Research Report

ALIEN:: HOW OPERATIONAL ART DEVOURED STRATEGY

Justin Kelly
Mike Brennan
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2009
Pages: 128
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep12041
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. v-vi)
    DOUGLAS C. LOVELACE JR.

    The publication of the 1982 version of Army Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Operations, introduced to the English-speaking world the idea of an operational level of war which encompassed the planning and conduct of campaigns and major operations. It was followed 3 years later by the introduction of the term “operational art” which was, in practice, the skillful management of the operational level of war. This conception of an identifiably separate level of war that defined the jurisdiction of the profession of arms was, for a number of historical and cultural reasons, attractive to U.S. practitioners and plausible to its English-speaking...

  2. (pp. 1-4)

    In most fields of military endeavor, theory has had only a modest influence on praxis. Faced with real problems, the militaries of the world generally set about contriving practical solutions in a more or less theory-free environment, generating the seeds of new theory as a by-product. Theory, however, is influential in the preparation for war; bad theory risks leading us into poor preparations. Analyses of the consequences of poor preparation for war line the bookcases of most of the people reading this monograph.

    In recent times many have theorized about the character of contemporary conflict, introducing relatively new ideas such...

  3. (pp. 5-10)

    Wars are fought to achieve a distribution of political power that is satisfactory to the victor. Political power rests on the acquiescence of a population, however that is attained. Therefore, the fundamental challenge in war is to assemble a sequence of actions that seems likely to change the minds of a hostile population. Some stratagems, tactics, or weapons may be, or become, inimical to that shift in the popular consensus and be counterproductive. Some may have mixed impacts— influencing different parts of the target community in different ways. Actions to overcome armed resistance may alienate sectors of the population, while...

  4. (pp. 11-17)

    The need for “operations” was a product of changes brought about by the the Napoleonic concept of the nation in arms and the impact of the industrial revolution. The nation in arms provided huge armies, while the Industrial Revolution provided the means to equip, deploy, command, and sustain them. Whereas in the wars of the 18th century armies in the field seldom exceeded 150,000 troops, Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 with 600,000 men, while the Prussians invaded France in 1870 with 1,200,000. As a result of such increases, the size of the battlefield grew from a few kilometers wide in...

  5. (pp. 17-25)

    Although they are closely connected in time and necessarily share a number of similarities, between the wars of 1866 and 1870 there occurred a watershed in the evolution of operational art. Isserson describes a typical Napoleonic campaign as “a great, long approach, which engendered a long operational line, and a short final engagement in a single area, which, with respect to the long operational line is a single point in space and a single moment in time.”20 This echoes Clausewitz’ interpretation of Napoleonic warfare: “The field of battle in the face of strategy is no more than a point; in...

  6. (pp. 25-40)

    In the lead-up to World War I, then, there was recognition that there was need to yoke geographically and temporally separate combat efforts to some unified scheme of maneuver, that battles remained the only decisive instrument in warfare, and that a succession of blows was necessary to defeat mass armies fielded by modern states.35

    At the same time, by 1905 armies 20 times the size of those that had fought in 1870 confronted each other in central Europe. Each minute a brigade of 3,000 men with its artillery could discharge a volume of fire equal to that of the whole...

  7. (pp. 40-49)

    At the risk of leaping a little ahead, it is necessary to explain the wider Soviet conceptual framework before plotting the evolution of operational art in Russia. It was the Soviets who gave us the term operational art. Although the term “operation” in its special meaning of a sequenced group of tactical actions had been around since the second half of the 19th century, the identification and codification of operational art had to await the arrival of the socialist state. In stark contrast to the German “war as a whole” idea, the Soviets, guided by dialectical Marxism, found it necessary...

  8. (pp. 49-71)

    Unsurprisingly, the British approach to warfare is conditioned by the nation’s history. Relatively secure on their moated island, the British have traditionally committed modest land forces to European wars in order to cement alliances and demonstrate commitment rather than to seek decisive victory in their own right. Therefore, the British generally have not themselves sought the complete overthrow of their enemies and have seen most wars as “limited” in both the ends that were reasonably attainable and the degree of commitment made to them. This “limited liability” approach is culturally reinforced by a history of imperial policing and a strong...

  9. (pp. 71-85)

    This monograph has so far traced the evolution of operational art from its sources in the industrial and political revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries to the present, as well as in the Anglophone world, to the erroneous interpretations dating from the FM 100-5 of 1982 and 1986. The next questions to arise are whether operational art was purely an artifact of the industrial age or whether it has continued relevance as we enter the post-industrial era.

    In the successful 1982 British campaign to eject Argentinean forces from the Falklands Islands, the British government, to exploit strong...

  10. (pp. 85-98)

    It is in the nature of revolutions that they destroy what they replace. The 1982 introduction of the operational level of war into the Anglophone lexicon was, in this sense, truly revolutionary: it can be said to have destroyed strategy as it was. This monograph has dwelt on the historical and elemental roots of the theoretical and practical underpinnings of the terms “operational art” and “levels of war,” and explained the consequences for strategy. That analysis provides context for a discussion of the need to revisit doctrine and perhaps pause before piling new conceptual theory—currently systems and systems design...