Overview[edit | edit source]
It is how to conduct a quick and successful war. The earliest known principles of war were documented by Sun Tzu, circa 500 BCE.
Machiavelli published his "General Rules" in 1521 which were themselves modeled on Vegetius' Regulae bellorum generales.
Variations exist and differences are minor and semantic or reflect a cultural persuasion for a particular approach. A closer examination of the values and culture of origin reveals its war priorities.
Modern UK principles of warfare[edit | edit source]
The British Army’s principles of war were first published after the First World War and based on the work of the British general and military theorist, J. F. C. Fuller. The definition of each principle has been refined over the following decades and adopted throughout the British armed forces. The tenth principle, added later, was originally called Administration. The first principle has always been stated as pre-eminent and the second is usually considered more important than the remainder, which are not listed in any order of importance.
The 2011 edition of British Defence Doctrine (BDD) states and explains the principles with the following preface: “Principles of War guide commanders and their staffs in the planning and conduct of warfare. They are enduring, but not immutable, absolute or prescriptive, and provide an appropriate foundation for all military activity. The relative importance of each may vary according to context; their application requires judgement, common sense and intelligent interpretation. Commanders also need to take into account the legitimacy of their actions, based on the legal, moral, political, diplomatic and ethical propriety of the conduct of military forces, once committed.”
The ten principles as listed and defined in the 2011 edition, unchanged from the 2008 edition, of BDD (which also provides explanation) are:
- Selection and Maintenance of the Aim - A single, unambiguous aim is the keystone of successful military operations. Selection and maintenance of the aim is regarded as the master principle of war.
- Maintenance of Morale - Morale is a positive state of mind derived from inspired political and military leadership, a shared sense of purpose and values, well-being, perceptions of worth and group cohesion.
- Offensive Action - Offensive action is the practical way in which a commander seeks to gain advantage, sustain momentum and seize the initiative.
- Security - Security is the provision and maintenance of an operating environment that affords the necessary freedom of action, when and where required, to achieve objectives.
- Surprise - Surprise is the consequence of shock and confusion induced by the deliberate or incidental introduction of the unexpected.
- Concentration of Force - Concentration of force involves the decisive, synchronized application of superior fighting power (conceptual, physical, and moral) to realize intended effects, when and where required.
- Economy of Effort - Economy of effort is the judicious exploitation of manpower, materiel and time in relation to the achievement of objectives.
- Flexibility - Flexibility – the ability to change readily to meet new circumstances – comprises agility, responsiveness, resilience, acuity and adaptability.
- Cooperation - Cooperation entails the incorporation of teamwork and a sharing of dangers, burdens, risks and opportunities in every aspect of warfare.
- Sustainability - To sustain a force is to generate the means by which its fighting power and freedom of action are maintained.
Modern NATO principles of warfare[edit | edit source]
The British military theorist and historian Major-General J.F.C. Fuller developed a set of eight principles of warfare between 1912 and 1924:
- Offensive Action
- Economy of Force