Thursday, December 1, 2011

Doctrine vs Strategy

Doctrine, Strategy and Tactics all differ slightly.  Strategy defines the objectives needed to achieve success.  Tactics describes how those objectives will be taken.  But dictating over both is Doctrine.  Doctrine is a military concept, but also one which can be applied to players when playing a game.
Doctrine is something which is taught, and it becomes and these teachings become an ingrained belief.  Often armchair generals talk about "why didn't xxxx use yyyy when it was obvious zzzz wasn't going to work?"  The reason: Doctrine.

Doctrine forms the basis of military thinking around how the next war will be fought.  As such, it determines what military engagements "should be like" in the next war.  Nations then build units around this "should be" doctrine.  This enters into a self-fulfilling prophesy, however.  As the units are designed for a specific type of war, then the next war is fought using the tactics which best fight that type of war.  Thus, in most cases, Doctrine is "correct" not because it is "valid", but because the units are designed to operate in that way under the best conditions.

Changing Doctrine
Doctrine can change, albeit usually under duress.   It would be great to say Doctrine changes before it is required, but often this is not the case.  Doctrine changes primarily when:

  • Technology makes it obsolete,
  • Terrain makes it impossible, 
  • Necessity demands it.

In the American Civil War (ACW) tactics were driven by the Doctrine taught at West Point, which were a product of Napoleonic wars.  In true Napoleonic style, this meant the three arms of the army (Infantry, cavalry, and Artillery) working together in coordinated unison.  However, in the United States the terrain prevented much of that required coordination.  Technology changed such that artillery was deadly at long range, disrupting the ability to hold formations together.  During the ACW, the defensive was so much stronger than offensive, the South eventually developed "Trench Warfare".  This confirmed what the British learned during the New Zealand Wars (aka: Maori Wars), fighting behind fortifications in long lines would cause greater damage to an attacker than the defender.  Unfortunately, this lesson was essentially ignored by the military of all nations until World War I established trench warfare as the new doctrine until the development of aircraft as the decisive weapon of war.

Necessity also demands changes.  Nearly all navies of the world subscribed to the "Decisive Battle Doctrine", where a great naval battle of both sides duke it out and the war is then decided.  At the center of this naval doctrine was the battleship.  With the destruction of the American battleships in the Pacific in 1941, the US was forced to change its doctrine.  The US fleet could not take on the Japanese fleet in a decisive battle.  Instead, the US adopted a "Commerce Raiding" doctrine.  American fleets avoided large scale battles with the enemy where possible, instead focusing on destroying critical enemy ships at given times, and then retreating to conserve ships.  Only after achieving production superiority did US ships engage in fleet battles, and even those were initiated by the Japanese.

Doctrine In Games
A major difficulty for designers becomes the recreation of "period" doctrines.  In many ways it is simpler to simulate units at the operational level, where the distinction between types of units becomes blurred and all that matters are armies.  At lower levels, it becomes more difficult as the differences between the types of units: artillery, infantry and cavalry, become more distinct.  Unfortunately, it is tempting to use 'Napoleonic cavarly' with a "german Blitzkrieg", a way in which cavalry were not used.  Some systems attempt to prevent this in the rules, but this can quickly create a large rules set with many exceptions.  
Doctrine Of a Player
Players also adopt a play style which can become their "Doctrine".  I know of a player who prefers the idea of "bigger is better".  Regardless of the game, the player will always build the unit with the biggest guns, despite the evidence there are more cost effective units out there.  The result is the player becomes predictable and easier to counter.
Know Your Doctrine
Knowing your style of play becomes critical to understanding your strategic and tactical blind spots.  Oftentimes I will try a new strategy not out of boredom, but to see what I can learn about my play style.  This challenges me to try to work outside what I'm familiar with and learn how others counter it.  I like to think it makes me a better player in the long run, it certainly doesn't add to my Win-Loss rate in the short term, but it keeps my opponent's from knowing what I will do next.  And, every once in a while, I combine elements to form a new strategy which throws everyone off kilter, and makes the game fun.

Carl Boyd, "The Japanese Submarine Force and the Legacy of Strategic and Operational Doctrine Developed Between the World Wars", in Larry Addington ed.Selected Papers from the Citadel Conference on War and Diplomacy: 1978(Charleston, 1979) 27–40; Clark G. Reynolds, Command of the Sea: The History and Strategy of Maritime Empires (1974) 512.

The Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee (February 1947), Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Larry Jewell & Patrick Clancey, ed., HyperWar: Japanese Naval and Merchant Shipping Losses During World War II Japanese Naval and Merchant Shipping Losses During World War II by All Causes NAVEXOS P-468Hyperwar project ed. Patrick Clancey

"Japanese Naval and Merchant Vessels Sunk During World War II By All U.S. Submarines". Retrieved 2010-10-31.

 "Creating military power: the sources of military effectiveness". Risa Brooks, Elizabeth A. Stanley (2007). Stanford University Press. p.41. ISBN 0804753997

Joseph H. Alexander, Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima (1994) a short Marine Corps history

Schenker, Carl R., Jr. "Ulysses in His Tent: Halleck, Grant, Sherman, and 'The Turning Point of the War'". Civil War History (June 2010), vol. 56, no. 2, p. 175.

Simpson, Brooks D. "After Shiloh: Grant, Sherman, and Survival". The Shiloh Campaign. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2009.

Steere, Edward. The Wilderness Campaign. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1960.

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