Maneuver / manoeuvre - an elegant military theory framework - Part II: Readiness


Back in September 1939 a section of German infantrymen entered a Polish barn and went to sleep in the straw. One man woke up the next morning from a separate and very high sleeping position, and what we saw was terrible: All his comrades of the section had their throats slit over night.

It doesn't even matter whether this anecdote from a book is true or not; it reminds us convincingly that even a granny with a kitchen knife (or a brick) is a match for a trained and armed infantry section if only the latter is not ready for a fight. They were definitely not ready for encountering even a single hostile while they slept.

This serves to illustrate the importance of readiness for a (particular) fight as a single variable descriptor of the odds of combat. Combat troops vs. support troops, first world vs. third world, gucci spec ops gear vs. self-made clubs - the readiness for a (particular fight) can be considered as a universal single variable descriptor. Training, equipment, health, morale, position, formation, terrain, time of day, weather and supplies all affect readiness, but there are many more input factors.

My definition for readiness for combat:

Readiness (for combat) is the fitness to succeed in a fight at this time and place.

The fight may be ongoing, commence right now or be started very soon (before readiness can be improved by much).

To have such a single variable description for the ex ante odds of prevailing in combat is hugely useful for the understanding of maneuver / maoneuvre in my opinion.

I understand that this definition of "readiness" is not practical for everyday use in armed forces training. It's relational; armed forces would want a metric that a unit can achieve by itself, and would include things like 'is qualified on equipment', has completed unit-level training exercise', 'has 80+% deployable and present personnel'. I'd rather call that "state of training" and "deployability", and the existence of such terms means that a definition of readiness doesn't need to answer non-battlefield needs.

The next part of the series will introduce a definition for maneuver / manoeuvre that uses "readiness".





  1. Last Dingo:

    Excellent writing! I want to add, that imo there is a close connection between readiness and information superiority. I can't have an higher readiness (in comparison to the enemy) if I don't have the necessary information. Accordingly, information superiority is one of the main sources of a greater readiness in comparison to the enemy.

    1. Of course you can have higher readiness without information superiority.
      A tank division may not yet know that there's a granny with a brick trying to destroy it, but the granny isn't going to win a fight.
      You may not know the exact position of the enemy, but having a regiment of MLRS on your side while the enemy has no arty munitions left drastically reduces the need for exact information.

      Information superiority was the obsession pre-2003 IIRC. It's but a part of the mosaic picture.