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Operational Level of War

 
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Operational Level of War - 8/6/2012 5:11:50 PM   
desert


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William F. Owen in the essay "The Operational Art of War Does Not Exist" asserts:

quote:

The premise of this article is laid out in the title. This article will assert that the ‘operational level of war’ is a fallacy built on a failure to understand historical teaching on strategy and tactics.
The reason why the idea of an operational level of war is not fit for purpose is that it has attempted to create an artificial and flawed linkage between strategy and tactics. This has had two negative effects. First it has denigrated and marginalised tactics. Second, it has undermined the correct understanding of strategy.

[...]

While armies conducted ‘operations’, such activity did not impinge on the delineation of strategy and tactics. Conducting operations did not an operational level of war make!

The operational level of war is strongly associated with Soviet military thought. A.A. Svechin is often seen as the originator of the idea, when he discussed ‘Operational Art’ (operativnoe iskustvo) as conceptual connection between tactics and strategy.[iii] He defined an operation as ‘the effort of troops directed towards the achievement of a certain intermediate goal in a certain theatre of military operations without interruptions.’[iv] In the very next sentence he went on to explain that operations were designed to destroy or encircle a portion of the enemy forces to force a withdrawal of other forces, to capture or hold a ‘certain line or geographical area.’ Destroying a portion of the enemy’s armies is what battles traditionally sought to do. Svechin’s description equates strongly with battle and thus tactics, at least in terms of the outcome described.

Much Soviet and Russian writing (and Western analysis of it) on the Operational Level of War is, once subject to rigour, paper-thin and mostly a sophistry that arbitrarily creates a false and unneeded link between strategy and tactics. [...] If the acme of operational art is encirclement operations, then at what level of command does this operational level of war take place? A platoon can encircle an enemy section, just as much as an army group can encircle an enemy army.

Campaign in theater = strategy, operation in campaign = tactics, and so on.


I'm not well-versed in this sort of thing, so perhaps it's not a controversial point?

The full article can be read here following free registration.

Discuss.


< Message edited by desert -- 8/6/2012 5:12:42 PM >


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RE: Operational Level of War - 8/6/2012 5:39:23 PM   
sPzAbt653


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William F. Owen has hired a Minister of Propaganda !




Attachment (1)

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RE: Operational Level of War - 8/6/2012 5:50:06 PM   
Oberst_Klink

 

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Nein, not a Soviet Theorie or Erfindung! :D

'...Nevertheless, it is still possible to see the
principles at work in Schlieffen’s operational vision. And
Schlieffen had an operational vision because, like Jomini,
his operational concepts possess a strong geometrical
element that makes them clear and striking.
Until recently, most of Schlieffen’s writings were
inaccessible to English readers, but Robert T. Foley has
recently published a translation of the most important of
Schlieffen’s works: his assessments of war games,
memoranda leading up to the “Schlieffen Plan,” theoretical
essays, and the introduction and conclusion to the seminal
“Cannae Studies.”

Foley’s work and others enables one draw a picture of Schlieffen’s
operational ideas, which dominated German military thinking
until 1945. It was from these ideas that the operational method
of blitzkrieg
grew.

Schlieffen’s influence increased after his retirement and
death. The plan for the invasion of France of 1914 was
called the “Schlieffen Plan,” although he did not actually
draft the operations order. The German general staff
officers of the interwar and World War II era, particularly
General Hans von Seeckt, acknowledged an intellectual
debt to Schlieffen, and the German offensives of the
1939-42 period bear the unmistakable stamp of Schlieffen’s
operational ideas.

Thus Schlieffen, if he his not the father
of manoeuvre warfare, is one of its grandfathers. An
understanding of Schlieffen’s operational ideas is useful to
understanding not only manoeuvre warfare but warfare
itself. Although Schlieffen’s ideas were intended to be
applied to the operational level of war, many of them are
applicable to the tactical level and some as low as the
section level.

http://www.army.forces.gc.ca/caj/documents/vol_06/iss_3/caj_vol6.3_13_e.pdf

Klink, Oberst

< Message edited by Oberst_Klink -- 8/6/2012 5:51:36 PM >


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RE: Operational Level of War - 8/6/2012 8:03:44 PM   
Jo van der Pluym


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quote:

ORIGINAL: sPzAbt653

William F. Owen has hired a Minister of Propaganda !





