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About the Essay on the Non-Battle of Commander Brossollet

General Tactical Review - The Battle
History & strategy
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Rereading Brossollet, more than four decades after the publication of his Essay on Non-Battle, may be a "Proust's madeleine" for any graduate of the War School, but it still offers some authentic and singularly topical avenues for reflection. It is indeed possible to analyze his thought through the prism of three ideas: first of all admire the iconoclastic capacity of reflection and writing of a young officer trainee of the War School, whereas the same Earth War School has just seen its duration of schooling re-established at a full year with the aim of further asserting the tactical capabilities of future graduates, then the application of technological innovation (anti-tank missiles, laser, etc.) in the tactical and operational fields, while this melee of the same school has just been restored to a full year.Finally, the power of its tactical thinking, which in an incremental approach proposes to go as far as modifying the meteorological meteorological system.The power of its tactical thinking, which in an incremental approach proposes to go so far as to modify the very articulation of the system of forces of its time, while this same general tactics is coming back to the forefront at the Military Academy, with the creation of a Chair of General Army Tactics.

An iconoclastic capacity for reflection

In writing his Essay on Non-Battle during his studies at the École supérieure de guerre (1972-74), Major Brossollet, while strongly supporting the deterrence described in the White Paper on the Defense Nationale (1972), emphasised the ambiguity of the use of the army's tactical nuclear weapons (Pluto missiles) and questioned the primacy of the battle tank, the main instrument of the battle.

Let us first recall the context surrounding the publication of this work, which is fairly emblematic of the application of the concept of freedom of expression within a hierarchical and regalian system, such as armies. By publishing his work, which was coldly welcomed by the military institution but authorized for publication, Brossollet is in line with the French thinkers of rupture, initially criticized but whose posterity He often validated all or part of their avant-garde thoughts, as before him Charles de Gaulle with his Vers l'armée de métier of 1934 and David Galula with his study of Counter-Insurrection, published by the RAND Corporation in 1968. This refusal to "listen to voices that disturb" has also been finely analysed by Pierre Servent in Le complexe de l'autruche, pour en finir avec les défaites françaises 1870-1914-1940, published in 2011.

Coincidentally, almost simultaneously with the publication of the Essay on Non-Battle, the Minister of Defence launched a new news magazine, Armées d'aujourd'hui, in July 1975, the cover of which was published in No. 1.1 and the article "Une Nation et sa défense" (A Nation and its Defence) by Air Force General François Maurin, Head of the French Army.The cover of No. 1 and the article "Une Nation et sa défense" by Air Force General François Maurin, Chief of Army Staff, are both illustrated by a picture of the nightly closing ceremony of the Mourmelon 75 manoeuvre: Army soldiers impeccably lined up in front of AMX30 tanks and Pluto missile launchers...

In view of the success of the edition of the Essay on Non-Battle, the editorial staff took the decision to open, in issue number 2, dated August, a new edition of the essay on the non-battle.t 1975, its columns to Major Brossollet, in order to allow him to present his work, while offering an equivalent space of expression to Colonel Dominique de La Motte.2Deputy Inspector General of the Army, for an article entitled "Response to non-battle".

This staff reaction can be explained by the military necessity for unity of action in public expression. Indeed, at the time of each Military Programming Act, in a rarely favourable budgetary context, the ECS must tirelessly convince of the need to safeguard a complete army model, the best guarantee of the future capacity to respond to any strategic surprise, the famous black swan of Juvenal. Consequently, while the alternative proposals are obviously constructive in the development phase and offer the incomparable merit of stimulating state reflection, the CEMA has to convince its members of the need to safeguard a complete army model, which is the best guarantee of the future capacity to respond to any strategic surprise.the later divergent voices, advocating a model that is always supposedly more economical, clearly run the risk of being counterproductive by weakening the tool. One need only recall the apocalyptic budget proposals ("Y" and "Z" models) during the preparatory work for the 2014 Military Programming Act193It is worth recalling the apocalyptic budget proposals ("Y" and "Z" models) during the preparatory work for the 2014 Military Programming Act19 , which put the emphasis on special forces, arguing that "quality" is superior to "quantity".Similarly, in the Brossollet era, as today, the reality of recourse to a European defence remains far from certain, even if the policy of small steps is gradually producing its effects in this area.

