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Most historians focus on the battles when explaining Military History, but protracted wars are won or lost by the creation and management (use) of strategic reserves. During long wars, the battles are important, but each one in itself is almost never crucial, as will be explained.


The population is the foundation of the whole system. The government directs people to the needed areas (training centers, factories, and research & development labs) where they design, and manufacture the weapons and tools needed to wage war and where people are taught to use them (that is, civilians are transformed into warriors).

Food, oil (energy), and raw materials, along with the required distribution systems are the enablers. (See the picture, arrows represent the distribution systems).

The weapons and trained personnel are then assembled into units that can fight. These are the strategic reserves. The absolute output of these units is critical, but more important is the relative output compared with the enemy.

The capacity of a nation to wage war is a function of how well this web is working.


The strategic reserves are used to:

(A) raise new units (for instance, new battalions are used to form new brigades or divisions or new aircraft are used to create new squadrons and wings)

(B) restore the strength of units engaged in combat to keep them at the desired threshold level. Usually there are 4 levels, the highest is ready for offensive action, then fit for defense, followed by available for garrison duty, and the lowest is unfit for operation (needs to be rebuilt/refit).

(C) keep them out of the battle, and use them to avert disaster if the situation is going badly (the reserves are fed into the battle to prevent defeat) and

(D) hold them ready to unleash them at the appropriate time when the enemy is weak or unprepared (the reserves are fed into battle offensively).

The strategic commander must decide which units will go into battle (the initial Order of Battle) and which will go into strategic reserve (in each category A, B, C, and D).

Historians usually start with the order of battle (9) and a map, where we can see the deployment of the troops geographically, but the size of the reserves (8) and the production tempo of the same are usually invisible.

Imagine a chessboard. This is the battle area where the troops (the chess pieces) are deployed. It is obvious that a good general makes a difference between victory and defeat (troop's quality is important too), but if he could replace his lost pieces, he may lose a battle but still, win the war. If he could replace his lost pieces faster than the adversary could, and even outnumber him, he would have every advantage to win the war.

Strategic commanders fight to wear the enemy down, using the reserves judiciously to keep the battle going and causing more and more losses to the enemy. If the kill ratio is in your favor and you are causing punishing damage (for instance, reducing the adversary's ability to raise strategic reserves), then you are winning tactically.

A good strategic commander must detect the moment when the strategic reserves must be used. The most appropriate time is when he has sizeable strategic reserves ready, the enemy does not have reserves, his army is brittle because of losses, and when the enemy is not expecting a large offensive. When these four conditions are met, it is the time to unleash the reserves in a gigantic offensive to win the war, or at least, to gain the strategic initiative and continue the relentless elimination of the enemy forces.

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