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Title: Maneuver Warfare

Action: Graphic shows the visual spectrum with Attrition on one side and Maneuver on the other. Supporting text appears under each style of warfare as it is discussed by the narrator.



Maneuver warfare seeks to shatter the enemy’s cohesion through a variety of rapid, focused, and unexpected actions which create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation with which the enemy cannot cope.

Voice: Styles in warfare can be described by their place on a spectrum of attrition and maneuver. Warfare by attrition pursues victory through the cumulative destruction of the enemy’s material assets by superior firepower. An enemy is seen as a collection of targets to be engaged and destroyed systematically and enemy concentrations are sought out as the most worthwhile targets. The focus is on the efficient application of fires leading to a highly procedural approach to war that tends toward centralized control. Attrition warfare recognizes the importance of maneuver, but only so far as to bring fires more efficiently to bear on the enemy. Metrics like body counts and terrain captured measure the progress of battle. On the opposite end of the spectrum is maneuver warfare. Maneuver warfare is a warfighting philosophy that seeks to shatter the enemy’s cohesion through a variety of rapid, focused, and unexpected actions, which create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation, with which the enemy cannot cope. The aim is to render the enemy incapable of resisting effectively by shattering his moral, mental, and physical cohesion—his ability to fight as an effective, coordinated whole—rather than to destroy him physically through incremental attrition. Maneuver relies on speed, the ability to focus efforts for effect, and surprise. Tempo is itself a weapon—often the most important. Firepower and attrition are essential elements of maneuver warfare. In fact, where strength has been focused against enemy vulnerability, attrition may be extreme. Nonetheless, the object of such local attrition is to eliminate a key element, which incapacitates the enemy systemically rather than systematically destroying the entire force. Maneuver warfare puts a premium on certain human skills and traits. It requires the temperament to cope with uncertainty and a flexibility of mind to deal with fluid and disorderly situations. It requires a certain independence of mind—a willingness to act with initiative and boldness to exploit every opportunity, and the moral courage to accept responsibility for independent action. This last set of traits must be guided by self-discipline and loyalty to the objectives of senior leaders. All warfare involves both maneuver and attrition in some mix. The predominant style depends on a variety of factors such as the overall situation, the nature of the enemy and most importantly, our own capabilities. The development of combined arms capabilities allows the Marine Corps’ doctrine to favor maneuver warfare.

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