Let us now look at the iconoclastic side of the reflection, based on a lucid analysis of the contradiction between the military custom of his time and the tactical challenge posed by the irruption of the atom on the battlefield.

In his PRETEXT section, Brossollet underlines the fascination in French military thought for the battle and offensive action, scratching at the wise pace of the excessive offensive of the beginning of the century.The French military thought was dominated by Foch, described as "the god of schools who reigns discreetly but effectively over French military thought" (p. 31)" whereas the 1972 White Paper clearly advocates a defensive strategy: "France has no revenge to take, no frontiers to modify, no hegemony to impose or maintain". From then on, the very articulation of the land forces around the armoured component, the ultimate avatar of the ancient cataphragm, seemed costly and obsolete to him, even though the atomic fact is likely to upset the art of warfare, as it has been practised for centuries. The articulation of the overall scheme of maneuver of the time in four phases:

  • Deployment and march to the enemy of a forward detachment...guard detachment to the enemy;
  • Offensive engagement of the divisions;
  • Massive nuclear strike;
  • Exploitation by offensive action of the divisions;

induced in his eyes "confusion between action and meaning and forces the government, at the tactical level, to the all-or-nothing (p. 24)". Brossollet therefore proposes to overhaul the organisation and equipment of the forces by taking note of the technological possibilities that seem at the time to give the advantage to the sword over the shield, via the anti-tank missile, and to clearly separate conventional forces from tactical nuclear forces. In the face of the overwhelming material domination of the Warsaw Pact, he recommends not to fight in an asymmetrical manner doomed to failure, but to use an indirect mode of action by 'opposing us:

  • at the opponent's speed, by the depth of our device;
  • to its mass, by our lightness;
  • to the number, by efficiency (p. 66)".

In this approach, which is designed to remain below the nuclear threshold, tactical nuclear forces retain a significant role in determining the political will prior to any strategic strike. Brossollet proves in two lines his perfect understanding of the interplay between the tactical, operative and strategic levels: "if the action falls within the military domain, the significance is solely political. And one does not necessarily bend to the imperatives of the other (p. 24)".

In his iconoclastic prospective approach, Brossollet obviously takes the double risk of displeasing and being partially contradicted by the future. Thus, for example, his criticism, essentially from a financial point of view, of "the old lady that is artillery (p. 50)" and of its new AUF1 GCTs resists badly to the subsequent proof of the strategic utility of their use, both in 1995 to break the siege of Sarajevo, and in 2002 to break the siege of the city of Lebanon in support of the Leclercs tanks deployed within UNIFIL II, then when their successors Caesar took part in the conquest of Mosul in 2017 .

Technological innovation at the service of tactics

With a rare lucidity at this stage of his career, Commander Brossollet describes the tactical opportunities made possible by the logical technological advances of his time, in particular anti-tank missiles, implemented by infantrymen or helicopters.

Throughout its Trial, Brossollet demonstrated its impressive technical-tactical mastery of joint and combined arms, detailing the recent means necessary for deterrence (Mirage IV, ballistic missiles and SNLE4p. 21), citing in turn the most modern systems of its decade: Milan light anti-tank missile5 (p. 68), Atila (automation of artillery fire and links, p. 77), radio terminals (p. 116), in order to combine them in the best possible way in its combat system.

As a true integrator of new capabilities, it sees the emerging potential of information technology.6The main reason for this is to improve the flow of information by reducing the traditional pyramidal chains of command (p. 70), which are suffocated by the influx of information. This is one of the main arguments of its detractors, who accuse it of overconfidence in a purely scientific and ten-pronged approach to the mode of action of the State.This is one of the main arguments of its detractors, who accuse it of an over-reliance on a purely scientific and ten-pronged approach to the de facto mode of action, denying the role of the higher echelons of command in battle management, and in particular the triggering of counterattacks, thus calling into question one of the fundamental principles of combat command: "The routing and use of reserves is, along with the manoeuvre of fire, the essential responsibility of the leader during the battle.7.

