Strategic goal (military)

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A strategic military goal is used in strategic military operation plans to define the desired end-state of a war or a campaign. Usually it entails either a strategic change in an enemy's military posture, [1] intentions or ongoing operations, or achieving a strategic victory over the enemy that ends the conflict, although the goal can be set in terms of diplomatic or economic conditions, defined by purely territorial gains, or the evidence that the enemy's will to fight has been broken. [2] Sometimes the strategic goal can be to limit the scope of the conflict. [3]

Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. In the sense of the "art of the general", which included several subsets of skills including "tactics", siegecraft, logistics etc., the term came into use in the 6th century C.E. in East Roman terminology, and was translated into Western vernacular languages only in the 18th century. From then until the 20th century, the word "strategy" came to denote "a comprehensive way to try to pursue political ends, including the threat or actual use of force, in a dialectic of wills" in a military conflict, in which both adversaries interact.

A military operation plan is a formal plan for military armed forces, their military organizations and units to conduct operations, as drawn up by commanders within the combat operations process in achieving objectives before or during a conflict. Military plans are generally produced in accordance with the military doctrine of the troops involved.

War Organised and prolonged violent conflict between states

War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.



It is the highest level of organisational achievement in a military organisation, and is usually defined by the national defence policy. In terms of goal assignment it corresponds to operations performed by a front or a fleet on a theatre scale, and by an Army group or, during the World War II, by a Red Army Front.

Front (military) contested armed frontier between opposing forces

A military front or battlefront is a contested armed frontier between opposing forces. It can be a local or tactical front, or it can range to a theater. A typical front was the Western Front in France and Belgium in World War I.

Naval fleet formation of warships

A fleet or naval fleet is a large formation of warships, which is controlled by one leader and the largest formation in any navy. A fleet at sea is the direct equivalent of an army on land.

Theater (warfare) Area or place in which important military events occur or are progressing

In warfare, a theater or theatre is an area in which important military events occur or are progressing. A theater can include the entirety of the airspace, land and sea area that is or that may potentially become involved in war operations.

A strategic goal is achieved by reaching specific strategic objectives that represent intermediary and incremental advances within the overall strategic plan. This is necessary because "high-level" strategic goals are often abstract, and therefore difficult to assess in terms of achievement without referring to some specific, often physical objectives. [4] However, aside from the obstacles used by the enemy to prevent achievement of the strategic goal, inappropriate technological capabilities and operational weakness in combat may prevent fulfilment of the strategic plan. [5] As an example, these are illustrated by the failure of the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command during the winter of 1943-44: [6]

Combat purposeful violent conflict, typically refers to armed conflict or melee

Combat is a purposeful violent conflict meant to weaken, establish dominance over, or kill the opposition, or to drive the opposition away from a location where it is not wanted or needed.

Royal Air Force Aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.

RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAFs bomber forces from 1936 to 1968

RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. Along with the United States Army Air Forces, it played the central role in the strategic bombing of Germany in World War II. From 1942 onward, the British bombing campaign against Germany became less restrictive and increasingly targeted industrial sites and the civilian manpower base essential for German war production. In total 364,514 operational sorties were flown, 1,030,500 tons of bombs were dropped and 8,325 aircraft lost in action. Bomber Command crews also suffered a high casualty rate: 55,573 were killed out of a total of 125,000 aircrew, a 44.4% death rate. A further 8,403 men were wounded in action, and 9,838 became prisoners of war.

A critical product of the analysis which leads to the strategic decision to use military force is determination of the national goal to be achieved by that application of force. [7]

However, analysis of military history abounds with examples of the two factors that plague goal setting in military strategies,[ citation needed ] their change during the campaign or war due to changes in economic, political or social changes within the state, or in a change of how achievement of the existing goal is being assessed, and the criteria of its achievement. For example:

Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, cultures and economies thereof, as well as the resulting changes to local and international relationships.

Goal setting involves the development of an action plan designed to motivate and guide a person or group toward a goal. Goal setting can be guided by goal-setting criteria such as SMART criteria. Goal setting is a major component of personal-development and management literature.

The complex and varied nature of the Vietnam War made it especially difficult to translate abstract, strategic goals into specific missions for individual organizations. [8]

Vietnam War 1955–1975 conflict in Vietnam

The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, with U.S. involvement ending in 1973. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war from some US perspectives. It lasted some 19 years and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist states in 1975. The outcome of the war humiliated the United States and diminished its reputation in the world.

This occurred because of the economic change that saw the cost of the war escalate beyond the original predictions and the changing political leadership, which was no longer willing to commit to the conduct of the war, but also due to the radical change which United States society experienced during the war, and more importantly because:

The American strategic goal was not the destruction of an organized military machine armed with tanks, planes, helicopters, and war ships, for which the United States had prepared, but the preservation of a fragile regime from the lightly armed attacks of both its own people and the North Vietnamese. [9]

The United States did not intend to conquer North Vietnam for fear of a Chinese or Soviet military reaction. Likewise, the United States strategically assumed that the full extent of its power was not merited in the Vietnam War. [10]

Citations and notes

  1. p.14, Gartner
  2. p.91, Newell
  3. p.29, Aron
  4. p.31, Gartner
  5. p.18, Millett Murray
  6. p.19, Millett Murray
  7. p.59, Newell
  8. p.121, Gartner
  9. pp.127-128, Gartner
  10. p.57, Anderson

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