with a relevant command philosophy. This can only be achieved by policy-makers and senior commanders successfully answering the Clausewitzian question: what kind of conflict are they involved in? Once an answer has been provided, a synthesis of these two factors can be developed and applied.

Doctrine has implications for all three levels of war. Tactically, doctrine does two things: first, it helps to create a tempo of operations; second, it develops a transitory quality that will produce operational effect, and ultimately facilitate the pursuit of strategic objectives. Its function is to provide both training and instruction. At the operational level instruction and understanding are critical functions. Third, at the strategic level it provides understanding and direction. Using John Gooch’s six components of doctrine, it will be argued that there is a lacunae in the theory of doctrine as these components can manifest themselves in very different ways at the three levels of war. They can in turn affect the transitory quality of tactical operations. Doctrine is pivotal to success in war. Without doctrine and the appropriate command philosophy military operations cannot be successfully concluded against an active and determined foe.

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