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On The Use Of Overwhelming Force

The current military doctrine of the United States army is the use of overwhelming force. At the U.S.Army website, there is a document published called Field Manual 1, a document that serves as an introduction to the Army doctrines and core values.

The concept of overwhelming force is ... well, it may be difficult to initially grasp exactly what it means. But Chapter 3 of FM1 details it in what I think is an amazing description of modern battle. The way the American Army fights is through an "operational concept [of] seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative with speed, shock, surprise, depth, simultaneity, and endurance." For one who is used to sales leaflets and pushy marketing departments, it may sound as bogus, but each of these concepts has been carefully thought through: (quotations from FM1, 3rd chapter)

  • Initiative means "setting or dictating the terms of action throughout an operation". When the initiative is yours, you determine the nature, tempo and sequence of action in the battle. This means that you control the situation and how the action unfolds.
  • Speed means the ability to act rapidly. "Rapid maneuver dislocates the enemy force and exposes its elements before they are prepared or positioned". It means acting before the enemy has time to react.
  • Surprise "involves the delivery of a powerful blow at a time and place for which the adversary is unprepared". Surprise can effectively double the strength of your force, because the enemy is unprepared, and needs time to grasp the situation, understand precisely what is happening, and effectively counter your threat - time which he does not have.
  • Shock is the result of rapid and relentless action against the opposing force. It is "the application of violence of such magnitude that the enemy force is stunned and helpless to reverse the situation". It may be a result of continued surprise, where the force is relentlessly applied; or it may be the result of such a destructive blow that the enemy is in a state of incoherence, unable to grasp the situation and will make wrong decisions or no decisions at all.
  • Depth "is the ability to operate across the entire area of operations". The battle is not only fought on a single front, but taken all over the theater through superior intelligence, interdiction and mobility. It is characterized by airstrikes, advance elements and special forces securing objectives deep within enemy territory.
  • Simultaneity "confronts opponents with multiple actions occuring at once". It is much easier to defend yourself if only one attack occurs at a time. The United States Army opts to conduct operations all over simultaneously, thereby overloading the enemy's command and control structures, and exploiting weaknesses wherever they are found.
  • Endurance, the ability to perform extended operations and persevere over time. It means proper rotation of forces, functioning logistics, and the willpower to stay the course until the campaign has been brought to an end.
These core principles form the backbone of today's fighting forces. Thinking about myself and how I would act in a conflict, I have no doubt that I wouldn't last more than minutes. I try to imagine the terrifying sight of heavy armored vehicles speeding towards me with 105mm guns firing with pinpoint precision. I try to imagine the fear and terror of even trying to hold the ground against an aggressive enemy acting furiously upon me with combined arms. I try to comprehend the shock and confusion of constantly discovering that the enemy is way ahead of me, and when I've scrambled to face that threat, they have already moved on, continually acting quicker than my ability to react.

The only possible way to defend yourself is to be just as violently aggressive and proactive as the attackers. Move in to surprise, act quickly, apply relentless and overwhelming force, retain initiative, find the enemy's weak spots, exploiting them and destroying him before he can act as decisively upon you. "I will attack him and destroy him", Rommel said about his opponent Patton in the movie (Patton, 1970), "before he does the same with me."

And sometimes I try to imagine running a business with that same ferocious aggressiveness. And then a wicked smile spreads across my lips.


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