Military Doctrine - Relationship Between Doctrine and Strategy

Relationship Between Doctrine and Strategy

Doctrine is not strategy. NATO's definition of strategy is "presenting the manner in which military power should be developed and applied to achieve national objectives or those of a group of nations." The official definition of strategy by the United States Department of Defense is: "Strategy is a prudent idea or set of ideas for employing the instruments of national power in a synchronized and integrated fashion to achieve national or multinational objectives."

Military strategy provides the rationale for military operations. Field Marshal Viscount Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial general Staff and co-chairman of the Anglo-US Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee for most of the Second World War, described the art of military strategy as: “to derive from the aim a series of military objectives to be achieved: to assess these objectives as to the military requirements they create, and the pre-conditions which the achievement of each is likely to necessitate: to measure available and potential resources against the requirements and to chart from this process a coherent pattern of priorities and a rational course of action.”

Instead, doctrine seeks to provide a common conceptual framework for a military service:

  • what the service perceives itself to be ("Who are we?")
  • what its mission is ("What do we do?")
  • how the mission is to be carried out ("How do we do that?")
  • how the mission has been carried out in history ("How did we do that in the past?")
  • other questions.

In the same way, doctrine is neither operations nor tactics. It serves as a conceptual framework uniting all three levels of warfare.

Doctrine reflects the judgments of professional military officers, and to a lesser but important extent civilian leaders, about what is and is not militarily possible and necessary.

Factors to consider include:

  • military technology
  • national geography
  • the capabilities of adversaries
  • the capability of one's own organization


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