Small Wars Journal

operational art

Risk vs. Reward: The Operational Art at Inchon

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 3:01pm
The difference between success or failure on the Korean Peninsula fell on the shoulders of the theater commander, US Army General Douglas MacArthur. His decision to execute Operation Chromite, a bold, combined arms, amphibious landing on the Korean west coast at Inchon, turned the tide of the war. Chromite successfully prevented a defeat at the Pusan Perimeter while cutting off vital North Korean lines of supply and communication through an amphibious envelopment. In order to understand the operational art and dynamics of Chromite’s success, it is necessary to frame the problem through a Cold War perspective militarily and politically, analyze the defense of the Pusan Perimeter to the planning and execution of Chromite, and evaluate how the operation successfully met strategic objectives through the creative and skillful employment of military forces while balancing the ends, ways, means, and risk.

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The Development of Operational Art and CEMA in Multi-Domain Battle: A Historical Analysis the Guadalcanal Campaign 1942-1943 SWJED Mon, 04/22/2019 - 12:07am
This research seeks to determine how cyberwarfare applied through the lens of operational art contributes to cross domain synergy within the context of multi-domain battle. Cyber and EW capabilities are critical to enable operational commanders the opportunity to create temporary windows of advantage, shape the deep fight, control tempo of multi-domain operations, and arrange cyber effects in time and space to achieve strategic objectives.
Russian Operational Art, New Type Warfare, and Reflexive Control SWJED Tue, 09/04/2018 - 9:29am
Operational art provides the bridge between tactical actions and strategic objectives. It involves a systematic and deliberate campaign planning process for major operations in a theater of war. Since the beginning of the industrial age and the advent of large conscript armies, there has been a need to link tactical actions to strategic objectives. Russian operational art began in the 1920’s and has evolved to today’s New Type Warfare and the concept of Reflexive Control.
The Evolution of Russian Operational Art SWJED Sat, 02/24/2018 - 2:08pm

Operational art and deep-operations theory in Russia traces its theoretical beginning to Napoleon’s six-month campaign in 1812.

Operational Art: How Do You Know If You Are Doing It Right? SWJED Fri, 12/09/2016 - 4:36pm

This essay focuses on noteworthy contributions that are essential for the operational artist to “better understand the problem or problems at hand.”

The Birth of American Operational Art: Winfield Scott’s Mexico City Campaign during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 Peter J. Munson Thu, 01/31/2013 - 3:30am

Scott balanced risk and opportunity through a combination of careful planning and preparation, combined with strategic and operational understanding and patience.

Strategic Implications for the Army in the Post-2012 Election Environment

Fri, 05/18/2012 - 6:09am

Editor's Note: Doug Macgregor presented this originally as a powerpoint brief to intermediate-level education students.  It is converted from its original format for ease of online reading, though the slide and bullet structure was maintained.

Slide 1

Strategic Implications for the Army in the Post-2012 Election Environment


•Don’t fight the problem!

•What are the broad strategic trend lines?

•What will America’s Post-Election Defense Establishment look like?

•What should the Army senior leadership do?

•Truthful, open debate is vital.

•Summary of Key Points


Slide 2

  • “Don't fight the problem, decide it.” George C. Marshall, General of the Army America’s military technological edge and advantages in training, discipline and flexibility have been eroded by the U.S. failure to sustain investment in strategic and operational forces. This condition is the direct consequence of our self-defeating obsession with hegemonic nation building, military occupations and resulting counter-insurgency campaigns in the Middle East and Afghanistan. This period is ending. Now, Army Force Design, Modernization and Thinking about warfare must adjust to radically new strategic conditions.
  • The Central Idea: “Cross-domain synergy. The complementary vice merely additive employment of capabilities in different domains such that each enhances the effectiveness and compensates for the vulnerabilities of the others…”  JOINT OPERATIONAL ACCESS CONCEPT (JOAC) VERSION 1.0 17 January 2012