Och No. He is alive and

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Greetings from the Netherlands

Jo van der Pluym
The CrazyDutch

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RE: Operational Level of War - 8/7/2012 7:27:07 PM   
Curtis Lemay


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I'm left wondering if this guy has ever wargamed. If not, that's a shame, since that the venue that clearly shows he's wrong. We need only ask ourselves whether Tactical Wargames fundamentally differ from Operational ones, and whether Operational ones fundamentally differ from Strategic ones. The answer to both questions is an unqualified "Yes".

Tactical wargames have hex-scales in meters, unit sizes of platoon or below, and time scales in minutes or less. They are concerned with tactical issues like line-of-sight, opportunity fire, facing, formations, rally, covering fire, and direct-fire weapon ranges. The fundamental objective is to maneuver the forces you have at hand into the best locations to kill the enemy, without themselves being killed. That rarely involves concentrating them. Instead the focus is much more on vantage points, and concealment.

Operational wargames have hex-scales in kilometers, unit sizes of company or above, and time scales in hours or more. Their manuevers are primarily concerned with getting the material in place to enable battles to be won by their tactical sub-commanders - and denying that material edge to their enemies. That usually entails concentrating force at the point of attack.

Strategic wargames have hex-scales in hundreds of kilometers, unit sizes of army or above, and time scales in weeks or more. They are primarily concerned with production, economics, politics, and assignment of force to different theaters of operation. Maneuver isn't a consideration at all.

Clearly, players are making tactical decisions in tactical games, operational decisions in operational games, and strategic decisions in strategic games.

Now, of course, a tactical game can have a large enough scope to encompass operational factors, just as an operational game can have a large enough scope to encompass strategic factors. That doesn't change their fundamental differences.

And having features that superficially appear to be the same (envelopment, for example) doesn't mean that they are the same. Tactically, surrounding an enemy is useful to triangulate them - so there is no way for them to be "behind" anything. If you're triangulated, you'll be exposed to at least one of the three angles. That's not true operationally. There the advantage is to deny reinforcement, resupply, and escape.

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RE: Operational Level of War - 8/7/2012 8:06:08 PM   
shunwick


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Tactics is banging a nail into a wall.

The Operational Art is knowing which nail and which wall.

Strategy is the belief that banging a nail into a wall will solve the problem.

Grand Strategy is the foresight to own hammer, nail and, indeed, wall.

Politics is when you are sitting at the breakfast table gently nursing that first coffee of the day and a strident female voice says, "Are you ever going to get off you fat butt and hang that painting that aunt Maud sent us for Christmas?"

Diplomacy is the answer, "Yes dear."

The Opening of Hostilities follows any answer that begins with the words, "Why don't you and aunt Maud take that painting and go ...."


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RE: Operational Level of War - 8/7/2012 8:44:45 PM   
Dadekster

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: shunwick

Tactics is banging a nail into a wall.

The Operational Art is knowing which nail and which wall.

Strategy is the belief that banging a nail into a wall will solve the problem.

Grand Strategy is the foresight to own hammer, nail and, indeed, wall.

Politics is when you are sitting at the breakfast table gently nursing that first coffee of the day and a strident female voice says, "Are you ever going to get off you fat butt and hang that painting that aunt Maud sent us for Christmas?"

Diplomacy is the answer, "Yes dear."

The Opening of Hostilities follows any answer that begins with the words, "Why don't you and aunt Maud take that painting and go ...."



well said.

If you live in a motor home or are unmarried though it may still not explain it sufficently.

So now what?

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RE: Operational Level of War - 8/7/2012 9:37:01 PM   
golden delicious


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As Norm says, if you can't smell the smoke, you're not dealing with tactics. Strategy on the other hand is the connection of ends and means.

The only extent to which I can see the case having merit is to argue that the definition of strategy extends to cover the operational level of warfare. Certainly a division commander must connect ends and means just as much as a theatre commander would. However the differences in scope between the two scales lead to a complete difference in approach. I think it's damaging to see the intermediate level of command as, to paraphrase, merely an extension of strategy by other means and other methods. The kind of decisions that have to be made at an operational level are distinctive enough to merit their own discipline, and ignoring this distinction will lead to a compromise which must limit the effectiveness of either the operational or the strategic art- or both.

God I don't think I've written a paragraph like that since my degree. I miss War Studies...

< Message edited by golden delicious -- 8/7/2012 9:39:05 PM >


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RE: Operational Level of War - 8/10/2012 7:16:08 AM   
ColinWright

 

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I see this sort of thing as being ultimately a matter of semantics. You can adjust your definitions to achieve whichever answer you prefer.

However, there is a pretty wide gap between deciding to flank that enemy position on the hill and deciding to land in Italy rather than Greece. I think there's a distinct region somewhere between those two points that is definitely not tactics but also isn't strategy.

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