Combat is primarily a psychological phenomenon

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Combat is primarily a psychological phenomenon, Dr. Jim Storr says — it is resolved when one side believes it is beaten:

Tactical success can be obtained when the enemy commander believes he has lost: that is, when he has lost the will to continue. Violence, in the form of troop movement and weapons effect, is applied to make that happen. Using those terms, the key issue is that we have no good, simple, clear idea of how applying violence breaks the enemy’s will on the battle?eld.

A recent US Marine Corps after-action report from Afghanistan indicated that:

  • the enemy is not intimidated by crew-served machine guns, but is unnerved by HE [high explosives];
  • an attack from an unforeseen direction will often create panic and confusion among the enemy, and make it much easier to destroy them;
  • experienced Marines use very little small-arms ammunition, sometimes no more than four magazines in eight hours of fighting; and
  • the enemy will repel attacks that are not properly co-ordinated.

Only movement brings victory:

  • Manoeuvre: to find; to fix; to strike; and to exploit.
  • Manoeuvre: to isolate; to envelope; and to encircle. That allows you to surprise and to shock.
  • Apply HE [high explosives] to neutralise; but note that neutralisation does not mean defeat. It is transient and must be exploited.
  • Only engage with small arms: at medium- or long-range, when necessary (and only when necessary) to suppress in order to enable movement; at short range, in the assault. This will not require much ammunition.
  • Exploit all of the above. That normally means movement; it also means supporting subordinates and reinforcing their success. Above all, exploit surprise and shock action.
  • Do not expect this to be anything other than confusing and chaotic. But, if you do it well, it should be highly effective.

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