Slide 3

Trend lines: Russia, NE Asia and India

  • Russia: Down from 14 million in the armed forces to less than a million. Russian forces are hard pressed to modernize, let alone secure Russia, which borders 14 nations. Russia’s focus is on restive Muslim at home and in Central Asia, not on the US and the West.
  • China: Stability‐obsessed leaders are focused on maintaining rapid economic growth to create enough jobs for China’s 1.3 billion people and keep a lid on unrest. China’s Military (PLA) is riddled with corruption and professional decay, compromised by ties of patronage, and asphyxiated by the ever‐greater effort required to impose political control.
  • Japan and the ROK: Japanese and Korean Defense Ministers will soon sign a general security of military information agreement and an acquisition and cross‐servicing agreement. The foundation for a military alliance that will turn the tables on China and change the strategic balance in NE Asia.
  • India: China’s acquisition of Coco Island from Myanmar and build up of Gawadar Naval base in Pakistan have induced India to build up its own naval forces. India’s naval base at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, is critical to India’s strategy for blocking Chinese shipping through the Strait of Malacca.


Slide 4

Trend lines: The Islamic World and Latin America

  • Muslim Societies in North Africa, ME and SWA are in meltdown. Islamism is rising because it is rooted in the societies and their supporting cultures. The growing Islamist majorities will struggle for decades to govern themselves.
  • Turkey and Iran are in direct opposition in Syria; attempts to remove Assad from power in Syria are reinforcing Iran’s perception that it needs a nuclear deterrent to hold the Sunni Peninsular Arabs, Israel, Turkey, and potentially U.S. Forces at risk. Securing Iran and its new Shiite Satellite State, Iraq, and competition for regional dominance will pit Turkey and Iran against each other for decades.
  • Criminality, terrorism and human trafficking from Latin America, especially, Mexico, presents an immediate and growing threat to the internal stability and national security of the United States. Mexico is in the midst of a drug war, with rival cartels fighting for control of a $30 billion market for illegal drugs inside the United States.
  • The future key terrain of the world will be oil, minerals, water and the infrastructure that supports these resources. Al Faw in the Persian Gulf pumps out roughly $17,000 a second in crude oil. 42% of Nigeria's oil already goes to the United States… The West with Japanese participation is dividing up the World’s resources on the Yalta model. The Chinese are not invited …


Slide 5

Trend lines: Debt Matters!

  • When interest rates on the U.S. Treasury’s securities rise – and they will – the U.S. Government’s cost of servicing the nation’s ballooning debt will soar confronting Americans with a new fiscal crisis;
  • In Senator Tom Coburn’s words, “the specter of default.”
  • International Financial Outlook is grim.  EUROZONE will implode followed by UK;
  • NE Asia: Chinese economic downturn already underway. Japan and Korea will follow.
  • Near Term: Probability of ‘Great power’ war low, but a Korean‐Style Emergency that demands ready, deployable Army combat forces capable of decisive, Joint offensive operations remains a strong possibility. Until borders are secure, Americans at home are at risk.
  • Long‐term: The prerequisite for any fight with U.S. Forces is to neutralize U.S. space-based assets. This fight involves kinetic and non‐kinetic (cyber) capabilities and will only intensify.


Slide 6

What do the trend leans mean for America's post election defense establishment?

  • Critical Task for incoming Defense Team in January 2013: Optimize today’s forces within the trend lines to guide strategic investment over time.
  • Industrial Age paradigm inefficiencies and duplications reduce operational impact and perpetuate unsustainable “cost exchange ratios” with our adversaries (Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan).
  • Optimizing “capability at cost” in new paradigm dramatically increases operational impact of each dollar spent – maintaining/enhancing security at reduced spending levels.


Slide 7

Implications for Army Ground Forces:

  • The U.S. will no longer sustain open‐ended military interventions in failing or failed states with the object of imposing cultural and political change with general purpose ground forces.
  • The Army can learn more about the future character of warfighting operations from the Falkland Islands Campaign than from its experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Lines of Communications will be the life or death of force projection over vast distances. In the Pacific, Australia is key. (See Key State Strategy outlined in Breaking the Phalanx, Praeger January 1997)
  • The Army must offer a modular continuum of response that is flexible and inherently joint in design and assert a leadership role in Joint operations and concepts.
  • Without a new force design in place, the Army will not get a new strike vehicle or C4ISR package is the start point for change. Standardization of sensors, networks, C2 data, and intelligence is vital.


