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Relational Maneuver: How to Wage Irregular Warfare and MARSOC's Strategic Application

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Based on historical lessons learned from irregular warfare case studies, and internal organizational analysis, this thesis seeks to provide Marine Special Operations Command MARSOC with specific implementable recommendations based on Edward Luttwaks concept of relational maneuver. Luttwak defines relational maneuver as a style of warfare that requires a deep understanding of the threat and its operational environment to identify vulnerabilities, adapt, and exploit those weaknesses to destroy the enemy as a system. Luttwak argues that irregular warfare requires effective implementation of relational maneuver to achieve operational and strategic success. The U.S. militarys experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2009 through 2016 have revealed insufficient use of relational maneuver, favoring, instead, employment of attrition warfare, which focuses on optimizing internal organizational efficiency without understanding, or adapting to, the threat or the operational environment. Through this research, the authors seek to influence MARSOCs organizational strategy to more effectively wage irregular warfare. The final recommendations provide a possible path to MARSOC for overcoming institutional challenges inhibiting the employment of relational maneuver in irregular warfare.

Subject Categories:

  • Unconventional Warfare

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