The Science of War: Back to First Principles

By Brian Holden Reid | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Brian Holden Reid

When planning for the Higher Command and Staff Course got underway in earnest in the Spring of 1987 the main focus was on the Central Region of NATO. It was here that operational thoughts focused, and here was located the theatre of operations where future British commanders might be required to fight at the operational level. Within the space of two years (at most three) the assumptions on which this attitude rested, along with much else that had underpinned British thinking about the future of war, were undercut by the rapid disappearance of the Soviet military threat; indeed the Soviet Union was brought to the brink of dissolution itself. Rather like a mummy which had been preserved safely in a deeply-laid tomb for thousands of years, suddenly brought out into the daylight by an over-enthusiastic archaeologist, the military threat which had prompted so much writing and provoked so much anxiety disintegrated. 'After the year 2000', ran a common enough prediction in 1987, 'much on the Central Region will be similar to today'. That this was demonstrably not so required a good deal of rethinking and some earnest reappraisal.

Some of the factors upon which this reappraisal rested were set down in my introduction to Military Strategy in a Changing Europe: Towards the Twenty-First Century.1 The main point which emerged there was that forces did not need to have force structures and doctrines that were threat-led. Doctrine needs to be flexible to cope with a variety of problems. The operational level of war is not tied to a particular theatre of operations, or for that matter a specific projected enemy. It needs to be applied to a whole range of military questions. Consequently, the Higher Command and Staff Course itself, which has been

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