Slide 8

What should the Army’s senior leaders do?

  • In December 1905, three years after the Boer War ended, Richard Haldane became Secretary of State for War. Obstructed by a nation obsessed with the Royal Navy, and a political culture opposed to conscription, Haldane began preparing the British Army for a future conflict very different from colonial warfare.
  • Haldane set out to determine the form future war was likely to take, then, adopted the organization and weapons to fight it. In other words, software (thinking carefully about things, contemplating likely issues and problems) must come before hardware. What happened?
  • Haldane concentrated on reorganization, modernization and training to maximize capability at cost;
  • In practice, Haldane built a ground force suited to a global Maritime Power, not a regional Continental Power;
  • The result was an elite force of 6 infantry divisions and 1 cavalry division, designed for rapid deployment as a British Expedition Force (BEF), backed by a reserve of 14 Territorial divisions of volunteers;
  • In 1914, the BEF arrived in time to slow, then, cooperate with the French to halt the German advance.


Slide 9

Implications of the Haldane Model for today’s Army:

  • The Haldane approach demands rigorous analysis to link strategy with concept and capabilities; an integrated, joint military command structure with a self‐contained organization for combat. An Army for a global Aerospace‐Maritime Power, not a continental power!
  • New Army Force Design must:
    • Create powerful synergies with the technologies and concepts developed by U.S. Aerospace and Maritime Forces.
    • Punch above its weight, mobilizing fighting power disproportionate to their size;
    • Operate in a non‐linear, nodal and dispersed, mobile warfare environment inside a much more lethal battle space.
    • Possess the capability to close with the enemy, take hits, sustain losses, keep fighting and strike back decisively (employ accurate devastating firepower from tracked armored platforms to ensure survival and victory in close combat).


Slide 10

The Light Reconnaissance Strike Group (LRSG) breaks the WW II/Cold War paradigm!

  • The post‐election Army must be resilient. It must be survivable, effective and act as a Joint enabler across a range of alternative futures.
  • A Light Reconnaissance Strike Group performs critical tasks in the context of Joint operations:
    • Provides a credible land component with the mobility, firepower, protection and organic sustainment to operate autonomously under Joint C2 in dispersed mobile warfare;
    • Signals escalation dominance to the enemy;
    • Bypasses or punches through enemy resistance for operational maneuver to encircle and destroy sub‐national groups or nation‐state forces;
    • Shifts rapidly between close combat and peace enforcement.


Slide 11

Post-Industrial/Information Age Joint, Integrated C2 Warfighting Paradigm

  • Integrated “All Arms” Warfare: Warfighting Operations that integrate functional capabilities – Maneuver, Strike, IISR, Sustainment – across service lines inside an integrated Joint C2 operational framework.
  • “High lethality, low density”: Army Forces that punch above their weight, capable of operational reach in an environment of mobile, dispersed warfare.


Slide 12

In the absence of truthful, open debate nothing changes

  • “The question of whether to invade the Soviet Union is a political decision. My focus is on the military issues important to such an undertaking… It may be the campaign is over in 4‐6 weeks. Perhaps, the whole thing will collapse like a house of cards in the first attack.” Lieutenant General Friedrich Paulus, Chief Planner for Operation Barbarossa, 1940
  • “I've never been more encouraged during my entire, almost four years in this country. I think we're making real progress. Everybody is very optimistic that I know of, who is intimately associated with our effort there.” General William Westmoreland, 16 November 1967
  • “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell, 1929
  • No Accountability = No Integrity = No Change


Slide 13

Summary of Key Points:

  • The future of the Army is a constrained future‐‐especially in the budgetary sense. The Haldane model points the way forward.
  • Meanwhile, reorganize Army Forces to expand the nation’s range of strategic options; forces capable of conducting integrated, “all arms” operations in dispersed, mobile warfare against a mix of potential opponents, conventional and unconventional.
  • Like the Navy, Air Force and Marines, the U.S. Army exists to raise, train, and equip modular/mission focused capability packages and C2 elements designed for commitment to the COCOMs and plugged into Joint Force Headquarters which have the authority and the responsibility to fight and win the nation's wars.