In the PERSPECTIVES paragraph (p. 107) Brossollet describes precisely the future use of laser-guided munitions, as they were populated by American forces during the two Gulf Wars and then adopted by French conventional forces, essentially from the engagement in Afghanistan. His understanding of the tactical potential of this innovation is absolutely remarkable, since in the early 1970s the first homing devices were just in the flight test phase and the prototype of a portable laser illuminator was only then in the process of being developed.8.

Its particularly exhaustive study, which highlights real shortcomings in the defence tool, is further supplemented by an examination of the country's financial possibilities in thes financial possibilities with regard to its defence, taking into account the improvement of the condition of personnel by redistributing the budgets released from the weapon systems which he recommends be abandoned (p. 103), thus adding a real organic dimension, sometimes reputed to be arid, to its reflection.

The strategic implications of tactical thinking

Recognized as the most authentic, if not the only, French military thinker by Professor Coutau-Bégarie, lecturer at the École de guerre, Brossollet perfectly masters the strategic implications of his tactical concepts. In his argumentation he methodically declines the traditional capabilities of the land tactical component: command, melee (contact and reserve), support, support, joint integrating capa cit, whose harmonious combination is a source of operational effectiveness. Beyond its title, which could at the time be understood as a pacifist wink in the air of the times, while the author does not hesitate for a second to the kinetic use of means, the non-battle of Brossollet is in fact a decentrated defensive maneuver, just like "the meshes of a vast net" (p. 67), based on the use of "land presence modules (p. 67)", linked by "link modules (p. 76)", combined with "heavy armour-based modules (p. 74)" and "airborne destruction modules (p. 72)". The diagram (p. 82) alone illustrates its concept.

This mode of combat, described by the author as "fractional" is in fact a simplified adaptation of a defence of wear and tear and in depth, essentially based on the progressive attrition of the enemy.

What remains particularly interesting in Brossollet's approach, and offers a good opportunity for criticism from his detractors, is the incremental approach, which would be qualified today as "incremental".e of bottom-up, relying on the basic cell of a volume of about fifteen soldiers under the orders of a lieutenant, comprising 3 or 4 "anti-tank warfare" teams and a "mortar team of 81". This module would receive "a combat sector and a task - destruction of three enemy machines (p. 69)". This basic combat cell would be intended to be used only once, thus reducing logistical constraints. The chain of command is planned down to the battalion level, but the author remains silent beyond that, citing only a centralized command "with a data bank at the top" (p. 77) "at the orders" of a system leader, the supreme organizer and connector of this vast assembly of synchronous modules (p. 113)", clearly favouring a deconcentrated approach to command. Its observation of the confrontation of the masses over vast areas combined with the existence of the tactical nuclear fact, a weapon whose use is decided by the political power, makes it possible to In his eyes, the traditional battle, and therefore more than any other centralized maneuver, at the orders of a leader, heir to the "myth of the Great Decision-Makers" (p. 45) ». This observation of the complexity of modern conflicts has been partially resolved by General (US) Stanley Mc Chrystal in his book Team of teams9His experience as commander of the US Special Forces in Iraq and then of the coalition in Afghanistan, in which he left the "chief player of the army" behind him, was a major factor in his decision to join theIn this context, he abandoned the "chief cheque-player" in favour of a "chief gardener, with a global vision that promotes the creation of an ecosystem in which his organisation operates".


