"Control" of terrain

It's an almost omnipresent statement (assumption?) in military (land warfare)  theory writings: Infantry can control terrain, other arms cannot really. Often times the need for much infantry gets supported -nay, asserted- with such statements.

What does "controlling" terrain mean at all? These statements are so very much commonplace that hardly anybody ever bothers to explain or define "control".

I finally looked it up, and the U.S.Army does indeed have a field manual specifically for defining terminology (FM 2-1), which among other meanings of the word "control" has one that fits to "controlling terrain":*

2. A tactical mission task that requires the commander to maintain physical influence over a specified area to prevent its use by an enemy.
That's curious, for three reasons:
(1) By definition this is about a mission, not an activity as "controlling terrain".
(2) It's extroverted, about denial to the enemy rather than worded as enabler to friendlies.
(3) To "prevent" is awfully ambitious and would require a buffer zone between the controlled area and suspected hostile forces' positions. Otherwise they could enter the area (even if this gets them killed), and thus "use" the area. Also, a single long range recon patrol in a city would according to this DOD definition contest "control" of the city irrespective of how many friendly troops are present. That's nonsense.

Thus here's how I interpreted "control of terrain" based on the hundreds of places where I've read this:

Forces may strive to control terrain in order to make this terrain hospitable to friendly forces and civilians and inhospitable to hostile forces. To control terrain also entails a high probability of detection of hostile incursions and denies the hostile forces and politicians direct influence on the civilian administration in the controlled territory.
The latter part was (obviously) meant to make this definition relevant to the whole so-called "spectrum of conflict", right down to occupation and other insurgency suppression activities.
I chose to wrote "hospitable" and "inhospitable" because this isn't so terribly absolute: The activities of few hostiles and some threats to friendlies would still be acceptable within my definition. No perfect perfect absence of hostiles or risks.

Part 2 is planned to be about how to pull it off.


*: Page 1-44, example link here.

1 comment:

  1. [… There is an invasion of US cents/pennies in my purse these days, which I cannot use at the store. I never had an invasion of euro-cents in North America. I started to buy US Dollars; and maybe Deutsche Marks.]

    1. Non-aggression and ‘questionable’ allies
    IMHO I do no see any conflict in the Baltic States. It might happen as a subversive tactic, Russian defensive posture, dissuasion and to avoid any major NBCR conflict.

    I am not German and I would not use German youth that way. 1 million refugees, even if some will go back to their homeland, is a tremendous effort on German economy.
    Collective defense is also about: the first concerned have to secure their own territorial, political and cultural integrity seriously, and keep those defense plans secret.
    Nato is not a Pina Colada Treaty, where Uncle Sam will protect your homeland while you are sipping cocktails in Dubai; and sometimes selling Nato secret intel to some potential opponents.

    Many of my friends would not trust neither Poland nor Ukraine infested FSB/NKVD.
    It brings the line to the Oder-Neisse (too close), which is not a good line for Europe.
    Now, I join your vision, German (and Nato) Panzer armies operating up to the Lithuanian/ Belarus/ Ukraine lines with relatively secured lines of supplies and communications.

    2. The danger
    Russian officers love ‘boilers’ (‘котел’ like Ilovaisk and Devaltsevo, Mariupol when rus forces punched thru all the way to Yalta, a small town 20km S-W from Mariupol, summer 2014, Aleppo…); pincers with multiple locks. They like, at times, to use the opponent offensive force, the momentum of the opponent to effectively trap them. Not all armies are capable of elastic defence in such critical situations. The Lithuania-Poland border is only about 75 klicks wide, X-fire (the ‘Kaliningrad meat grinder’) of D-30 and BM-21 batteries between Kaliningrad and Belarus.

    Paying for a highway + a railway, for civilian communications and business, always OK, I am pro-business, free-trade...
    In case of a conflict, who is going to use them? Allies or opponents?
    Will it become a highway of death?

    3. Territorial defence
    The Baltic States understand that the defence of their territorial, political and cultural integrity is primarily their own responsibility (Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine… Transnistria). The worst nightmare for the Russian Federation is not Ukraine, Georgia, nor Syria; but many Chechnya.

    4. Improbable risks
    Flooding Europe with propaganda, FSB agents (NKVD) and mainly with large stockpiles of conventional weapons (machine guns, RPG-29, mines, vehicles, artillery, short/medium range SAM/AAA…)

    5. Demographic
    Muslims in Western Europe are perceived as the fifth column menace, representing 1-10% of the population (mainly labourers) in some countries, far away from North Africa and Africa in general.
    Estonia and Latvia (around 25% Russians), Lithuania (<10%), next to the Russian Empire.

    6. The Yatsenyuk wall
    It would be better if Europe talked about a tax-free ‘Silk Road’.
    We need to communicate and exchange.
    Part of the embargo on Russia, could be lifted, for a solution, not a confrontation in Syria.

    7. It’s a shame!
    Chechnya, 10X poorer than any Baltic State was able to face the Russian Empire for 10 years!
    The Baltic States surrender before even a single shot was fired!
    Even the Blue Guard in Kremlin is laughing.
    It’s a shame!

    A reader of Defens/ce and Freedom blog