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Strategy, Operational Art And MacArthur In The ...


Strategy, Operational Art And MacArthur In The ...

Much of modern strategic theory, including theory as taught to practitioners in war colleges, includes a number of intervening concepts between tactics and politics, such as the operational level of war and grand strategy. The concept of operational art, or the operational level of war, was first introduced into western strategic thought thirty-odd years ago, almost without reference to the pre-existing notion of strategy, which had once occupied the same conceptual space as operational art does now. How the introduction of operational art or the operational level of war has modified the nature of strategy is a question which has only recently been broached and a debate which has yet to run its course. Yet much of the discussion has centered on operational art itself, with relatively little reference to strategy. To some extent, the debate consists of strategists and operational artists talking at rather than with each other, with rival dogmas sailing past each other like ships in the night. Such dissection exclusively of operational art, whether one advocates or denigrates the concept, produces more heat than light. It now seems fruitful to approach the debate from the other side, that of strategy.

Classical strategic thought is characterized by very different interpretations of strategy and of its role in war and politics than those prevalent during and after the Cold War. Two perspectives on strategy stand out from this era: that of Antoine-Henri Jomini, and that of Carl von Clausewitz. Although both agreed on much in their attempts to describe and explain the same phenomenon of Napoleonic warfare, they did disagree on strategy, although not necessarily on its principles. The main difference in their respective interpretations of strategy rested on the role of battle.

These developments led to an apparent need for a new, middle concept between tactics and strategy. Aleksandr Svechin, now considered to be the original codifier of this new middle concept of operational art, introduced the concept to the Soviet army in the 1920s.

This shift in the meaning of strategy stemmed from the influence of nuclear weapons upon strategy. Modern strategic studies emerged in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, prioritized nuclear strategy, and caused the relative neglect of other forms of military force, particularly their actual use. Bernard Brodie in 1946 wrote one of the most influential foundational statements on strategy in a nuclear context.

Purely military considerations are privileged above all others in such a theory, even though actual practice militates against such an exclusive emphasis. As a result, the operational level is frequently treated by practitioners and considered by commentators as a politics-free zone of activity purely for the military professional.

The operational level of war is concerned with four essential elements: time, space, means, and purpose. Through means such as directing troops and allocating (limited) resources (among others), operational art aims to achieve political goals by producing an optimal (or at least near-optimal) generation and application of military power. For example, proposals may be generated to identify where to build defensive structures, how many, what kind, and manned by how many troops; a proposal may be accepted, or reworked. During the 20th century, the nascent field of operations research flourished as a result of military efforts to improve logistics and decision making.

The operational level of war sits between tactics, which consists of organizing and employing fighting forces on or near the battlefield, and strategy, which involves aspects of long-term and high-level theatre operations, and the government's leadership. The Soviet Union was the first country to officially distinguish this third level of military thinking, when it was introduced as part of the deep operation military theory that its armed forces developed during the 1920s and 1930s[4] and utilized during the Second World War.

Operational art comprises four essential elements: time, space, means and purpose. Each element is found in greater complexity at the operational level than at the tactical or strategic level. This is true partly because operational art must consider and incorporate more of the strategic and tactical levels than those levels must absorb from the operational level. Although much can be gained by examining the four elements independently, it is only when they are viewed together that operational art reveals its intricate fabric.[3]

The challenge of operational art is to establish a four-element equilibrium that permits the optimal generation and application of military power in achieving the political goal. Viewing time, space, means and purpose as a whole requires great skill in organizing, weighing and envisioning masses of complex, often contradictory factors. These factors often exist for extended periods, over great distances and with shifting mixes of players, systems and beliefs, pursuing political goals which may or may not be clear, cogent or settled. Compounding factors, such as the opponent's actions, create further ambiguity.[3]

End state answers the question "What will constitute success" The campaign end state is not merely a desired status quo of the military goal. It also establishes a touchstone for the tactical, operational and strategic levels. The end state manifests the intended results of military power and exposes any limitations. Indeed, an achievable end state may require the employment of nonmilitary elements of national power. As such, it recognizes that military power alone may not be capable of attaining political success.[3]

An operational-level strategy must continually identify and weigh time, space, means and purpose, extrapolating from them outcomes and likelihood. To accomplish this, practitioners need both skill and theory, experience and knowledge. At the operational level, skills and experience must usually be developed indirectly, through formal training, military history and real-world practice.[3]

Success at the tactical level is no guarantee of success at the operational level since mastery of operational art demands strategic skills but not vice versa. Without a strong grounding in the theory and application of operational art, a successful tactician has little hope of making the demanding leap from tactics. The operational level strategist must see clearly and expansively from the foxhole into the corridors of national or coalition authority. They must be aware of the plausibility and coherence of strategic aims, national will and the players who decide them. Successful operational art charts a clear, unbroken path from the individual soldier's efforts to the state or coalition's goals.[3]

While the emerging corpus of operational art and the establishment of a specifically operational level of war are relatively new, in practice operational art has existed throughout recorded history. Peoples and commanders have long pursued political goals through military actions, and one can examine campaigns of any period from the existential perspective of operational art. Current schools of thought on the operational art share the fundamental view that military success can be measured only in the attainment of political-strategic aims, and thus historians can analyze any war in terms of operational art.[3]

An additional catalyst to this bold examination of the character of warfare was the recurring belief among the interwar Soviet leadership that the Soviet Union was under threat of attack from the encircling capitalist powers. By studying recent campaigns, trends in weapons development, and force structure requirements, these Soviet theorists sought to break the stalemate of positional warfare and restore mobility and maneuver to the battlefield. Soviet theorists, led by future Marshal of the Soviet Union Mikhail Tukhachevsky, rejected the emphasis placed on obtaining victory through a single decisive battle of annihilation. Their work led to a new conception of warfare that recognized that the accomplishment of strategic objectives could only be obtained through the cumulative operational success of successive operations. This focused the Soviet theorists on the intersection of strategy and tactics and led to the creation of a new area of military science operativnoe iskusstvo, or operational art.14

Vladimir Triandafillov, chief of operations of the Red Army staff, was given the task of developing a useable theory of operational art. Triandafillov was the intellectual protégé of Mikhail Tukhachevsky. In 1922, Tukhachevsky was appointed head of the RKKA Military Academy, where he lectured on operations during the recently concluded Russian Civil War. In February 1923, Tukhachevsky stated,

Not only were the theorists of operational art liquidated; their ideas were also now suspect on political-ideological grounds. Those officers who survived the purge were largely unable or unwilling to openly use the operational theories developed by Tukhachevsky and his confederates. The Red Army now possessed an operational theory and doctrine for its employment that was frozen by the Stalinization of military science, separated from its strategic context, and severed from its theoretical roots.36

In the American Army of the period, the corps was the lowest echelon of command capable of self-sufficient and independent operations. The corps, which typically contained between two and five divisions, possessed its own logistics means and the redundancy of capabilities necessary to conduct protracted campaigns. Since the coordination of Army and Air Force assets occurred at the corps, AirLand Battle was fought at the operational level. Like the rest of the material in the new manual, operational level warfare was attentive to the principles of war. However, the writers noted that application of these timeless principles varied depending upon the echelon of command concerned. Instead of being primarily concerned with tactical engagements, corps commanders had to plan and direct operations that furthered strategic objectives. AirLand Battle introduced these operations, called campaigns, into Army doctrine. Since commanders at the operational level were concerned with achieving strategic goals, their decisions about where, when, how, and even if to fight the enemy were of phenomenal importance.49 59ce067264


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