What is Doctrine?

Doctrine is the fundamental operational philosophy of any defence agency. New Zealand's NZDF doctrine is available online. Readers may find it somewhat simplistic in many respects but it does contain some useful ideas so it is worth persisting with.

Because this Study proposes a radically different notion of defence it follows that it will need a radically different doctrine. However as doctrine tends to be rather involved there is only space here to sketch.

MARS Doctrine

The Mars doctrine underpins all planning for the force defined in this study. It defines how the force will be effective. Mars stands for:



The Force must always be as mobile as possible. It must be capable of self-deployment wherever it is required and be mobile when it is deployed.


The Force must be able to adapt to any and every challenge. It must be capable of changing its management structure and operating methods depending on the circumstances. Its equipment should be as flexible as possible.


The Force must be reliable to those who rely on it. That may mean fulfilling the mission or preserving the force's own strength depending on the circumstances. 


The Force must be sympathetic to those it deals with as well as engendering sympathy to itself. While there are obvious limits to the sympathy one can have towards someone who is shooting at you it is important that troops retain the capability to understand the motives of those trying to kill them. This may inform the political and psychological aspects of conflict. At all times the Force should attempt to engender sympathy from those it deals with.

Dimensions of Effectiveness

The Mars Doctrine recognises effectiveness in four dimensions of action:

Legality .


This means achieving the objectives of the orders as handed down the chain of command.


This means recognises the political consequences of actions whether they are ordered or not.


This means recognising the economic values and costs involved in carrying out actions or orders.


This means understanding the legal standing of actions and orders.

Thus achieving political, economic and legal success counterbalances not achieving objectives. Achieving Legal and objective success but failing politically and economically is not necessarily regarded as success.

All soldiers are trained to recognise consequences of their decisions in these terms and must be prepared to justify them in these terms.

Foundations of Doctrine

This study does not recognise any time when the defence force is not active. As stated earlier it recognises the following 'fronts':

  • Political/diplomatic
  • Political/terrorist
  • Natural/biological
  • Natural/physical

Each is assessed in terms of on-going cost, in economic, political and humanitarian terms and three types of potential error in regard to these "fronts"

  • Informational (Insufficient information is available)
  • Assessment (Analysis is wrong)
  • Response ( Resource is quantitatively or qualitatively wrong)

This study's doctrine recognises three stages of engagement:

  • Prevention
  • Response
  • Resolution

In all cased the object of the force is to minimise loss in economic, political and humanitarian terms.  It recognises that political fronts must be won politically as well as physically and that natural fronts must not become political. 

For individuals in the force this means:

 1. The right thing, is the thing to do

2. Prevention has a risk of error but a probability of success 

3. Every action must be devoted towards a sustainable resolution


The critical question for every military force is the question of when to inflict pain and suffering. It is assumed that inflicting pain and suffering is reasonably easy in a practical sense.

The objective of any kind of political conflict is to collapse the antagonists political structure by:

  • Robbing the structure of popular support
  • Eliminating the structure's economic support
  • Undermining the structure's cultural legitimacy
  • Collapsing the structure's effectiveness

It must also be noted that while doing this a less antagonistic political structure is needed which must also:

  • Have popular support
  • Have economic support
  • Be regarded as culturally legitimate
  • Be effective and as such ultimately independent

It should be noted here that the United States of America has failed to achieve these objectives in every war (except Panama and Guatamala) it has been involved in since 1953 despite having the greatest military force in the world. By contrast lesser powers including Britain, Vietnam and Tanzania have achieved these aims.

The question of inflicting pain and suffering cannot be answered in general terms for all circumstances. In some circumstances it is the wrong thing to do because it erodes popular support and is ineffective (eg Vietnam) but in others it is culturally legitimate and highly effective.

Tactics and Operations

Operations have two choices.

A. Directly. To confront the largest problem first and then deal with lessor issues


B. Indirectly. To deal with lessor matters first and undermine the scale of the largest problem indirectly.

These depend on the degree of information available, the capacity for assessment and the resources available for response. Where possible the goal is prevention and resolution. Individual commanders must make their own assessments as to their risk of error.

Where antagonistic forces exist these must be examined in terms of the four cornerstones of popularity, economy, legitimacy and effectiveness. For example by dealing indirectly with a superior force by undermining economic support it becomes possible to reduce their effectiveness. This in turn will raise issues of popularity and legitimacy.

Place in the World

The New Zealand Force must always recognise itself as a minor power and outsider. It must recognise cultural relativity in first world and third world nations while retaining its own core values.  Its ultimate objective is, however, quite simple: to make New Zealanders proud of its achievements.