Of course, Brossollet was not necessarily a prophet in his own country, no doubt brutalizing too much an army in the midst of the turmoil at the time: accession to the tactical nuclear capability, focused training for a massive engagement of the armoured battle corps in the face of the Soviet enemy potential following the Prague Spring crash, crisis of morale of the soldiers' committees10... But it must be recognised that the relevance of its analysis stimulated the evolution of the force organisation within the staff: the concept of the anti-tank grid, the heart of tactical training in the 1980s, the concretisation of its concept of "air-mobile intervention forces" (p. 98)" with the creation of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) in 1984, the advent of air combat ("Force Éclair" created in 1984) and the creation of the Airborne Intervention Force ("Force Éclair" created in 1984).e by regrouping the helicopters of the 1st Corps in 1982, then creation of the 4th DAM in 1985 and today of the ALAT pillar in the "Contact" model), among others. In addition, the dismantling in 1997 of the Hades missiles [successor to the Pluto, already recommended by Brossollet as a "Super Pluto" (p. 95)] following the election of President Chirac in 1996 and the evolution of the deterrent force from 4 to 2 components, illustrates the relevance of his remarks on the ambiguity of the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

Some admirers also see in him one of the creators of the techno-guerrilla warfare.11 as practised in Lebanon in 2006 by Hezbollah, or hybrid warfare, combining the use of the most recent technologies, drones and cyber, with more traditional means - tanks and artillery, for example at the Donbass in 2016.

Finally, in view of the policy of deterrence, which he never questions, Brossollet recalls the role of our armies, which consists in "demonstrating to any aggressor our will to defend ourselves, which implies resorting to weapons of mass repression if the threat requires it, and allowing this recourse at the time chosen by the government (p. 61) ». To this end, Brossollet recommends that the land forces be organized into three complementary forces: conventional test and information forces [for the government's decision to use atomic weapons], nuclear forces of significance, and intervention forces. In a sort of inversion of the Clauzewitzian formula, it is possible to conclude that nuclear strike, a political act in essence, is indeed the continuation of conventional warfare by another means, a subject which will merit further development.

1 P 0975 of the Military School Documentation Centre.

2 Author in 2012 of De l'autre côté de l'eau, a reflection on freedom and war, based on his experience in Indochina.

3 Jean Guisnel, Vers une apocalypse budgétaire pour les armées, Le Point, 13 and 26/03/2013.

4 The Mirage IV entered service in 1964, the SNLE le Redoutable on 1 December 1971.

5 Commissioned in the French Army in 1973.

6 IRIS 35 M computer tool developed at the end of the 1960s as part of the "Military Computing Plan".

7 Report by Lieutenant-Colonel Langlais, commanding the Airborne Group, about the battle of Dien Bien Phu, published on May 4, 1963 in the Figaro Littéraire.

8 Catalogue of the 1973 Satory Land Arms Exhibition .

9 Penguin, May 2015.

10 Appeal of the 100, claim of soldiers called to the candidates of the 1974 presidential election.

11 Concept developed in the 1980s by a German author Horst Afheldt (Vertiedigung und Frieden, translated into French by Pour une défense non suicidaire en Europe).

Literature review

  • Des théories françaises reprises par les stratèges de Daesh, Jean GUISNEL, Le Point, 29 September 2015 (interview with Joseph HENROTIN). https://www.lepoint.en/editosdupoint/jeanguisnel/destheoriesfran caisesreprises par lesstrategesdeaesh290920151968913_53. php
  • Les adaptations de la guerre irrégulière aux nouvelles conditions tech- nologiques : vers la techno-guérilla, Joseph HENROTIN, Stratégique, vol. 93949596, n° 1, pp. 533566, 2009.
  • L'héritage de la pensée militaire française, Hervé COUTEAUBÉGARIE, Revue de la Défense Nationale, In Memoriam, Tribune, 27 February 2012.
  • Armed Forces, States and Threats: Civil-Military Institutions and Military Power in Modern Democracies, Marc Ronald DEVORE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Archives, 2009 (G. Brossollet is referenced on page 225)
  • Hervé Couteau-Bégarie, la techno-guérilla et la prospective militaire, Joseph HENROTIN, Prospective et stratégie, vol. number 8, n° 1, pp. 3746, 2017. pectiveetstrategie20171page37.htm?1=1&DocId=502238hits=4218+4217+3408+3407+905+904+128+127

Title : About the Essay on the Non-Battle of Commander Brossollet
Author (s) : Général Michel DELION, général adjoint au directeur du CDEC