View Poll Results: At what level of war do you focus your readings/studies at?

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  • Strategic

    7 53.85%
  • Operational

    7 53.85%
  • Tactical

    4 30.77%
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Thread: Operational Art?

  1. #1
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    Operational Art?

    I'm curious as to what levels of war most interest folks. While I enjoy reading battle studies and personal memoirs that by their nature reside at the tactical level, I focus on readings at the strategic and to a lesser extent, the operational level.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    I gave a squishy answer....tactical and operational.

    Part of that goes to how I learned to read history....the Bantam War Book series. In the 1960s & 1970s I read a ton of the first person narratives as an introduction to World War 2 and then branched over campaign studies later in high school and college.

    I think its important to understand what happened at the soldier level and how it impacts/impacted the operational outcome.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
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    I think its important to understand what happened at the soldier level and how it impacts/impacted the operational outcome.
    i actually believe this is the biggest disconnect for strategic-level policymakers. it's so easy to call for something to be done when you're disengaged from the people actually -doing- it, and from the people it's being done to.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    I am not a soldier myself so I hope our 'Gallant' (as I believe they refers ex service members of the House of Commons) members forgive me intruding as it were. I have had lectures on Jomini and Clauswitz in the past, read (most of) their books as well as those of Fuller and Liddell Hart, Guderian, the recollections of Manstein in 'Verlorene Siege'/Lost Victories etc, and this past year been present in some discussions relating to all the above. My family has always done some military service so I grew up in the tradition and with books on the bookshelf so I have of course read the ancient and more recent campaigns of the 'Great' Generals.

    To me strategy is most interesting as it encapsulates (or can do) a whole theory or an idea; once a strategy is adopted tactics etc should ideally be set to fit in with it. It is the broad outline that matters - tactical management is best left to those on the ground; no point in an armoured unit blowing hell out of a town but better to push on and cut supply lines, if the air cover is there or needed. Of course the strategy may be correct but the operational and command organisation incapable of keeping things 'on track', units move off course and get bogged down in urban warfare and then become cut off because the corridor isn't sufficiently wide and the reserves are miles away. I have seen it first hand this year but that, in my opinion, does not make the strategy wrong but the operational command flawed. To me the strategy is always the most interesting - it should ideally dictate the tactics and everything else.

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    as i work at a place where e-mail signatures with quotes from sun tzu are distressingly common

    "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat"
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    An almost exclusive interest for the last ten years on W.W. II Eastern front would suggest my interests now are largely operational and tactical.

    We suffer despite the extraordinary size of that portion of the conflict in that we've so little viable accounts of combat operations at the regimental/division level along with descriptions of how units and individuals were assimilated, trained, reconstituted, etc. Too, we miss near completely replenishment and other logistical operations at this level.

    Glantz and others are valuable but the best resources have been dying by the thousands for the last fifteen years and, with them, go our last chance to really understand prolonged operations of a scale and magnitude we're unlikely to ever see gathered again.
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    These days I prefer to focus on strategy and operations. Tactics were all I used to care about, and I just assumed that whoever was braver, fought harder, or had the best gun would be the victor.

    Since then I have discovered too many instances where success on the tactical level fails to translate into the accomplishment of the overarching goals of a conflict. My younger self failed to grasp that an adversary can lose or avoid every fight, yet still deny you victory.

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    I'm pretty much entirely concerned with strategy, and to a lesser extent operational. I tend to always want to see the biggest possible picture of things. Tactics are interesting, but just not as... important, I guess, if I had to rate them.

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    They are all equal. At the end of the day, it is the private who must take the spot where you're going to raise your flag. Where that spot is is the job of the strategist. How the private gets there is the job of operations.
    Chimo

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    For me it would be a mix of all three, understanding the need for the campaign, the behind the scenes workings and then the tactical issues faced on the ground.

    Cheers!...on the rocks!!

  11. #11
    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    I'm curious as to what levels of war most interest folks. While I enjoy reading battle studies and personal memoirs that by their nature reside at the tactical level, I focus on readings at the strategic and to a lesser extent, the operational level.
    Sir,you may focus on what's more suitable/adequate for you at the moment.But it shouldn't be a really big discrepancy in interest,regardless how high in the chain you get.Understanding grand strategy is of no use for a squad leader.Understanding the latest developments in squad TTP's is however of a major importance leaders of grand battalions.It saves lives,time&resources for the entire organisation.Throwing men and resources may achieve results,but there is a duty to do it as cheaply as possible.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mihais View Post
    Sir,you may focus on what's more suitable/adequate for you at the moment.But it shouldn't be a really big discrepancy in interest,regardless how high in the chain you get.Understanding grand strategy is of no use for a squad leader.Understanding the latest developments in squad TTP's is however of a major importance leaders of grand battalions.It saves lives,time&resources for the entire organisation.Throwing men and resources may achieve results,but there is a duty to do it as cheaply as possible.
    I was not implying that an interest at one level is inferior to reading at others - just trying to get a pulse of where folks' true interests are. However, if one is looking at the relationships between the levels of war, then strategy is clearly the master.

    "Strategy should be the master, tactics the servant, as strategy is the servant of policy." --Capt. G. B. Wright, 1934
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    ... then strategy is clearly the master.
    Spoken like a master strategist!

    Dead Carl would be proud!
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    ah, but would he be proud of Taylor von Swiftwitz?

    https://storify.com/AthertonKD/taylor-swiftewitz
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    great question. Generally speaking, I assume the operational level would be somewhat less known than the other two. The public may not even know it exists.

    Btw, what would you suggest if I want to read about modern operational art of countries? I assume most armies now use the some types of deep operation. But is there any significant difference between let say US and Russian armies? And do they publish official documents about their operational arts?

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