Special consideration in drawing a military doctrine

It would be a great injustice to begin blasting into this topic of military doctrine without getting back into the definition. In the shortest explanation; military doctrine is the expression of how the military forces contribute to campaigns, major operations, battles and engagements.

For years now Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has had a department known as TRADOC (Training and Doctrine) which is basically an America military invention. Military doctrine is very vital for the sustenance of any modern military including BDF. BDF is quite professional in most aspects even though there is still a lot of room remaining for improvement. And for that reason, I bring my case forth for the establishment of a well-defined doctrine.

When fashioning a military doctrine, there are four key factors that have to be put into consideration and I will discuss them somewhat thoroughly for the reader’s understanding.

The first aspect for consideration is the geography of a country. In the case of Botswana, the vastness of our country posses a security challenge. Botswana has long borders and securing them requires equipment and personnel. To move personnel and equipment in a country the size of France and the state of Texas in the United States, you need a sophisticated means of logistical network. The army matches on its stomach and therefore the men and women who get deployed in this vast country will need a thorough logistical planning.


BDF has in the past depended largely in moving men and equipment by land because of its limited air assets. This has not been the best way of doing things but it has so far served this country. With a new military doctrine, the politicians who are responsible for funding the military would be able to acknowledge the needs of the country’s military.

When a piece of document known as doctrine is in place, it will be easier to address the needs of our military. Even further, it will make planning by commanders and the civil leadership much easier. Projections for military spending will not become as taxing as they are now where the minister responsible has to be at pains to explain to parliament on requirements of the military.

For BDF to be as effective as we may want it to be requires a serious upgrade in the inventory of their air assets. There is an immediate need for more helicopters that will move personnel and equipment when taking into account our global positioning as a country.

These will also become useful in times of national disasters such as floods and raging veld fires. The pending drought will at some point require the distribution of food rations to the civilian population as well.

BDF has a substantial number of transport planes which are essential for meeting the military’s logistical needs. However, there is need to improve in this area. Botswana is a landlocked country and there is need to invest in this area of its military.

This brings into question the military’s technology which is another aspect of consideration in creating one’s military doctrine. Without delving deep into what technological capabilities the BDF may have in place, there is need to address matters on how logistical challenges will be met by the current assets. The other factor that will need to be taken into consideration is the means of communication, appropriate when taking into account the size of our country.

Regarding the question of available technology to be considered when drawing up a military doctrine, the reader needs to realise that BDF has invested heavily in the training of its personnel. This does not take off the table the issue of considering manpower increases and as well as further training.

It suffices to say that the military’s technological ability informs its capabilities. The starting point is; what are BDF’s capabilities as a military organisation? The second question is; where do we want to make improvements in the capability of our defence force?

It is not only a matter of questions, but there is need to provide answers as to how implementation can be reached. It is very important that politicians understand the country’s military doctrine.

They are the ones who are responsible for releasing funds for the employment of personnel and the procurement of military equipment.

The last thing to be put into consideration in drawing a country’s military doctrine is the capabilities of our adversaries. Botswana has a long borderline to secure and there are four countries we share these borders with. Even though we practically cannot go to war with Zambia because of the nature of our short borderline on the Zambezi, their capabilities may be necessary to assist us in future campaigns.

Southern Africa has changed dramatically in the last three decades. The changed political landscape has definitely informed and changed the nature of our security needs. However, a sound military doctrine will help us to redefine our security priorities and inform our forward planning.

Doctrine provides a common conceptual framework for a military service. Doctrine is necessary to address the scope of the military and its intended use. Does the military exist to secure politicians or for the defence of its citizens?

Every country has its own intentions in maintaining a military organisation. In a democratic setting, the military must serve the needs of its citizens.

What is interesting at this stage is the influence that will be realised in BDF’s draft doctrine. Our military organisation has had significant influences from the Indian military, the US and Britain.

BDF has indeed become a hybrid force and that has in one way or the other influenced and defined the mission of this military organization.

In this manner, we cannot absolutely avoid to have external influences in our military doctrine.

Our defence policies will always in one way or the other reflect our past relationships with our different suitors.

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