Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Management and Command in the SANDF: Changing Priorities

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Management and Command in the SANDF: Changing Priorities

Article excerpt

Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after changes occur

Guilo Douhet

ABSTRACT

This article * explores the relationship between the existence of a military bureaucracy and the presence of professional military knowledge within armed forces, with specific reference to the situation in the SANDF at present. The first part of the article provides a theoretical overview of this Janus-like nature of armed forces. The second part explores this duality in the SANDF. It is argued that over the last ten years the SANDF has experienced a gradual shift away from the more traditional emphasis of armed forces--that of war-fighting--towards so-called secondary or non-traditional functions. This shift in emphasis not only characteristes peacetime militaries, but is also accompanied by the increasing bureaucratisation of the military. The article concludes by emphasising the need to balance the bureaucratisation of the SANDF with the retention and further development of its professional knowledge and capabilities.

1. INTRODUCTION

In the past, it was widely accepted that the utility of the military centred on its ability to influence coercive situations, which in its purest form implies successful armed combat. This was and still is explained in political terms through the Clausewitzian idea that military force serves as a legitimate instrument of foreign policy--"war is simply a continuation of political intercourse, with the addition of other means". (1) To be successful in coercive situations--to win wars--is still the most important requirement for modern armed forces, though it is not that primary any more. The contemporary notion that armed forces need to make war less likely has grown in prominence. World-wide, including South Africa, armed forces experience this by placing increasing emphasis on so-called 'secondary or non-traditional functions'.

A study of military history shows that there is a correlation between the successful employment of armed forces and the presence of particular constituent elements and other organisational factors. Though it is impossible to provide a complete list of these factors and considerations, some of them are relevant to the changing priorities of management and command. To begin with, armed forces, officers in particular, should have a thorough understanding of the society they serve. They should be knowledgeable about the world in which they exist; and they should have a firm grasp of the complexities of the utility of military force within the context of their domestic and international environments. Military history also indicates how militaries are organised and structured and how they are led and commanded--factors that are of critical importance for their successful employment. This also holds true for the contemporary era in which it is expected of armed forces to reduce the likelihood of war.

This article explores the relationship between the existence of a military bureaucracy and the presence of professional military knowledge within armed forces, with specific reference to the present situation in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The first part provides a theoretical overview of the relationship between the military as a profession on the one hand, and the state bureaucracy on the other. The second part explores this duality in the SANDF, especially the question whether the SANDF's present inclination is towards the bureaucratic military world or towards the professional military world. In conclusion, an assessment is made of what ought to be done within militaries to balance bureaucratic and professional military knowledge.

2. THE JANUS-LIKE NATURE OF ARMED FORCES

Defence forces have a Janus-like appearance. On the one hand, they represent a vocational profession focused on developing expert knowledge on the use of force and, on the other hand, they also constitute a hierarchical bureaucracy focused on applying routine knowledge through operating routines, procedures and checklists. …

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