Military campaign

Military campaign

In the military sciences, a military campaign is a term applied to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war.


A military campaign denotes the time during which a given military force conducts combat operations in a given area (often referred to as AO, area of operations). A military campaign may be executed by either a single Armed Service, or as a combined services campaign conducted by land, naval, air and space forces.

A military campaign is conducted with the purpose of achieving a particular desired resolution of a military conflict as its strategic goal, usually within a clearly defined resource, geographic and time limited criteria. Although the duration of a campaign may be as short as a few weeks, due to the nature of campaign goals, they usually last several months, or even a year as defined by Trevor N. Dupuy.

A campaign is a phase of a war involving a series of operations related in time and space and aimed towards a single, specific, strategic objective or result in the war. A campaign may include a single battle, but more often it comprises a number of battles over a protracted period of time or a considerable distance, but within a single theatre of operations or delimited area. A campaign may last only a few weeks, but usually lasts several months or even a year.

Conduct of campaigns

Like all military operations, the military campaigns are conducted as large military projects that include the phases:

  • Initiating – clear idea of the campaign's military, political, economic, social or environmental goals
  • Planning – where the General Staff define objectives, time, scope and cost of the campaign
  • Executing – the coordination of forces and resources in logistic and combat operations
  • Controlling – the monitoring of the progress of the campaign when compared to its baseline plan
  • Concluding – acceptance or rejection of the campaign outcomes by the directing command structure

Many historical campaigns are so named as misnomers to either increase or reduce the perception of operations for other then military reasons.

Campaign evaluation

The success of a military campaign is evaluated based on the degree of achievement of planned goals and objectives through combat and noncombat operations. This is determined when one of the belligerent military forces defeats the opposing military force within the constraints of the planned resource, time and cost allocations. The manner in which a force terminates its operations, often influences the public perception of the campaign's success. The end of a campaign is either followed by the transition of military authority to a civil authority and the redeployment of forces, or a permanent installation of a military authority in the occupied area.

Military campaigns, inside and outside of defined wars, that exceed the original or even revised planning parameters of the scope, time and cost are sometimes metaphorically characterized as quagmires, because of various factors such as

  • a small hope for victory
  • poorly-defined objectives
  • no clear exit strategy

It is usually used pejoratively to describe, in the Mass media's opinion, operations that failed to achieve their goals. The use of "quagmire" in reference to military campaigns in political debates emerged during the Vietnam War where campaigns were promised, but failed to deliver the end to the conflict. In the United States activists, commentators, and pundits that use the term may choose it specifically to allude to the Vietnam conflict and the Iraq War.



  • Dupuy, T.N., Understanding war: History and Theory of Combat, Leo Cooper, London, 1992

See also


  • Military operations other than war - concept that encompass the use of military capabilities across the range of military operations short of war.
  • Campaign desk - used by officers and their staffs in rear areas during a military campaign.
  • Military strategy - collective name for planning the conduct of warfare.
  • War cycles - the theory that wars happen in cycles.Military decorations
  • Campaign medal - a military decoration which is awarded to a member of the military who serves in a designated military operation or performs duty in a geographical theater.
  • Campaign clasp - an attachment to a military award consisting of a metal bar which is pinned to the upper cloth portion of an award medal.
  • Campaign streamer - a long streamer attached to the headpiece of a military flag, denoting participation of that military service in a particular campaign.Lists and examples
  • List of wars - contains military campaigns.
  • List of battles - part of larger military campaigns.
  • List of sieges - part of larger military campaigns.

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